Wherever you are in the country, its wintertime. Yes, even in Florida, though the temperatures are in the mid-70s! But for most of us, the winter brings cold, snow, dampness, and cutting wind. No one wants to go out during this time of year. Unless you’re a ski enthusiast or a youngster, that cold can be too much to bear.
How About The Animals
But what if you’re an animal? How much exposure should animals have in the depths of the winter season? Wild animals like skunks, groundhogs, and bats stay warm by hibernating the winter away. Other animals who do not hibernate, such as squirrels, raccoons, and deer will stay warm by growing extra fur, building up extra fat stores, and spending more time in their homes.
The Dangers Of Hypothermia
When it comes to your cat, how much time should he spend outside in the coldest winter months? Truthfully, not as much as you might think. Your cat is just as susceptible to cold weather related issues as you are. In fact, if too much time is spent in the cold weather, the cat’s body temperature can fall below normal and this is when hypothermia can set in. If a cat is suffering from mild hypothermia, watch out for signs such as lethargy, weakness, and shivering. As the hypothermia gets worse, the cat’s muscles will stiffen, breathing will slow, and he will stop responding to stimuli. This is when you want to get your cat warm and to a vet ASAP.
If your cat is left outside for a long period in the deepest cold, or a heavy snowstorm, frostbite can occur. Your cat should get immediate veterinary attention if this happens, but if you cannot get to a vet, bring your cat inside and apply warm, moist towels to the affected area. Change towels frequently until the area regains color. Never rub frostbitten skin as it can cause extensive tissue damage. And watch for signs of gangrene which can cause infections, making vet care essential.
Keeping Indoor And Outdoor Cats Warm
There are several things that you can do to help your cat stay warm in the winter, even if they don’t go outside.
- When it comes to older cats, or those with arthritic conditions, it is common for joints and muscles to stiffen in the cold. Be sure that they have a soft, warm place to sleep and keep an eye on them when they jump or climb stairs, as joint stiffness can cause a fall.
- Keep cat beds away from drafty windows or doors. If your cat typically lays on the floor to sleep, provide a bed or even a cardboard box with a blanket inside that will keep her warm.
- Watch your cat around heating sources, especially open flames. A cat that gets too close to the fireplace or radiator can get burned or suffer from dry skin.
- If you must take your cat to the vet, put a warmed towel or even a water bottle in the carrier to add warmth. Do not leave your cat alone in the car by running an errand or two while you’re out; cold cars are just as dangerous as hot ones for your cat.
For cats that live outside, or spend long periods of time outdoors, do your best to keep them healthy by taking some of the following steps.
- As the weather gets colder, let your cat go outside more often so that she can grow accustomed to the cold gradually.
- Check on the cat’s food and water supply frequently, as the water can freeze and hydration is essential for your cat’s health. And don’t use metal bowls as your cat’s tongue can actually get stuck to the bowl.
- Provide a shelter for your cat to go at night or when the temps dip down low, such as an insulated cat house or an old plastic tote with a cut-out door, filled with straw or hay.
Cats are social animals who crave human contact, so we recommend that you keep your cat indoors with you all year around. But we do understand that some families prefer to keep the cats outside and some cats prefer to stay there!
Best Diet For Outdoor Cats: The Fats
If your cat is an outdoor cat, or if you have an indoor cat who just likes to go outside on occasion (or has a tendency to sneak out), do your best to give him some extra support in the cold months. The best diet for an outdoor cat is supplemented with fatty acids that will give him a thicker coat, such as canola oil, salmon oil, flaxseed, butter, fish oils, and Omega-3 and 6. Some cat food brands that contain higher amounts of these fats include:
- EVO Herring and Salmon
- Solid Gold Katz-n-Flocken
- Wellness Complete Health Healthy Weight
- Natures Variety Chicken Meal
- By Nature Adult Dry
Build up the fats as the weather cools so that you know their coat will grow thicker by the time the cold really hits.
Best Diet For Outdoor Cats: The Protein
The best diet for outdoor cats also includes extra protein that can keep your cat’s fur nice and thick to keep him warm in the cold. As long as your cat does not have a problem with obesity, giving him extra food for the winter will help keep him warm. Look for foods that have a good amount of meat protein, such as:
- Wysong Optimal Vitality
- Natural Balance Alpha Chicken Turkey Meal & Duck
- Nutro Ultra Grain Free Adult
- Aretemis Fresh Mix Feline
- Blue Wilderness Adult Salmon
Always have plenty of fresh water on hand for your cat no matter where they spend their time.
As long as you keep a watchful eye on your kitty to be sure that she’s doing okay in the cold, you are doing your best to keep her safe. And that’s what’s most important.