How to Care for Outdoor Cats in the Winter

During the winter months, the days are colder and shorter. Dropping temperatures can be detrimental to outdoor cats. Although cats are covered in fur, they are not protected from freezing temperatures. When a cat’s fur gets wet from morning frost or snow, their fur actually chills their body which can cause frostbite and hypothermia. Check out these helpful tips to help your furry friends stay safe and warm all winter long!

Keep cats indoors

It’s best to bring cats inside during the cold winter months. If your cat is used to staying outside this transition can be difficult. It is best to slowly introduce your cat to coming inside and gradually work up to staying indoors all the time before it gets too cold. If you have a stubborn cat that insists on going outside, make sure to bring them in when it gets dark and temperatures begin to drop at night. With a little help, your cat should adjust to the warm indoors without a problem!

Make sure shelters are available

If you are unable to bring your cat inside, it is important that you have a warm shelter for them to stay in. An ideal cat shelter is about 3 feet by 1.5 feet with a small door. This is just large enough for a few cats to snuggle in but still small enough to trap the heat in. The small door keeps the heat in while keeping large predators out. Insulate the shelter with straw and Mylar blankets. Avoid using hay, towels, newspaper and other materials that absorb moisture. These materials can actually make the shelter colder. Appropriate shelters can be found at your local pet supply store or you can make your own pretty easily!

Check your car before starting it

Cold cats seek shelter and warmth by snuggling up next to the engine in your car. Remember to always knock on the hood a couple times or honk the horn before starting your car to startle any sleeping cats that hiding inside! Starting your engine while a cat is inside can cause serious injuries and even death.

Leave out extra food and water

Eating extra calories can help cats stay warm. Make sure you keep extra dry food and water outside of their shelter. Don’t put it inside the shelter to avoid water spills which would cause their shelter to become much colder. Cats are typically dehydrated and freezing temperatures can make it nearly impossible to access water.  It is important to have food and water easily accessible. With low temperatures,  you also have to worry about water and wet food freezing. You can store water in a solar-powered or pet safe heated bowl to keep it warm. If you don’t have access to heated bowls, it’s best to keep water in a deep, thick plastic container to prevent freezing. Change the water daily and check that it hasn’t frozen at least twice a day.

These tips should help you keep your outdoor cats warm, safe, and happy this winter!

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