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How to protect your cat this winter

Cat sitting in the snow advice

Protect your cat against winter hazards

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Some people look forward to the start of winter, but it can be a strange time for cats. Suddenly their home is filled with unusual trees, decorations and strange smells and sounds. Outside there might be snow, ice or grit on the ground and of course bitterly cold temperatures to contend with. Find out how to protect your cat this winter so you can ensure your feline friends thrive during winter.

By Zoë Monk

Updated on the 26/10/2020, 14:16

It's a clear sign that winter is here. The days are noticeably shorter, darker and colder, you've got out your woolly jumpers, the heating is on, you've topped up the antifreeze in your car and maybe even begun to make Christmas plans. But have you given any thought to your cat? Making sure you take good care of your cat should also be on your winter to-do list as the weather conditions deteriorate.

It is important to protect your cat in the winter and make sure he is warm. Certainly, some cats have thick fur and will be acclimated to the weather change but they are a few hazards for your cat you need to look out for. Find out how to protect your cat this winter so you can ensure your feline friends thrive during winter.

Does cats fur protect them from winter?

Fur definitely helps your cat to be warm in the winter. They have a thick undercoat which protects them from the cold and also has waterproof properties to help them cope with extreme temperatures. The cat's fur is a great insulation, it keeps your cat warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. But cats who don't have any hair or a very short coat won't be able to maintain the warmth as cats with longer hair would. Cats with short hair won't be insulated for so long as the body heat radiates off their bodies faster. If you have a cat with short hair or none at all, make sure you provide a warm area in your house (with blankets for example) and don't let it stay outside for a long time.

Cats naturally have a thicker coat in winter as the amount of undercoat increases. They will therefore moult, meaning their summer coat will be replaced by their winter coat. An indoor cat won't moult as much as an outdoor cat. Indeed, the indoor cat will be used to the temperature at home.

How cold is too cold for cats?

Thanks to their fur coat, cats are well adapted to the colder winter weather. They are also very skilled at finding a lovely warm spot to snuggle down in during colder days. However, if you have an outdoor cat, then they can find it challenging to keep warm when temperatures drop. Their body temperature can drop dangerously low, which can lead to frostbite or hypothermia; both are potentially life-threatening to your cat. Kittens, older cats and those felines with underlying health problems are more at risk of colder temperatures. Therefore during the winter, keep your cat inside where they can stay safe and warm. If the temperature drops below 0 degree, try to make your cat stay inside.

Do cats feel cold in winter?

While a cat's fur coat offers them some degree of protection from the cold, if temperatures plummet, a cat can get frostbite and hypothermia just like us. If their body temperature drops significantly, they can fall unconscious and even freeze to death. Short haired cats, hairless cats like the Sphynx, kittens, older cats and those in poor health are particularly susceptible to the cold. A good rule to follow is if you find it too cold to be outside for an extended period, then it's likely also too cold for your cat. It's also essential that you make sure your cat has fresh water both inside and outside, remembering to clean the bowls regularly and remove any ice.

Can cats stay outside in winter?

Yes, cats can stay outside in the winter but don't let your feline friend outside all night. There are a few things to keep in mind if you want to let your cat go outside.

It's no secret, cats love to venture outside in the nature. They like to hunt and guard their territory. And even during a cold winter season, if your cat is used to being outside, he will be brave enough to face the cold temperatures. Make sure it has a shelter where it can go to in case it needs to rest or warm up a little.

Also, don't let your cat go outside at night as the temperatures can get very low. If the weather is really bad and the temperatures are really low, don't let your cat go outside. This could provoke hypothermia and frostbite. He will have to stay inside with you. But you will have to make sure your cat gets enough exercise indoors.

Ensure your cat has plenty of food and water indoors in case the sources he uses outside are frozen. Last but not least, make sure your cat is micro chipped and that the details are up to date. If a cat gets too cold outside, it will automatically look for a warm place and can sometimes venture far away from its home. So make sure you provide a warm shelter, enough food and drink and a nice warm and cosy place to rest indoors.

Do cats become less active in winter?

With shorter days and the dreary wet and cold weather, many of us become less active during winter, including your cat. It's a good idea to keep a close eye on your cat's weight and food intake if they aren't getting as much exercise. But if your cat does end up spending more time indoors, this doesn't mean they have to miss out on exercise. You can keep them active and entertained with the help of exciting toys and games that encourage them to run around, while also helping to keep your cat warm.

