The Best Tips to Keep Cats Safe and Happy in Cold Weather.
Updated: Feb 11
Winter can be a difficult time for humans. The temperature’s plummet, it becomes increasingly hard to get around without shoveling a path first and there is an increased risk of a slip or fall injury.
Which makes it easy to understand how we may forget; cold weather also impacts our cats. The truth is, that our feline friends are under the same threats as we are during dangerous cold weather conditions.
You may believe your cat is protected by their coat of fur, but this is only partially true, they are also susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite, just like humans. This is due to the fact that a cat’s coat will only keep them warm when it is dry. Snow and rain will stop their fur from trapping in the heat and can, in the right temperature’s, cause hypothermia.
But just because it is cold, it doesn’t mean that our cats no longer want to go out for their daily adventure. While some cats aren’t keen on going out in the snow, others still need their outside time. My own furry little family member “Oliver” stands at the door same time every day ready for his harness, rain, snow or shine, but apparently not when its windy, he refuses to go outside in the wind.
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So, what do we need to know about walking our cat in winter?
Well before we jump into how to go walking with your cat in winter, we need to think about all the increased risks and dangers for our four-legged family member.
Frostbite is a good example:
While cats are well adjusted for cold weather, as the temperature drops below freezing, Cats can get frostbite as easily as we can. Frostbite occurs when body tissue freezes and may result in permanent damage. It will generally impact parts of the body that are further away from the heart, and have less blood flow.
Meaning it will usually occur on our kitties’ toes, ears, or tail. So, if you believe it is cold enough outside to be concerned about frostbite for yourself, then it stands to reason you should be concerned about your cat as well. I recommend Limiting your cat's time outdoors during extremely temperatures that dip below freezing. If your set on taking your pet outside during cold temperatures, when you return home take some time to examine their skin for any areas that may look pale. If you find any, ensure that your cat is warm by using blankets and contact your veterinarian immediately. They may have frostbite.
Another good example of the dangers for our cats is Hypothermia:
Hypothermia occurs when someone loses heat faster than what their body can produce it. Shivering is a sign that your cat may be too cold, and at risk. While you are out and about with your cat in winter conditions, watch for visual signs that of shivering. It can also be a good idea to touch them, your cats shivering may not be obvious to you visually. If your cat is shivering, start warming them with a blanket and head for a warm indoor location.
Some symptoms of mild hypothermia may include shivering, weakness, and lack of concentration. Moderate hypothermia symptoms can include muscle stiffness and difficulty breathing.
If your cat has signs of hypothermia, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Risks of Snow Salt & Antifreeze:
There are many substances that can be toxic when eaten by cats. It's important to be cautious all year about what your cat has access to, that may harm them if eaten. In the winter-time, there are even more dangerous substances around you must be aware of.
Snow Salt: The salt is typically used to de-ice snow on roads and sidewalks in colder regions. The problem we face is that cats may ingest the salt when they walk through it, then lick their feet, bellies, and legs when cleaning it off.
This is not ideal for your cat because eating even a small amounts of de-icing products can cause some serious side effects including diarrhea and vomiting. Eating larger amounts can cause your cat even more problems, they may develop an electrolyte imbalance and this can lead to increased thirst, kidney damage, seizures and death. Salt products are also quite irritating to our cats' paw pads and skin. Your cat's feet and pads can become cracked, bleed, and even get infected if they have too much contact with the salt. Simply the best way to combat this, keep your cat inside more often during winter to minimize his chances of overexposure to rock salt and other substances.
If your cat demands to go outside during the winter for their daily adventure, try to make a habit of keeping well away from recently salted roads and walkways. To help ensure that your cat does not ingest any salt, another great habit to get into is wipe their paws, bellies and legs using a warm towel as soon as you get home. Doing this will remove the de-icer before it can irritate the skin or be ingested by your pet.
Antifreeze: There is more antifreeze around during the winter and it is deadly to cats. One teaspoon can kill a cat. Unfortunately, cats can actually be drawn to licking up spilled antifreeze, the sweet smell and taste can attract them. This is why it is so important to clean up any antifreeze spills immediately and well, clean up as much as you can, sprinkle some kitty litter over the area to soak up any remaining anti-freeze, and use large amounts of water to rinse the area. Also make sure to store any unused antifreeze in a safe place where it can’t be spilled or be licked by a curious kitty.
Please be aware there are antifreeze products that are labelled as "pet friendly" or "safer for pets." These products contain an additive that causes the antifreeze to taste bitter to our cats rather than sweet, this is true. But it is very important to understand that these products are still not safe for your pets to ingest.
How do we safely walk our cat in winter?
#1 - Shorter adventures are just as fun.
If it isn’t too cold to go out, you can still take your cat outside, but be prepared to shorten your time outside.
Rather than doing a long hike, you and your kitty can spend some time in your backyard, or on your balcony or at a local park.
This way you can bring them inside before they get too cold.
#2 - Reducing their time on the ground.
In order to help reduce your cat’s exposure to the cold snow, while your out and about, be prepared for them to spend more time in their cat backpack or stroller if you use these. While your cat’s backpack or stroller acts as a safe space for them while out for their walk, it can also be a great tool to keep them warm. You can line the inside of their backpack with a warm blanket.
While using these warming methods, it is best to periodically check on your kitty to make sure they aren’t getting too warm.
If they do not want to voluntarily go in, try placing them in from time to time for a few short moments, just to ensure that they warm up even just a little before once again jumping back onto the cold snow. If you do not use a backpack, remember to stay close to an indoor heated location for brief warm-ups, for you and your furry family member.
#3 - When the cold is to much bring kitties adventures indoors.
When it is too cold to go on your daily adventure in the snow, it might be best that you don’t take your cat on any outdoor adventures. Instead, maybe you can change things up, so that you are still giving your kitty an adventure or play time, but sticking to games that are inside. Where your kitty can remain safe and cozy.
Please Remember Hanging out in the car in winter,
Can be just as dangerous as in summer, everyone knows temperatures in your car can reach unbearable levels in summer. So, the same thing occurring in winter (just in the opposite direction) shouldn’t be a surprise. Remember to never leave your cat in the car by themselves, as it can quickly drop to below freezing, putting your furry friend at risk.