Brrr! It's cold outside! Even for indoor cats, the deep-freeze of winter brings a few safety and comfort precautions.
I was driving this morning and as I took in the white, forbidding landscape I wondered if there were any pets nearby who were out in the cold.
Here in Maine, it has been well below zero lately. Here are our top ten cold weather pet safety tips!
Cold Weather Pet Safety Tip #1:
Beware of Hypothermia and Frostbite:
The elements present their own direct dangers.
We don't usually give it much thought but even with all that fur, animals can get frostbite.
Areas with little to no fur cover such as toes and ears are most commonly frostbitten.
Signs include white or pale skin, then after warming up it becomes reddish or irritated looking. It's painful and later peels off.
Hypothermia may occur if a cat gets wet out in the cold. Signs include listlessness, shivering and low temperature. It's imperative to warm him up gently (don't use a hair dryer, as it can burn him) and seek veterinary treatment. Risks include collapsing into a coma.
Solution? It's best to keep your Coonie indoors, especially during dangerous, frigid winter weather.
Cold Weather Pet Safety Tip #2:
Use Extreme Caution With Antifreeze
Antifreeze is recognizable by it's bright green color. During winter, drivers may need to refill it more often, leading to spills, open containers, loose covers on containers, and vehicle leaks. It has a sweet taste that appeals to most animals. It is poisonous and deadly.
This is one of the most common types of pet poisoning. Signs come on suddenly and include tremors, vomiting, twitching muscles or eyes, wobbly walk, seizures and more.
Saving your cats life depends on getting him immediate veterinary care. There are treatments and procedures your vet can do to slow the absorption of the poison and try to flush the body of it.
Cold Weather Pet Safety Tip #3:
Take Care When Starting The Car
Many small animals, including cats, take refuge under the hood or in other hiding places.
When the engine ignites, and the fan belt starts up you can imagine what might happen.
It's recommended that we give any neighbor cats (and even chipmunks and squirrels for that matter!) a heads-up by banging on the hood before firing up the vehicle.
Cold Weather Pet Safety Tip #4:
Even inside, we humans tend to bundle up with sweaters, blankets etc. Make sure your favorite furry friends have a warm cozy place too!
You can get creative with a homemade cave-like hideaway that protects from drafts. Some soft warm blankets are always welcome!
I used to provide my cat Bianca with a warm water bottle in her bed each cold winter night.
Cold Weather Pet Safety Tip #5:
Cold weather can cause elderly kitties to feel their ailments even more than usual. The discomfort of conditions such as arthritis may be more pronounced.
Cold Weather Pet Safety Tip #6:
Careful On Car Rides
Cats aren't in the car very often. But whether it's a ride home from the vet, a vacation or road trip, or one of those rare kitties who likes rides, they sometimes travel.
If you need to make any stops, don't leave Fluffy alone with the car off. Many people aren't aware, but the interior of vehicles cools off fast, and acts like a refrigerator, holding in the cold air.
Cold Weather Pet Safety Tip #7:
Even if you have strictly indoor cats and an always-warm home, what about a power outage?
Along with flashlights and batteries, canned goods, water and other items, it's a good idea to keep plenty of your cat's basic necessities on hand during cold weather.
You likely won't be able to drive out for cat food or kitty litter during a blizzard or ice storm!
Cold Weather Pet Safety Tip #8:
Microchipping is always a good idea. In winter, kind-hearted cat lovers might be more likely to take in a seemingly lost kitty.
This form of identification will make it easier to find your Coonie and get him back home.
Even our 100% indoor Maine Coons are microchipped, since they could slip out the door and then take off, whether in fright from a neighborhood dog or in pursuit of a chipmunk.
Cold Weather Pet Safety Tip #9:
Watch Out For Salt and De-Icers
We tend to think of dogs paw pads being affected by salt and de-icers in winter, as they are out perusing the sidewalks much more than their feline friends.
But cats' paw pads are vulnerable too. Salt exposure on paw pads can lead to painful chemical burns.
Licking rock salt off their paws, as cats are more prone to doing, can lead to dehydration, kidney failure, and pancreatitis, as well as burns to the mouth and throat. Additionally, most de-icers are poisonous if licked and ingested.
Cold Weather Pet Safety Tip #10:
Help Out Neighborhood Animals
Our last tip is not for your Maine Coon, but for other animals in your area! If there are feral kitties, consider making sure they have food, water and shelter.
Shelters for feral cats should be not too large, so they can retain body heat, and not include blankets or cat beds as they actually absorb body heat and wick it away from the body rather than reflecting it back to the cat.
Also, if you find a concerning situation of a pet kept or tied outdoors for extended periods in freezing weather, consider reporting it.
Take a photo with your phone, document the times and temperatures, and share the info with animal control. If it continues, you may even want to follow up.
Do you live in a cold-weather winter climate area? If so, what precautions do you take to keep your Maine Coon safe and warm during a polar-like period? Please share in the comments!
Top of Cold Weather Pet Safety Tips