The winter months are hard. They’re cold, dark, and miserable. And it’s not just us who think so. Cats can find winter just as unpleasant as us. Their grooming needs change, they get the sniffles, and even their thick coats aren’t enough to keep the chills at bay. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can make the season a happier experience for your furry friend. No matter how much the temperatures drop, keep your pet’s spirits up with these top tips to help your cat get through the cold, dry months.
Invest in Some Cozy Bedding
We aren’t the only ones who appreciate a warm, cozy bed to retreat to. To keep your cat as snug as possible, take the Chicago Tribune’s advice and invest in a covered, self-warming cat bed for additional warmth. Self-warming beds typically feature a layer of reflective material that directs your cat’s body heat back up to keep them warm and cozy. If you’re dealing with a cat that feels the cold more than most, it’s worth considering an electric heated cat bed with an inbuilt heating pad. They’re a little more expensive, but they do a great job of warming up even the most cold-blooded of cats. If your budget won’t stretch that far, a cat bed that hooks over the top of a radiator make a great alternative.
Limit Outdoor Time
If your cat is used to coming and going as they please, the winter is the time to rein in their freedom. While some cats will come back indoors as soon as it gets too cold outside, others will push on regardless. As exposure to extreme cold can result in everything from hypothermia to frostbite, it’s vital to step in and impose some limits. Some pet owners prefer to keep their cats inside at all times during the winter months. Others prefer to limit outdoor time to an hour or so. Use your own judgment to decide which works best, but avoid letting them out at all if the temperature falls below zero.
Build a Shelter
If your cat is 100% committed to the outdoor lifestyle, forcing them to set foot through the front door can be challenging. If your cat refuses point blank to give up the habits of a lifetime, give them a shelter to keep warm in. The shelter will need to be large enough for them to stretch out and relax in, but small enough to be snug. It’ll need to be designed to withstand both rain and wind, and offer protection against the cold. An insulated box with a flap for them to come and go as they please should do the job. Some of the options on the market come with an electric heating pad, but as this requires access to an electricity supply, adding a self-heating blanket may be preferable (and certainly less damaging to the environment). Along with the shelter, make sure your outdoor cat has constant access to fresh water: if the temperatures plummet, make regular checks to ensure their water bowl doesn’t freeze over.
Take Some Preventive Measures
As Animal Wised (www.animalwised.com/how-to-care-for-a-cat-in-winter-2936.html) notes, cats need adequate preventative medicine regardless of the time of year. However, as the temperatures fall and immunities take a beating, it’s even more vital to ensure your cat’s vaccinations and deworming treatments are up to date. Now is also a good time to schedule a routine check-up with your vet: as well as recommending ways to boost your cat’s immune system, they’ll be able to advise on how you can help protect your cat against seasonal coughs and sneezes.
Help Out With Grooming
As Catster points out, cats grooming needs change with the seasons. Although cats are generally great at keeping themselves neat and tidy, they might need an extra hand during the winter months to cope with the thicker coat they develop. Older cats especially may require extra brushing to keep their coats healthy and clean.
Pay Attention to Their Diet
Feeding your cat a healthy, balanced diet isn’t necessarily a winter-specific recommendation, but this is the time of year it really pays off. During the summer, your cat’s energy requirements are around 15% less than they are during the winter. Simply put, the colder it is, the more calories your cat needs to stay warm. Young cats and senior cats are more vulnerable to temperature extremes than adult cats, making it even more important to pay attention to what, and how much, they’re eating. As cats can often drop their fluid intake during the colder months, pay attention to how much they’re drinking. If you’re concerned about dehydration, try adding some stock to their food or switch from dry food to wet.
Buy Them a Jacket
Cats come with their own winter coats, but for some, it’s not enough to keep them warm. Hairless breeds like the Sphynx can find it difficult to conserve heat during the winter, which leaves them vulnerable to hypothermia and other temperature-related problems. Fortunately, the problem is easy enough to get around: if your cat’s own coat isn’t adequate, find them one that is. In fairness, some cats will have nothing to do with clothes. Try slipping a cozy little jacket over their head and you’ll be lucky to get away with your life. Others will tolerate it well enough, especially if it brings an end to the constant shivering. Opt for clothes made from hypoallergenic material to reduce the risk of an adverse reaction. Avoid anything with toggles or buttons that could pose a choking hazard, and keep away from course, rough fabrics.
Increase the Humidity
If you switch on your central heating in September and don’t turn it off till April, your house is probably drier than the Sahara right about now. Excessive household dryness can lead to all kinds of problems in cats, including an increased risk of respiratory infections. If you notice your cat is coughing or seems to be drinking more than usual, the dry air in your house might be making them dehydrated. To counter the problem, consider investing in a humidifier. If you’d rather go the DIY route, simply spray some water into the air every few hours. A bowl of water placed under a heat source can also add some much-needed moisture into the environment.