11 Tips to care for cats in winter
As the temperature drops significantly in southern parts of Australia, we need to ensure our feline members of the family are well cared for. Just like us, our cats in winter need shelter, warmth, food, and care. It doesn’t take much to keep our cats healthy and safe when things get frosty.
Here are our 11 simple tips to care for cats in winter reviewed by Cat Vet Dr Kim Kendall, Chatswood Cat Palace. Dr Kim is a world expert in feline care and the only cat vet in Australia qualified in cat behaviour.
11 Tips on how to care for cats in winter to keep them healthy and safe
- Check up with your Vet – Has your cat had her preventive annual check up yet? Winter is as good a time as any to get your cat examined to make sure they are ready and as healthy as possible for cold weather.
- Indoor as much as possible for vulnerable cats – Keep cats that are young, old or on medication indoors as much as possible, because they are more vulnerable to the cold. Cats with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances may have a harder time regulating their body temperature. If you need help determining your pet’s temperature limits, consult your veterinarian.
- Access favourite spots – The cold weather may make your cat’s joints stiff and uncomfortable. She may find jumping difficult, so you may need to provide ‘steps’ like a chair to help your cat jump up onto and off their favourite spots. Indoor cats like a window-ledge or chair where they can catch the warmth of the winter sun through the window during the day.
Warm bed – As with people, arthritis in cats is aggravated by cold weather. Ensure cats in winter have a nice warm bed away from drafts and off the floor. A hot water bottle, heated beds or heat pad under the bedding can be helpful to provide a soft, gentle heat.
- Prevent burns – Cats love curling up in a warm place for a nap. Prevent potential burns and fires by protecting your cat from open fireplaces, wood stoves and space heaters. Dr Kim Kendall explains ‘cats only have temperature sensors on their noses, so although their coat does insulate them from the heat (because of the trapped air), they can burn if they dose for too long in front of very warm fires’.
- Keep warm outdoors – The Humane Society says even with their thickened coats, outdoor cats still need warm, dry, well-insulated and appropriate-sized shelters.
- Eat well – A well-nourished pet is better equipped to cope with cold weather. Watch your cat’s body condition and keep them in the healthy range by not overfeeding with too many winter snacks. Outdoor cats will require more calories in the winter to generate enough body heat and energy to keep them warm – talk to your veterinarian about your cat’s nutritional needs during cold weather.
- Plenty of water – make sure your cat has plenty of water so she stays well-hydrated. Indoor air tends to be drier in winter, and even indoor cats will burn extra energy staying warm in wintertime, sometimes causing dehydration.
- Indoor play – Indoor cats may become less active in the colder months. Indoor cats need their exercise and mental stimulation all year round. Make sure they have cat toys and cat trees to entertain themselves. Dr Kim Kendall recommends playing with your cat 10 – 15 minutes twice a day ideally at the same time so the cat has something to look forward to! A laser pointer can also be a fun exercise.
- Brush regularly – A lot of cats will shed their summer coats before putting on their winter coat. A little extra attention to their coats with daily or weekly brushing will help prevent her fur from getting tangled up and turning into mats. Brushing and massage also stimulates blood circulation, which improves the skin’s condition. Dr Kim Kendall says ‘even short-haired cats get mats when they have arthritis, and all cats can swallow too much fur and vomit up furballs onto your carpet. Combing with a metal comb gets out more fur and the Furminator is fabulous’. Not all cats will take to grooming, especially in the winter if they’re feeling more sensitive or have particularly severe If your cat seems to be neglecting her fur, get her checked out by a vet.
- Poisons – Ethylene glycol in anti-freeze is poisonous to humans and other animals. For those who live in the coldest cities and regional areas of Australia and use anti-freeze in their car, make sure to clean up any spills on your driveway. If a cat walks through anti-freeze and lick it off their feet and fur, it destroys their kidneys.
Signs that your cat is too cold
Your cat might show signs that they are too cold including hiding under the blankets, limping or excessive meowing. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice these signs or other changes in your cat’s behaviour such as energy-level or appetite-decrease, staying away or – just being grumpy.