Cats are amazing animals that are capable of living in extreme climates, but that doesn’t mean constant exposure to the elements is good for their health. Domestic cats that are allowed to roam outside or those that live exclusively outdoors (e.g., feral or stray cats) have more to contend with than just the weather. As a result, many owners choose the indoor-only lifestyle for their pet.
But what about cats that dart out at night or the ones who hang around the neighborhood that don’t seem to belong to anyone? Aside from protecting pets from potential illness and injury, winter cat care can be a real struggle. Fortunately, the team at West Park Animal Hospital is here to help!
When it comes to cat health and longevity, domestic felines definitely have an edge over cats that roam or live outside. With regular meals, routine medical attention, litter box maintenance, and snuggles on demand, pet cats certainly enjoy unparalleled comfort and care.
Where are They?
It’s not uncommon for pet cats to find themselves outside on a frigid day or evening. It can happen accidentally, but if your pet is already allowed to go outside, they might push their limits and remain outdoors when they probably shouldn’t. Despite having furry coats that add some protection, cats can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite.
What Can You Do?
If your cat wants to stay outside for longer periods of time, be aware of the following risks:
- Seeking a heat source, cats may choose to crawl up under the hood of a car. It’s usually pretty warm next to the engine block, but if an unsuspecting driver starts up the car, your pet can find themselves in deep trouble. It’s always a good idea to pound the hood or door before starting up.
- One of the biggest threats to winter cat care is antifreeze, which is highly poisonous to cats. Be sure to clean up any spills or leaks and know the signs of pet poisoning.
- Road salt and other deicers can damage your cat’s paw pads or cause harm if ingested. While you can’t control what your neighbors use, choose only pet-safe products for your driveway and sidewalks.
Winter Cat Care
Community cats or animals that live without the care of owners need a little looking out for, as well. May we suggest:
- Building a kitty cottage (like a catio) for neighborhood strays is an excellent way to preserve their health this winter. Use materials like wood or durable plastic bins, and keep it off the ground. Openings into separate chambers shouldn’t exceed the size of a cat’s face. Use flaps to protect them from the weather, and lay down absorbent straw, not hay. This alternative will hopefully keep cats out from under the hood of your car!
- Provide non-freezing water in a heated electric water bowl or fill deep dishes with hot water.
- Wet food may be used more efficiently by cats in cold weather, but it can freeze. Provide both to support winter cat care in your neighborhood.
If you’d like additional help with winter cat care, please let us know. Thank you for caring so much about your own pet and other kitties in our community!