With Halloween just around the corner, winter will be on the way before we know it. Before you start pulling out your holiday decorations, don’t forget to take some time to plan for your pets’ winter safety.
For pet owners with cats that live outdoors or feral neighborhood cats they care for, it’s important to take a few extra steps to protect your outdoor pets. Don’t make the mistake of assuming just because they have plenty of fur they’ll be fine in Minnesota’s harsh winter weather.
In this post from Normandale Veterinary Hospital, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about protecting your outdoor cat during the cold winter weather. To schedule your pet’s next vet appointment, give our veterinarians a call today!
Cats and Extreme Cold
Not all cats love to be indoors. Some cats are highly independent and prefer to spend their time outdoors. But just because a cat is primarily an outdoor cat doesn’t mean he or she is equipped to handle extreme temperatures, especially in Minnesota’s winter climate.
One of the most important things you can do as a caregiver for animals is to closely monitor the temperature they’re spending time in. Just like humans, cats and dogs can become seriously injured from frostbite or become hypothermic. In worst-case scenarios, extreme cold can even lead to a pet’s death no matter how thick his or her fur is or how much time she’s used to spending outdoors.
While a number of factors can affect your cat’s ability to withstand cold like body mass, age, and fur thickness, it’s always best to play it safe. Additionally, remember that snow and stormy weather can be disorienting to cats.
Here are a few rules of thumb to follow when determining if your cat can be left outdoors:
● Indoor cats can typically tolerate cold as well as humans can. If you’re too cold, your cat probably is as well.
● Kittens and geriatric cats should never be left outdoors below 45° F, especially after dark.
● Outdoor cats who spend most of their time outdoors can often tolerate near-freezing temperatures depending on their health and age. As the temperatures dip close to freezing levels, you’ll need to bring the cat inside or set up an appropriate shelter.
Creating a Winter Cat Shelter
If you’ve got a heart of gold and you want to take care of the feral cats on your block but you don’t have room to take them in, you’ll need to create a cat-safe winter shelter.
Follow this advice to create a safe and healthy winter shelter for outdoor cats:
● Make sure it’s big enough for cats but not larger creatures.
● Consider setting up a few different spaces for cats to get warm.
● Consider using a small “dogloo” type shelter.
● Add a weight to the shelter if necessary.
● Add a cat door or some type of windbreak.
● Raise the shelter off the ground by a few inches.
● Add warm bedding like an insulated sleeping bag.
● Make sure your shelters are insulated.
● Line the walls with mylar blankets.
● Provide cats with plenty of fresh water and food each day. Feed cats about 30% more than usual during the coldest months.
● Add warming pads or heaters if possible.
● Or add a cat-safe lamp, which can create additional heat.
● Measure the temperature inside your shelter to make sure it’s working.
● Check conditions in each shelter frequently.
Call Our Minnesota Veterinarians
It’s never a bad idea to schedule a check-up and make sure your cats are in good health ahead of winter weather. To connect with our Normandale veterinarians, give us a call at 952-831-8272 or contact us online.