Cats and Cold Weather
It is easy to forget – cold weather impacts our cats too.
Cats may be protected by their coat of fur, but they are also susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite.
A cat’s coat only keeps them warm when it is dry. Snow and rain stops their fur from trapping heat in and can cause hypothermia.
But just because it is cold, it doesn’t mean that our cats no longer want to go catexploring. While some cats aren’t keen on going out in the snow, others still need their outside fix.
What to think about while catexploring in winter
Before we jump into how to go catexploring in winter, we need to think about the dangers we need to think about.
Frostbite & our cats
While cats are well adjusted for cold weather, as the temperature drops below freezing, below freezing, they become more susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia.
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.
While you and your cat are out and about in winter, check their ears, nose, tail & toes for frostbite.
If they have changed in colour, particularly to a grey or pale colour, it may indicate frostbite. If you notice this, ensure that your cat is warm by using blankets and contact your vet immediately.
Hypothermia in our cats
Hypothermia occurs when someone loses heat faster than what their body can produce.
Some symptoms of mild hypothermia include shivering, weakness, and 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.
While walking your cat in snow, 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, wipe their paws, bellies and legs using a warm towel as soon as you get home.
How to go catexploring in winter
Adapt your exploring by going on adventures indoors
When it is too cold to go catexploring in the snow, it is best that you don’t take your cat on outdoor adventures like hiking or on the water. Instead, you can vary your outings so that you are going to cat friendly locations that are inside.
These could be pet stores, cat friendly stores, pubs or other stores. For help on how to find cat friendly locations to take your cat, listen to this podcast episode.
Shorter catexploring adventures
If it isn’t too cold to go out, you can still take your cat outside, but be prepared to shorten your time outside.
Rather than doing a long hike, you and your kitty can spend some time in your backyard, or on your balcony or at a local park.
This way you can bring them inside before they get too cold.
Preparing your cat to go catexploring in winter
If your cat is comfortable with wearing clothing, you can dress them in jackets and sweaters to keep them warm.
For a list of our favourite jackets and jumpers for cats see here.
To protect your cat’s ears, you can invest in a fleece snood.
Keeping your cat’s backpack warm
You can line the inside of their backpack with a warm blanket.
For those cooler days, add a warming pad or hand warmer wrapped in a blanket. The extra blanket helps ensure that your kitty doesn’t get burnt because it is too hot. Place the heating mechanism in an area that your cat can move away from if they get too hot.
While using these warming methods, sporadically check on your kitty to make sure they aren’t too warm.
Protecting those cute toe beans
A cat’s paws are particularly susceptible in winter, especially if they are walking in snow or on surfaces that have antifreeze or salt.
While kitties don’t enjoy wearing booties, you can try using paw wax on your cat’s paws. Paw wax not only helps keep your cat’s toe beans soft, but they can also protect them from salt and anti-freeze. Just make sure that you wipe your cat’s paws with a warm towel when you get home, to make sure that they don’t inject the paw wax and to keep their paws warm.
You can purchase ready-made paw wax or make your own like this video.
While you are out and about with your cat in winter
Watch out for shivering
Shivering is a sign that your cat is too cold.
While you are out and about with your cat in winter, watch for visual signs that they are shivering. It is also a great idea to touch them as some shivering may not be obvious to us.
If your cat is shivering, warm them with a blanket and start heading towards a warm indoor location.
Reduce their time on the ground
In order to reduce your cat’s exposure to the cold snow, while out and about, be prepared for them to spend more time in their cat backpack or stroller.
If they do not voluntarily go in, try placing them in from time to time to ensure that they warm up again before jumping onto the cold snow again.
Hanging out in the car
In summer, temperatures in your car can reach unbearable levels. The same occurs in winter – just in the opposite direction. Never leave your cat in the car by itself as it can quickly turn into a freezer.