How do cats stay warm in the cold weather?

Your cat's fur acts as insulation to trap their body heat, and they have a higher body temperature than us, which helps them fight off the winter cold. But if a cat does feel chilly, they will usually head for the warmest place in the house. You have probably seen your cat enjoying a nap in the sun, snuggled under a blanket or by the radiator. You may have also noticed your feline friend becoming much more affectionate during the winter as they want to share your body heat.

Do cats need the heating on?

You don't need to worry about leaving the heating on for your feline friends during the day or night. Their furry coats and the warmth retained in your home will be enough to keep them warm and toasty, even during the cold winter months.

What temperature do cats get cold at?

A room temperature that falls below 21°C could leave your feline friend feeling chilly, especially if your cat is shorthaired or elderly. They will likely need a temperature of around 23°C to keep them warm and comfortable.

Do cats need blankets in winter?

Whether you have a kitten, young, adult or elderly cat or your feline friend has a health problem, they will appreciate a nice warm blanket to snuggle up with. However, avoid the temptation of wrapping your cat up in the blanket like a baby. Instead, put the blankets near or in their bed or on the sofa for them to snuggle down with.

Do cats need heat in winter?

Cats are very resourceful animals and will look for ways to keep themselves warm, whether it means snuggling by the radiator, getting under your quilt or coming to you for cuddles. But you can also help by providing them with warm blankets in or by their pet bed, on the sofa or their favourite spot by the radiator.

How do outdoor cats stay warm in the winter?

During winter, outdoor cats face many more hazards. When it gets very cold, cats may look for a warm spot underneath a car or even in a car's engine compartment while there's still some heat. If your cat lives outside or there are some feral cats around where you live, you can make sure they keep warm by providing a cat shelter. This will give them somewhere to go when the weather is bad. Whether you buy or make it, ensure the outdoor shelter is well insulated and furnished with heat pads or heated cat beds and plenty of fresh food and water. Even if your cat always goes to the toilet outside, during the winter, it's a good idea to ensure they have access to an indoor litter tray.

How do I keep my indoor cat warm in the winter?

If you have an indoor cat and are wondering how to keep him warm in the winter, there are a few things you can put in place.

  1. Encourage your cat to stay in warm places in your house. Try to limit access to drafty and poorly insulated areas. For example, don't hesitate to move your cats bed and litter tray in a warmer spot in your house so that your cat can enjoy a warm nap.
  2. Provide a warm and cosy bed. You can put some blankets in your cat's bed for him to snuggle up in.
  3. Feed them more. Your cat's body temperature will drop in the winter and they will need to maintain their body temperature when it's cold. This means that they will need more calories intake to heat up their bodies. Your cat will probably be hungrier, so don't hesitate to feed them a bit more than usual to provide them with the fuel their need to be warm.
  4. Keep your cat active. Because your cat will probably eat a little bit more than usual, he will also need to be more active in order to avoid your cat being obese. Don't hesitate to play with your cat more in the winter. Not only will it keep him healthy, but exercise warms up the body.

Be aware of winter hazards

Antifreeze

As the days and nights get much colder, you will likely start to use antifreeze in your car. Antifreeze has a sweet smell and taste, and it can be very tempting to your cat to give it a lick. However, it contains ethylene glycol, which is highly toxic for cats. Take extra care when using antifreeze and remove any spills immediately as even just a small amount of antifreeze can cause kidney failure and even death.

Check their feet

It's a good idea to check your cat's paws whenever they come in from outdoors for any signs of irritation or frostbite. This is particularly important if they are long-haired as snow and grit can compact between their toes. Give their paws a gentle wipe with a damp cloth to remove any chemicals or rock salt that they may have stepped so they won't lick it off.

Festive food

While we may look forward to enjoying the delicious treats we get over Christmas and New Year, many of these foods are potentially toxic to cats, such as chocolate. Make sure you keep any food that isn't cat friendly away from your feline friend.

Protect your cat this winter

While most cats cope well with the average British winter, there are things you can do to protect your cat this winter and ensure they stay safe, happy and healthy. Just a little common sense will go a long way when protecting your furry friend but if you are at all concerned, keep them indoors for the winter.

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