How You Can Help Pets During Winter Weather
With temperatures dropping, winter can be challenging for cats and dogs. What can you do to keep pets warm and healthy? Follow these tips.
• Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.
• Like coolant, antifreeze is lethal for pets. Thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
• Avoid salt and chemical melting products. They can be toxic to animals and harmful to their paws.
• Wipe your pet's paws and stomach when she comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. She could ingest salt, antifreeze or other dangerous chemicals while licking her paws.
• During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine.
• Do not let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm: dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost.
• Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater.
• If your indoor cat occasionally goes outdoors, keep his explorations to a minimum—and always make sure he comes indoors at night. Even better, keep him inside: place a cushion next to a window so he can enjoy the outdoors from the safety and warmth of home.
• Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train her inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take her outdoors only to relieve herself.
Winter Care for Community Cats
Community unowned cats (or feral cats) need care too! If you have community cats in your neighborhood, make sure they are spayed or neutered. Jefferson County residents can contact Alley Cat Advocates (ACA) to arrange for spay/neuter surgeries through the Kentucky Humane Society's S.N.I.P. Clinic or ACA's Big Fixes, 502-634-8777.
You can also help community cats by providing:
Water — Make sure community cats have access to fresh water. Use deep bowls rather than wide ones, and refill them with hot or warm water twice a day. Or purchase a heated water dish, available at Feeders Supply and other pet supply stores.
Food — Outdoor cats need extra food in the winter. Also, feed them on a regular schedule. The cats will know when to come around, and both the food and the cats will spend less time exposed to the weather.
Shelter — Protect community cats from the elements by providing cat shelters. You can build one yourself or convert Rubbermaid storage bins, Styrofoam coolers or small dog houses into shelters. Here are a few tips:
• Cats will huddle together for warmth, so provide colonies with multiple shelters that can fit three to five cats each. If you are caring for fewer cats, use a smaller shelter.
• Make sure the door is no bigger than six to eight inches wide to keep out other animals. If you're modifying a small dog house, you'll need to block off part of the door to make it cat-sized.
• Insulate the floor and sides of the house with either Styrofoam or straw; these materials repel moisture and keep the shelters warm and dry. Do not use blankets or hay, which absorb moisture. Also, raise shelters off the cold ground to conserve warmth.
For more tips, visit alleycatadvocates.org. The Kentucky Humane Society, Alley Cat Advocates (ACA) and Louisville Metro Animal Services are the ASPCA's 2013 Community Partners. ACA is Louisville's only nonprofit agency dedicated solely to the protection and care of community cats.