Cats and Cold Weather

As the temperatures drop, we really start to feel it. We’ll wear more clothes, sweaters, jackets, beanies and boots.

It’s easy to forget, but cold weather also impacts our kitties. Just like humans cats are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite. Our cats may have a thick coat of fur, but this is only useful in the cold when it is dry. Snow and rain stop your cat’s fur from trapping heat and can cause hypothermia.

With these concerns in mind, we asked the Catexplorer community to share how they explore during the winter months.

Concerns About Going Out With Your Cat in the Cold

A typical rule of thumb is that if you need a jacket, so does your cat or it is not appropriate for them to go for a walk outside.

Typically cats are well adjusted for cold weather. However, as the temperature drops below freezing, they become more susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia.

Frostbite

Frostbite occurs when body tissue freezes and may result in permanent damage. It typically impacts parts of the body that are further away from the heart (and have less blood flow). For our kitties this includes their ears, nose, tail and toes.

We recommend checking these areas while you are out and about. If they have changed in colour, particularly to a grey or pale colour, it may indicate frostbite. Ensure that your cat is warm by using blankets and contact your vet immediately.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than what your body can produce.

Some symptoms of mild hypothermia include shivering, weakness, lack of ability to concentrate. Moderate hypothermia symptoms include muscle stiffness and short and shallow breathing. If you suspect your cat has hypothermia, contact your vet immediately.

Risks of Snow Salt & Antifreeze

Salt is typically used to deice snow on roads and sidewalks. This salt & antifreeze is toxic to cats when ingested.

It is likely that this salt will get attached to your cat’s paws, bellies and legs and they will be tempted to lick it off. In order to ensure that your cat does not ingest the salt, we recommend that you wipe their paws, bellies and legs using a warm towel as soon as you get home.

Adapting Your Exploring

Exploring Inside

With this in mind, rather than going exploring outside you can take your cat to inside locations like pet stores, cat friendly bookshops, pubs or other stores. These will be heated and you do not need to be concerned about the risks of Hypothermia or Frostbite.

Shorter Adventures

It is still possible to go outside with your cat. We suggest you make these adventures shorter, especially as the weather drops below freezing. Perhaps just a walk in the backyard or to a local park will suffice.

How to Go Outside with Your Cat in the Cold

Clothing

Just as we need to wear clothing in cold weather, our cat may also need jackets and sweaters in the cold.

The Catexplorer Community has suggestions for sweaters and jumpers for your cat, including puffer jackets and fleece wind breaker jackets from Chilly Dogs.

In addition to that, your cat may appreciate a fleece snood to protect their ears. If you need a hat to go outside, your cat probably needs to protect their ears too.

Shivering

Cats are like humans, they shiver when they are cold.

We recommend that you check if your cat is shivering both visually and by touching them often while you are out and about. If they are shivering, ensure that you warm them with a blanket and it may be a good idea to start heading to a warmer indoor location.

Less Time On the Ground

In order to reduce your cat’s exposure to the cold snow, while out and about we suggest that your cat spends most of their time in their backpacks/strollers.

You can prepare their backpack or stroller by lining them with blankets.

Furthermore, you can use a hand warmer or a sturdy hot water bottle in their backpack or stroller. As these have the potential to burn, ensure they are wrapped in a blanket and your cat does not come in direct contact with them. We also recommend that you place them in a location where your cat can move away from it if they get too hot

Paw Wax

The salt used to deice the roads can also cause your cat’s paws to crack. To keep their paws safe we recommend using a Paw Wax, similar to the one in this video from Planet Paws.

Bear in Mind

Car Hoods

In winter, cats are tempted by the heat extended by your car’s engine. Cats are known to sleep near the warm engine or your wheel wells. Always tap the hood of your car to check if there is a kitty in there before you start it up.

Cat in the Car

In summer, temperatures in your car can reach unbearable levels. The same occur in winter – just in the opposite direction. Never leave your cat in the car by itself as it can quickly turn into a refrigerator.

How do you go exploring with your cat in the cold?