Cats have killer survival instincts and are generally self-sufficient. When the cold weather descends during the winter months, there are a slew of hazards to look out for. Here are some tips and tricks to keep your fluffy kitty healthy and warm in the winter
Cold Weather Health Issues with Cats
If you need a jacket to go outdoors, the chances are that your cat shouldn’t be outside. Precipitation can cause illness and even hypothermia. If their fur gets matted or wet, it can’t trap heat as efficiently as it should. If they do get wet, we recommend drying your cat off with a warm towel, or a hairdryer if they’ll tolerate it. Be sure to keep an eye on your cat’s behavior as they are masters of manipulation. If they have symptoms such as sudden change in their behavior, moving slowly, favoring a leg/ walking gingerly, or if they are non-responsive, they could be silently suffering. Keep an eye out to prevent and treat potential health issues. This is especially true with senior cats. Cold weather can flare their arthritis symptoms among other things. Extra soft and cushioned beds, as well as sweaters, are great ways to keep them warm and comfortable.
If Your Cat Does Go Outside
If your cat does go outside, make sure you check them over when they come inside. Inspect their nose, toes, and ear tips for a change in color, which can potentially be frostbite. If you notice any difference in color, warm them with a warm bath, and a heated towel, then call your vet. Make sure there isn’t any rock salt stuck in between their toes or that their paws aren’t chapped. Ice can also cause cuts on their paws if they’re not careful. Rock salt can be toxic and cause irritation as well, so make sure you give them a good wipe down.
A cat’s coat is made up of two layers: an undercoat which is soft and fluffy, and a topcoat which is made up of coarser fur to fend off wind and rain. If you shave or groom your kitty in the winter or bathe them too often, they will lose the natural oils in the fur that repel moisture. However, regular brushing for longhaired cats can prevent them from getting snowballs matted into their fur on their stomach. Trimming the hair between the toes can keep that pesky rock salt or other particles from getting caught. Adding omega-3 fatty acids to your cat’s diet can help keep their coat shiny and healthy year-round. Your vet will know the correct dosage.
Cats Getting Lost in Cold Weather
Surprisingly, the cold weather can disrupt a cat’s ability to find the scent of home. This can make it tough for them to find their way back home after a day of frolicking in the snow. It’s a good idea to invest in a microchip and keep it up-to-date with relevant information. It’s also an excellent idea to generally keep an eye on their whereabouts. In more rural areas, wild animals must work harder in the winter to find sufficient food, and your kitty could end up being a meal for predators. Keeping your cat indoors and supervised is far safer (and healthier) for your furry feline.
Cats can get easily dehydrated even in the winter. Ensure they have an adequate source of clean water so they won’t search for other sources. These could be contaminated and cause illness. Be sure the water you set out doesn’t freeze over. Electric or Solar bowls are a good option as they don’t allow ice to form. Also, routinely check to ensure fluids, such as antifreeze, aren’t leaking from your car or the containers. Antifreeze is highly poisonous and even lethal to cats. They would mistake it for sweet water and drink it if they’re thirsty. If you think your cat may have ingested antifreeze or contaminated water, contact your vet immediately.
Getting Enough Food
In the same manner, be sure to monitor the food intake for your cat and adjust as needed. If your cat is outside playing a lot, you might consider giving them slightly more food to help them compensate for the extra calories they burn. Always ask your vet for advice before changing your cat’s diet to be sure it is a healthy change and doesn’t hurt them. It can be tempting to give your cat more table scraps over the holidays, but giving them large amounts of table scraps can make them sick. Certain foods such as canned pumpkin, peas, and carrots, or small bits of plain turkey without skin, gravy or bones are okay to give your cats in very small doses, but too much will give your kitty an upset tummy.
Just as humans, our cats may want to enjoy the holidays and colder weather outside, however, we need to take extra precautions to keep them safe and warm during the cold weather months.