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Cold Weather Pet Protection

by | Feb 2, 2022 | Ask Amy Videos, Cat Behavior & Care, Dog Training & Care | 30 comments

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Cold weather pet protection becomes more important this time of year. 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. 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 WEATHER PET PROTECTION

Here in Texas, the weather stays HOT HOT HOT well into November and December. Now it’s the first weeks of February, and it’s 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. 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.

furry chow chow prone to hot spots

Thickly furred dogs like the Chow have more cold weather protection.

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 or so.

Magic adored snow!

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. Many of the tips, below, work equally well to create safe outdoor spots for your dogs, too.

cold weather cat dangersI 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.

Image Copr. Alley Cat Rescue; The lid of the storage bin forms the “ceiling” and the cat’s body warmth fills the small area to keep kitty protected.

OUTDOOR PET SHELTERS

A feeding station will help to keep food and water dry and will help with freezing weather. For Bedding you should use straw or 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 cannot build a shelter, you can use any type of strong box or crate, or buy a dog “igloo” from your pet supply company (doors set off to the side protect from the wind). The styrofoam ice chests work great for cat shelters, with thick walls that provide some insulation. The ecoFlex Outdoor Feral Cat House (below) is another option.
outdoor cat houseMylar insulation made of polyester and aluminum reflects radiant heat. It is used to keep houses cooler in summer and warmer in winter. I normally used this type of insulation in attics and is a perfect material to use to insulate outdoor cat shelters. You can also nest a smaller container (as above in the picture) in a larger one, and fill the spaces between with straw or even styrofoam peanuts.

DogCatSnow_58674693_original

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.

COLD WEATHER PET PROTECTION & PREPARATION

This is an older clip from my Pet Talk segment, but the information still applies. How do YOU keep your furry wonders safe in this BRRRRRRRRRRRR frigid weather? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!


30 Comments

  1. Traveling Cats

    Not sure why, but this is the first time I noticed you write fiction as well. When was it released?

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      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!

      Reply
  2. lunalupus93

    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!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks! I love that picture, too (it’s a stock image), and adore setters. Thanks for visiting–hope you find some good booties!

      Reply
  3. Kelly

    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.

    Reply
  4. thebrokedog

    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.

    Reply
  5. Joely Smith

    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!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Glad you like the info –and the Chow picture. I took that photo one year at Westminster in the benching area.

      Reply
  6. PawesomeCats (@pawesomecats)

    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.

    Reply
  7. Sonja

    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…

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      That’s too bad. Hopefully, if/when the need arises someone else will be able to pick up with the project.

      Reply
  8. DashKitten

    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.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks so much for the kind words, I hope the info helps.

      Reply
  9. Ruth Epstein

    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.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      For pets that accept sweaters and coats, that’s ideal! And Layla is such a fashionista, too.

      Reply
  10. Beth

    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!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Any shelter is better than none at all, so Beth…ya done good anyway! *s*

      Reply
  11. Tonya Wilhelm

    Great tips. I was struck by the setter too. Lovely dog. I also see a sweet ruby spaniel! 🙂

    Reply
  12. The Daily Pip

    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.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      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.

      Reply
  13. Kama

    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.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Hi Kama, well Arizona has its own weather extremes. 😛

      Reply
  14. Rebecca at MattieDog

    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!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      LOL Rebecca! The dogs have such different personalities, don’t they?

      Reply
  15. Val Silver

    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.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Hi Val, I love that idea of the rubber tub! I hadn’t seen those, no. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  16. sadieandco

    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.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      It’s hard to watch and feel helpless, but at least you’ve made Tommy a shelter.

      Reply
  17. Angie

    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.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      That sounds ideal, Angie. Thanks for the suggestions!

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. CatsWalk Newsletter – September 2013 | Little Big Cat - […] Cool Weather Pet Prep […]
  2. Stray Cats In Your Garden? 9 Tips to Keep Cats Away - […] Create more appealing cat habitats far away from your living area, and the cats will stay away. Protect feral…
  3. Blizzards & Carbon Monoxide: Cold Protection for PetsAMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood - […] There’s a major disconnect for me today. While much of the East is dealing with a major blizzard, the…

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