Cold Weather Pet Protection

Cold weather pet protection becomes more important this time of year. Here in North Texas we don’t have snow–yet–but just that wind chill can make it uncomfortable for our dogs and cats. It can also be downright dangerous, especially for pets that spend any amount of time outside, like feral cats or stray dogs. House pets used to warm indoor temps need extra help, too.

Colorful Dog

Different size dogs and variations in coats impact how quickly they’ll be ready for cold weather.Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

PREPARE PETS FOR COLD WEATHER

Here in Texas, the weather stays HOT HOT HOT well into November and December. Now it’s the first week of January, and it’s starting to cool down a smidge. For cats and dogs that will spend a lot of time outside during the cold winter months, it’s important to get ’em ready now.

It takes time for that winter coat to grow. And it’s not fair to the dog to expect him to “get hairy” overnight when the first frost freezes. The video below, from a past KXII-TV pet talk, still has good information with suggestions and cautions for prepping pets for the colder weather to come.

Chow

The Chow has lots of thick fur for cold weather protection. Thinly coated pooches like the Chihuahua may need a coat. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

How do you get your dogs ready? Magical-Dawg would stay out in the wind and wet if we’d let him, and doesn’t seem to have the smarts to come in out of the weather. (Don’t tell him I said that!) The cats, on the other paw, have a very good idea about how to stay comfy and already have the warmest spots staked out for snoozing in sunny puddles on the carpet. Or under the stained glass lampshades.

Feral cats need extra help. Many of the tips, below, work equally well for creating safe outdoor spots for your dogs, too.

KEEPING KITTY SAFE IN WINTER

I wrote about keeping outdoor cats safe on this blog, and received lots of comments here and on Facebook. That discussion had more to do with choosing whether or not to allow cats out. But what if you have strays that refuse to come inside, or a feral colony you care for? My colleague Louise Holton of Alley Cat Rescue shared some PAW-some tips with our Cat Writers Association group and gave me permission to also share it here. What are some other ways to help keep kitty safe? Many of these also apply to keeping outside dogs winterized and safe. Here’s Louise’s suggestions:

A feeding station will help to keep food and water dry and will help with freezing weather. Bedding should be straw or made of a synthetic fleece material such as that used to make horse saddle covers. Blankets, sheets and towels retain moisture and remain damp and should not be used during winter.
If you are unable to build a shelter, you can use any type of strong box or crate, or buy a dog “igloo” from your pet supply company. The styrofoam ice chests work great for cat shelters, with thick walls that provide some insulation.
Mylar insulation is made of polyester and aluminum that reflects radiant heat. It is used to keep houses cooler in summer and warmer in winter. This type of insulation is normally used in attics and is a perfect material to use to insulate outdoor cat shelters.

TIPS FOR WINTERIZING YOUR COLONY

  • You should insulate the shelter with thick plastic or other material such as Mylar mentioned above to keep out wind and cold.
  • You could buy a dog house and modify it, blocking off part of the larger opening to make it smaller and therefore warmer inside for the cats.
  • Size should be approximately 3’ x 3 ’ and 2′ high.
  • Cats will cuddle together inside for warmth.
  • Build enough shelters so that around 6 cats can stay in each one.
  • Use straw for the bedding NOT HAY or blankets or towels.
  • It is safer to have 2 small openings for the cats to enter and be able to get away if danger presents itself. Put the openings on the side of the shelter that is protected from the wind. Two openings will give a chance at escape should a pesky raccoon for instance or any other animal try to enter the shelter.
  • Raise the shelter off the ground by placing it securely on bricks or on a wooden pallet. If left on the ground it will retain moisture and will rot.
  • Clean shelters each spring and autumn by replacing the bedding with fresh straw.

    Be sure and visit Louise’s Alley Cat Rescue to find more feral cat resources and info.

COOL WEATHER PREPARATION FOR PETS

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Comments

Cold Weather Pet Protection — 29 Comments

  1. Pingback: CatsWalk Newsletter – September 2013 | Little Big Cat

  2. Wow, the feature picture is AMAZING. <3 Is this your irish setter?! I have an irish setter in my pack as well and they are the most stunning dogs in the world! As for cold, we always make sure they have their coats on when outside. The only problem we really have are the paws, they need a lot of care in the cold days and I'm on the lookout for some nice boots!

  3. Here in Canada winter protection and safety for our pets is a priority! Clothing for my pug is not an option but a necessity to keep her warm and safe from the elements. And our cats, well they just find the closest heating vent to lay on since they don’t go outside.

  4. Great tips! Henry is originally from Arkansas and HATES the snow! I have a whole collection of sweaters, coats, and hoodies for him to keep it a little more fun 😉 He will still shiver, though, so we keep outdoor time to a minimum in the winter.

  5. We used to care for a cat colony of ferals – we built our “hobo kitty city” for them out of styrofoam containers that we had meat delivered in. That system worked perfectly, kept them plenty warm and we were even able to rescue a few that adapted to us from the comfort we provided. That photo of the chow is sooooo pawesome! Great article, sound advice, I hope everyone reads your article!

  6. We use to have the “cats on the hill” here in Ottawa … for years upon years there was a feral cat colony on parliament. The chap that use to run it (with permission) sadly got too old and I believe died. And the place was shut down. It’s sad because it was actually really great and “human” and kids could volunteer to help out…

  7. Mentioning outdoor cats guarantees someone will crawl out from under a stone and rant about something they know little or nothing about. The USA (and even part of the USA) have plenty of indoor/outdoor cats – the whole wide world also (surprise surprise) has a lot of indoor/outdoor cats and consider the practice of locking a cat inside a weird one.

    I love the common sense tips on keeping outdoor cats warm. There is a blogger (mostly lifestyle but she is in the Sunday Selfie hop) and her feral cat Winston has had the most wonderful outdoor set up made for him. Crucially it is warm, cost and free from any icy winds. All cats should have this ALL the time.

    We will share your post Amy.

  8. A few years ago I tried to make a suitable shelter for feral cats, but I see now it was all wrong. Our feral population is all gone now, but if a new one pops up, I’ll know how to help them!

  9. We live in the Chicago area and it gets cold here – like double digits below zero on a regular basis. We don’t have any feral cats right now, but we did care for a feral cat named Buddy for years. We built him a shelter in the backyard where he lived and survived many Chicago winters. In addition to the the hay and padding, we had heating disks that we would sneak in there when he was out and about.

    • Those heated rubber disks are very helpful. And folks who don’t have them…you can fill a sock with uncooked rice, heat in the microwave, and that will hold warmth for quite a while.

  10. Beautiful photo. We have a lot of barns and abandoned barns around here (and some houses too) that feral colonies take up residence in. Have you seen the shelters made with a big rubber tub? You cut a hole in it and then add straw. Easy to clean because you can pop off the lid.

  11. I always worry about the colonies. My husband and I made a shelter for ‘Tommy,’ our local feral. He always eludes the traps and is getting older. I fear each winter may be his last.

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