With the sun setting by 5pm these days, it can only mean one thing--those long winter months have arrived. When temperatures start dropping into the 30's and 40's at night, it's important to make sure our outdoor pets are protected and safe. Follow these 5 quick steps to ensure your outdoor cats are taken care of this season.
1. Feeding During the winter, outdoor cats need more calories to stay warm, so it's important to provide extra food and water. Take care to replace any frozen water with fresh, or invest in a heated water bowl to prevent water from freezing. Keep food bowls elevated and off of the ground for warmth. Wet food is most beneficial, because it takes less energy for your cat to digest, but it should be kept in an insulated bowl such as a thick tupperware container.
2. Make an insulated shelter The shelter should be sized about 2'x3' and no taller than 18 inches if you are sheltering 3-5 cats. However, make it smaller if you are only caring for 1 or 2 cats. You want this shelter to be insulated for warmth so making it too big will allow room for cold air. An easy shelter can be made from a plastic storage container with a small door cut out and can be insulated with foam and straw added between the layers to help trap your cat's body heat inside of the enclosure. Remember to not use blankets, hay or bedding to the enclosure as these do more harm than good by actually absorbing moisture and creating a cold space to lay.
3. Provide an indoor safe place Allowing access to a basement or garage on the coldest of nights of the season can prevent illness and go a long way in protecting your outdoor cat. Just remember to check under your car before starting it, as many cats will crawl under vehicles for shelter.
4. Paw protection When it's time to shovel snow-covered driveways and sidewalks, be sure to only use salt that is safe for pet paws. The chemicals in regular store-bought salts can irritate and burn the pads of their feet and can be poisonous if ingested. Salts that are animal-safe will be labeled as such.
5. Poison Prevention During the winter is when most antifreeze poisonings in animals happen. Antifreeze smells and tastes sweet to animals, and when ingested even in small amounts, it can be deadly. To reduce the risk, make sure to keep all containers tightly sealed and placed out of reach from pets. Also, check for leaks under vehicles periodically--use kitty litter to soak up any spills in the garage or driveway.