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Cats and cold weather: How to keep them warm in winter

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Cats can feel the change in the season as much as their human counterparts. When temperatures drop closer to 0°C, you’ll need to take certain preparations to keep them comfortable and safe.
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An orange cat wrapped up in a scarf

There’s no mistaking that winter chill in the air, and cats can feel it too, whether they live primarily indoors or outdoors. Even if your cat loves being outside, when temperatures drop closer to 0°C, you need to bring your cat indoors to keep it warm and reduce the risk of hypothermia or frostbite.

If your cat is ill or old, make sure it’s inside with you and your family well before temperatures drop this low. Issues like frostbite can happen quickly, and for older cats with arthritis, the cold can be dangerous.

General preparations for winter

Help your cat stay warm and healthy during the winter with the following tips.

Set up a warm bed

Your cat will probably appreciate an additional blanket in its bed. You might also consider using a ‘cat cave’ bed during the winter that your cat can curl up in when it gets too cold.

Provide shelter for outdoor cats

If your cat loves to roam outdoors, build or purchase a small outdoor cat house that can shelter it from lower temperatures.

Marginally up their food intake

Increase the amount of food you feed your cat – just a little – to help it bulk up its coat and withstand colder temperatures.

Screen fireplaces

Provide a barrier to keep your cat safe from soot, flames and embers.

Check your car’s bonnet

Before driving your car, check that your cat hasn’t curled up for a sleep on a warm engine.

Hypothermia

If a cat is accidentally left outdoors in very cold weather, it can develop hypothermia. This is when body temperature falls below normal due to the cold.

Signs of hypothermia in cats include:

  • Weakness
  • Inactivity
  • Shivering

As hypothermia worsens, cats can become unresponsive, and their breathing and heart rate can slow.

What to do if your cat has hypothermia 

If you notice any of these symptoms, get your cat into a warm place immediately, and take it to the vet who may need to administer intravenous fluids and other supportive care. To help keep your cat warm during the journey, use a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel.

Frostbite in cats 

Cats left in the cold can also suffer from frostbite on their paws, ears or tail. The tissue in frostbitten areas should not be rubbed; in fact rubbing makes frostbite worse.

What to do if your cat has frostbite

Veterinarian help is needed immediately. If you can’t get to the vet right away, here are a few basic tips for mild frostbite:

  • Warm up frostbitten areas fast by dipping them in warm water or by daubing them with warm towels.
  • As frostbitten areas return to their normal colour, use a bandage or soft, clean cloth to gently dry the affected area.
  • Take your cat to the vet as soon as possible.

Severe frostbite can cause gangrene and infections. Urgent veterinary assistance is needed. To help your cat cope with the colder weather, follow these simple tips and you’ll keep it happy and healthy throughout winter.

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