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6 Critical Cold Weather Care Tips for Outdoor Cats

  • 4 min read

We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but winter isn’t over yet! Like it or not, many members of the  Cuddle Clones community still have short, blustery days and long, bitterly cold nights ahead. The hazards and perils of this season’s weather are still a very real concern, and this is especially true for our outdoor feline friends! Providing proper care for your pets is already a full-time, year-round job, but winter brings with it a unique set of challenges and considerations to keeping your outdoor cats (and feral cats in your care) safe. However, by following these six cold weather care tips for outdoor cats, you can ensure your furry friends stay warm, safe, and happy all winter long.

Kitten walking in the snow

Providing Safe & Stable Shelter for Cats Outside in Winter

The need for safe, warm, and stable shelter is fundamental for us all. Providing such an adequate shelter is crucial for the safe outdoor experience of your cats in winter. When constructing or purchasing your cat’s shelter, remember to consider its size and material. A windproof design is necessary as biting winter winds can quickly cause frostbite and other severe health conditions. 

Additionally, when it comes to your outdoor cat shelter, remember that larger isn’t always better! In larger spaces, heat dissipates quickly, making it challenging for the cat’s body heat to keep the shelter warm. Size your shelter accordingly based on the number of cats you plan to house.

Why Straw is Ideal Bedding for Outdoor Cats in Winter

We understand the urge to load your cat’s shelter with the softest, coziest blankets you can find, but blankets are a potentially dangerous bedding choice! Blankets soak up moisture and will freeze solid once saturated. Instead, choose straw for your shelter. Straw repels moisture and helps to store heat. Be sure to use straw,  not hay. Hay quickly absorbs moisture and becomes a soggy, uncomfortable mess. Plus, soggy hay will become moldy, posing another range of potential health threats to outdoor cats.

Food & Water: Critical for Cats Outside in Winter

This tip may appear obvious, but winter is a season full of unpredictability and failure to plan and prepare for inclement weather could potentially leave your cats without food or water. Given that outdoor cats’ bodies require additional nutrition and energy as a result of the harsh environment, this is simply not an option! Plan around the forecast and leave out extra food and water when the weather is expected to turn. 

Tabby cat standing beneath bush in the snow

Stick to the Shovel

A little elbow grease will go a long way in keeping your cat safe. After heavy snowfall, your outdoor cat could be snowed into their shelter! Be sure to shovel the entrance to your cat’s shelter and clear the area of snow and ice. We strongly recommend sticking to the shovel, as rock salt and other harsh snow melting chemicals can be poisonous and potentially lethal if ingested. Plus, they can damage your cat’s paws!

How Cold Can Cats be Outside? An Additional Consideration

This is an essential question that often crosses the mind of every pet owner during winter. Cats can withstand lower temperatures than humans due to their fur coats. However, outdoor cats are most comfortable in temperatures around 45°F or above. Below this temperature, cats are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite, particularly the very young and the older cats with health conditions. So, it is important to monitor the weather and the health of your cats frequently.

Look Beneath the Hood of Your Car During Winter

During the chilling depths of winter, cats often find shelter inside a wheel well or beneath or inside the car’s engine. This area naturally offers protection from the elements and retains warmth long after your car is turned off. However, operating your car while an outdoor cat isnestled beneath the hood can be life-threatening.Before starting your car in winter, give the hood a couple of taps. If a cat is using your car for shelter, this should be enough to scare them away and ensure their safety.

Consider Bringing Your Outdoor Cats Inside During Winter

The absolute best way to keep your cat safe all winter long is to keep them indoors.  According to TheRescueVets.com, “Anything 45 degrees and below is too cold for outdoor cats, so be sure to bring in your feline friend to prevent frostbite on their ears, tails, and toes.” Family pets should only be let out in winter weather for short periods of time and under close supervision. However, for those special pet lovers caring for colonies of feral cats, these tips can help to make their lives as safe and comfortable as possible all season long.

Other Helpful Tips for Caring for Cats Outside in Winter

Outdoor cats require more calories in the winter to help them maintain their body temperature, so don't be afraid to give them a bit of extra food. However, be sure to feed them dry food as wet food can freeze. Also, remember to provide fresh water daily and ensure it hasn’t frozen over. A simple trick to prevent water from freezing is to use a deep and wide water dish and place a smaller dish inside it. Filling the gap with insulation like foam or straw can slow down the freezing process.

 

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