Whether you love to embrace all things winter or are counting down the day until spring, this drop in temperature can pose a number of risks to cats. Their built-in fur coats will help keep them warm, but that isn’t always enough. Indoor, outdoor, and stray cats will all make lifestyle adjustments once the winter weather steps in. As their family or kind-hearted caretaker, it’s important to recognize potential winter risks and do what you can to keep cats safe.
Here are the most important precautions everyone, not just devoted cat people, should know about.
1. Check Before Starting Your Car
When the temperature gets closer to freezing, outdoor cats will look for cozy places to stay warm. They could end up in a bush or your open shed, but a lot of cats are also attracted to cars. Your car has a lot of nooks and crannies where a cat could climb in and get comfortable. It blocks the wind, keeps the cold out, and if you recently drove somewhere, heat from the engine can be too good to resist.
It’s always important to check the wheel wells and look under the hood before you get in the car and start your engine. You never know when your outdoor cat or a wandering stray might choose your vehicle for temporary cover. I found my cat, Taco, under the hood of my truck, and I can’t imagine what would have happened if I had started the engine before finding his hiding spot.
2. Use Antifreeze With Caution
Antifreeze is what you put in your radiator to help regulate the engine temperature. It’s also found in deicers and screen washes. It’s great for vehicle maintenance, but it’s a big risk when it comes to cats and other animals. Antifreeze is seriously poisonous, and it’s especially dangerous because cats are attracted to the taste.
If you spill some on the driveway, if your vehicle leaks, or if you leave the container out in the open, there’s a good chance your cat will find it. Ingesting even a small amount of antifreeze could be deadly for a cat. It’s important to treat the risk seriously, and immediately take the cat to the vet if they start vomiting, having seizures, act uncoordinated, or seem lethargic.
3. Provide Cozy Outdoor Shelter
When the temperature drops, your cat’s fur isn’t always enough to keep them warm. It’s always best to allow outside cats access to the indoors when the weather gets especially cold, but it’s also a good idea to provide an outdoor shelter.
You can buy a specially-made and insulated cat shelter, or you can make your own. Add straw or something else to keep your kitty warm. These shelters are also great if you live near a feral colony or know there are strays in your area.
4. Care For Your Cat’s Paws
Ice, salt, snow, and dry winter air can all wreak havoc on your cat’s paws. Even if they’re only outside for part of the day, it’s important to check your cat’s paws when they come back inside. Rock salt and other types of deicer can get stuck between the paw pads, and your cat could ingest those chemicals while grooming. Ice and snow can also clump up in the fur and become painful.
Winter paw care should only take a few minutes if you’re consistent. All you have to do is wipe off and inspect your cat’s paws when you let them in. Make sure they’re not overly dry or showing signs of frostbite.
5. Fight Back Against Boredom
A lot of people choose to keep their indoor/outdoor cats inside during the coldest months of the year. This protects them from most of those winter-related dangers. It’s a good strategy to keep them safe, but it can also lead to boredom. If your cat is used to exploring outside, they might not appreciate being cooped up inside.
Thankfully, boredom isn’t a hard problem to solve. Keep your cat active and engaged by providing plenty of interesting toys and games. Some cats are content to play by themselves, but you should also take time to interact and play together. By keeping your cat active and entertained, you can prevent the winter blues and maintain their mental health.