Winter cat care
If your cat spends a lot of time outdoors, they are probably very capable of looking after themselves; however, it’s always useful to look out for potential (although unlikely) dangers such as frostbite.
Cats do get frostbite when exposed to extreme temperatures. It usually first affects the tips of their ears, the tail and the feet (especially the toes). If your cat has been outside padding in the snow, make sure you wipe their feet carefully when they come inside to get rid of all the snow. Also make sure that there is no ice stuck to their fur.
When it comes to cats and the cold, monitor how long they are outside for. Different breeds can withstand different levels of cold and this should be accounted for. If the temperature is usually cold, consider keeping out cat inside.
Frostbite can appear grey or pale in colour. If you think your cat has frostbite or are unsure, take them immediately to the vet and follow their instructions.
Cats understand some part of their world by tasting objects. Antifreeze poisoning is a problem especially in winter, where antifreeze may have dripped onto the ground when someone has added it to the engine of their car. If your cat encounters it, they are likely to lap it up (it tastes sweet to pets). Antifreeze is ethylene glycol and it is highly toxic to animals if ingested. Early signs of such poisoning include:
Nausea and vomiting
An increased level of urination and thirst
As part of your winter cat care routine, be careful of what your cat tries to taste when they are outdoors. Also make sure that your antifreeze in the house is out of reach and has not spilt anywhere.
If you suspect your cat of having antifreeze poisoning, take them to the vet immediately. They should be able to further advise what to do.
Anti-freezing water bowls
Some cats like to have food and water left out for them. This way, they are able to quench their thirst and satisfy their hunger even as they wander through the neighbourhood. If you do keep a water bowl outside for cats in winter, you will need to make sure that the water in it does not freeze.
Consider buying a heated water bowl in countries with extreme weather. This water bowl heats the water so that it never freezes, ensuring that your cat always has a source of fresh water to drink from.
Some cats, such as Persian cats and the Norwegian Forest cat, have lovely thick and soft fur. This fur helps keep them warm in winter. However, for other cats in winter, you may need some extra help. The traditional Siamese, for instance, or the Manx cat have short fur and this not enough to protect them during the cold winter months.
Consider investing in a coat for your cat. Even if your cat is an indoor cat, you may need to buy a coat to protect them from the cold. Remember, what is warm for you may not be warm for them. If you are unsure whether or not you need to buy a cat coat, check with your vet on what they advise.
If you do buy a coat to act as a layer between cats and the cold, make sure you buy one that fits and that your cat is comfortable wearing. This is important. The material and fit should not irritate your cat in any way; try out many coats before you settle on one that works.
Despite your best efforts, your cat can sometimes get hypothermia during winter. Sometimes they can escape the house without you knowing, and their exposure to the elements can have severe consequences. Symptoms of mild hypothermia include:
A lack of mental awareness or an inability to concentrate
Symptoms of moderate hypothermia are:
Low blood pressure
Short and shallow breathing
Cats in winter who have been exposed to the cold for too long can display severe hypothermia. Symptoms of this would include difficulty breathing and coma-like signs.
If you suspect your cat of having hypothermia, take them to the vet at once. Your vet should be able to judge the severity and ensure your cat is properly treated.
Effective winter cat care
When it comes to cats and the cold, one of the most effective ways to take care of your cat is to keep them indoors. Even outdoor cats will show a general reluctance to go outdoors in winter; capitalise on this to make sure that your cats stay at home and stay safe.
If your cat still insists on wandering, make sure they can go in and out of your house freely at all times. You should always check to see if the cat door has frozen and make sure it is not glued shut. You could also buy a smart cat door, which opens automatically in response to your cat’s smart collar.
Make sure your cats have plenty of food and water, both indoors and outside, and that you buy them any extra protection that they might need, such as coats.