Cold weather pet protection becomes more in winter weather. Here in North Texas we’re bracing for temps to drop. Wind chill makes it even more uncomfortable or even dangerous for our dogs and cats. Refer to these blizzard tips from the ASPCA for additional help.
Outside animals, like feral cats or stray dogs, suffer greatly from hypothermia or frostbite. House pets used to warm indoor temps need extra help, too. It seemed like a good time to remind everyone about cold weather pet protection.
COLD WINTER WEATHER PET PROTECTION
Here in Texas, the weather often stays HOT HOT HOT well into November and December. But not this year–it’s the end of December, and it’s become the coldest part of the year. 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.
How do you get your dogs ready? Slow, incremental exposure to cold weather. That helps build up the pet’s adaptive ability, including fur growth. And if your pet has little furry protection, provide a warm sweater or coat for insulation.
Magical-Dawg always loved cold weather, and would stay out in the wind and wet if we’d let him. Karma-Kat, on the other paw, has a very good idea about how to stay comfy and already has the warmest spots staked out for snoozing in sunny puddles on the carpet. Or under the stained-glass lampshades.
Shadow-Pup also has some undercoat for insulation. But his short fur risks frostbite or worse, if exposed to wind and cold for more than ten minutes.
COLD WEATHER PET PROTECTION FOR CATS
Feral cats and community cats (those who roam neighborhoods without one special family) don’t have that luxury. They need extra help. Frostbite can damage ears and toes, and hypothermia can kill. Many of the tips, below, work equally well to create safe outdoor spots for your dogs, too.
I wrote about keeping outdoor cats safe, and received lots of comments here and on Facebook. That discussion had more to do with choosing whether to allow cats outside. 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.
OUTDOOR PET SHELTERS
9 TIPS FOR WINTERIZING FERAL CAT COLONIES & COMMUNITY CATS
- 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 doghouse 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.
FIRST AID FOR FROSTBITE
This is an AUDIO FILE ONLY, an excerpt from my audiobook THE FIRST-AID COMPANION FOR DOGS AND CATS, now available. I figured folks could sure use the tips now–so feel free to share this with anyone who needs the help. The advice comes from veterinary emergency experts.
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We live in the country in Kansas, so there are many feral and barn cats on our land. We set up an enclosed area in our barn for them, and we crack the door enough for them to go in. We have dog igloos with straw in there. Another thing that helps keep them warm are heated lamps. We find cats bundled together warming under the lamps often.
That sounds ideal, Angie. Thanks for the suggestions!
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.
It’s hard to watch and feel helpless, but at least you’ve made Tommy a shelter.
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.
Hi Val, I love that idea of the rubber tub! I hadn’t seen those, no. Thanks for sharing.
Great tips – and all of our dogs have loved the winter with one exception: the one that was raised in Hawaii! Man, does she hate the cold, rain, you name it – and we live in Seattle!
LOL Rebecca! The dogs have such different personalities, don’t they?
Living in Arizona, I sometimes forget how much preparation there is for cold weather with pets! Thank you for sharing. This is all very helpful.
Hi Kama, well Arizona has its own weather extremes. 😛
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.
Great tips. I was struck by the setter too. Lovely dog. I also see a sweet ruby spaniel! 🙂
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!
Any shelter is better than none at all, so Beth…ya done good anyway! *s*
Thanks for the great tips, we in SF don’t have snow but even so it can be really cold in the dog park sometimes and I make sure Layla is dressed accordingly.
For pets that accept sweaters and coats, that’s ideal! And Layla is such a fashionista, too.
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.
Thanks so much for the kind words, I hope the info helps.
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…
That’s too bad. Hopefully, if/when the need arises someone else will be able to pick up with the project.
I love that you included community cats in your post. Building shelters for feral community cats can be the difference between their survival or not over the cold winter months.
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!
Glad you like the info –and the Chow picture. I took that photo one year at Westminster in the benching area.
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.
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.
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!
Thanks! I love that picture, too (it’s a stock image), and adore setters. Thanks for visiting–hope you find some good booties!
Not sure why, but this is the first time I noticed you write fiction as well. When was it released?
Oh wow…I shouted it to the rooftops, LOL! My “dog viewpoint” debut thriller launched last September (see trailer here https://amyshojai.com/book-table/lost-found-a-thrill) I’m just finishing up the sequel for release (we hope) this winter, and the third in the series should come out in early 2014. Thanks for asking!