Will my cat get too cold in the winter?

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Worried that your cat will get too cold in the winter weather? Read our advice on helping your cat cope in the cold.

Being exposed to very cold temperatures for long periods is as dangerous to cats as it is to humans.

What can happen if my cat gets too cold in the winter?

Cats suffer from hypothermia, becoming unconscious just like humans do, and they can freeze to death.

An early experiment showed that cats can die if their body temperature falls below 16°C (60°F) - it should normally be about 38°C (100°F). Shorthaired cats that are elderly or in poor health will obviously be more severely affected by cold than healthy longhaired felines. And don't forget, the wind chill factor can make temperatures fall lower.

As a rough rule of thumb, if it's too cold for you to be outside for long periods, then it is too cold for your cat.

Cats trying to shelter from the cold often crawl into car engines where there is some warmth left over from when the car was last driven, so check underneath before you drive off.

Anybody feeding an outside feral cat colony this winter should make sure the cats have a well insulated place to sleep, more food to help them cope with the cold, and water that is not frozen.

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Is the winter weather making my cat unhappy?

Here's how to keep your cat happy this winter.

  • If you're having guests over or are planning a party, make sure your cat has a quiet den to retreat to away from the crowd and somewhere dark that he can hide.
     
  • Throw away items such as string used when cooking the turkey, and tidy up tinsel, decorative wrapping ribbons and elastic bands because if eaten these could cause problems in your cat's intestines.
     
  • There's no harm in giving your pet a taste of turkey or salmon, but don't overdo it. Vets often see poorly pets at this time of year that have been unable to cope with food they're unused to or have overeaten.
     
  • Poinsettias, amaryllis, mistletoe berries, holly berries and lilies are poisonous for cats. If you have them in the house, then keep them well out of your pet's way - read more about plants that are toxic to cats.
     
  • If your pet is on medication, ensure you have enough to get you through the festive season; the same goes for prescription food. Make a note of the local vet surgery who deal with out of hours/bank holiday emergencies for your usual practice, just in case.

What should I do if my cat drinks antifreeze?

In the cold winter weather, car owners will be winter-proofing their vehicles by adding antifreeze (found in car screen-washes and de-icers). This substance needs careful handling because just a tiny amount of antifreeze can be fatal to cats if ingested. Antifreeze tastes sweet and is particularly appealing to cats and dogs, who will invariably lick their paws after coming into contact with the substance.

Seek immediate veterinary treatment if you suspect that your pet has come into contact with antifreeze. The first nine to 12 hours are critical, as after this period the toxic crystals will have already started to form on the animal's kidneys.

Read more about what will happen if your cat drinks antifreeze.

When buying antifreeze look out for less toxic products - those which contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. Watch out for puddles of greenish-blue coloured liquid around the car, which would indicate that it is leaking antifreeze.

Why is my cat grumpy in the winter weather?

Animals get the winter blues too, according to veterinary charity PDSA who say that affected pets want to eat more, avoid exercise and are grumpier during the winter months.

The PDSA say that according to a poll they have previously carried out, some pets display similar symptoms to the human disorder Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which include fatigue, depressed mood, and lack of energy.

Why not try to cheer a grumpy cat up by providing cardboard boxes as hideaways, create newspaper 'tunnels' for your cat to hide and play in, play with your pet each day, rotating toys, and talk to and cuddle your cat?

Can my cat still get fleas in winter?

Spring and summer are perceived as the worst time of year for flea infestations, but be warned - fleas thrive in the winter too.

Central heating provides a perfect all-weather breeding ground for these biting insects. To combat the problem, you need to use flea products all year round. Vet-Medic have said that because people are more relaxed as regards to flea treatments at this time of year, the chance of getting a serious infestation is quite high.

It seems most pet owners tend to only react to the visible signs and limit treatment to just their pets, which unfortunately means they are usually too late to prevent an invasion. Remember, an effective treatment programme involves treating your home, not just your pet.

It is also important to worm your cat if you discover he has fleas as some forms of tapeworm use fleas as intermediary hosts, which in turn are ingested by the animal when grooming so leading to infection by yet another unwanted parasite!

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How can I keep my outdoor cat safe in the winter?

If you allow your cat to have outdoor access all year round, follow our top tips to ensure your cat is kept safe, healthy and warm this winter.

  • When your cat comes in from the snow, wipe off any road grit and other harmful substances that may stick to your cat's paws or fur.
     
  • Keep the doors of sheds and outbuildings shut or wedged open, so that roaming cats do not become trapped.
     
  • Cats may climb into vehicle engines for warmth - always check under the bonnet of your car for before starting up your engine.
     
  • The cold can severely affect inflamed and arthritic joints, so provide additional warm and comfortable places for an elderly cat.
     
  • If your cat uses an outdoor water source to drink, make sure it doesn't freeze, and always have clean, fresh water available inside.
     
  • If your cat will be seeing seeing snow for the first time, consider letting him wander in a safe, enclosed area and supervise him.
     
  • Check your cat flap regularly to ensure it hasn't frozen over or become blocked by snow.
     
  • If your cat is a wanderer, let him outside when temperatures are highest and traffic levels are lowest, and keep your cat in during the hours of darkness.
     
  • A Christmas tree, with its dangling baubles, tinsel and lights, will be irresistible to inquisitive cats. It may be worth putting the tree in a different room or having a smaller one out of reach.
     
  • Poultry bones, such as those from the Christmas turkey, are also dangerous cats, as they can become stuck in their throats or even pierce their intestinal tracts.