December starts this week, and with it comes the meteorological start of winter. There’s plenty of advice around to help us cope with the cold this winter, but what about our cats? There are winter risks and hazards for our feline friends too—and not just those who venture outside—so we’ve put together some tips and advice for keeping cats safe and warm this winter season.
Be aware of your cat’s health
We’re all familiar with the flu, but did you know about cat flu? It’s usually not serious in healthy cats, but it’s still important to contact your vet if you think your cat is displaying the signs and symptoms of cat flu. Colder weather can also be a trigger for (or exacerbate existing cases of) arthritis, especially in older cats. If you notice that your cat seems to be limping, in pain or struggling to groom themselves, it’s best to speak with their vet.
Provide litter trays…
Cats should have access to litter trays throughout the year, but if your cats are used to going to the toilet outside then the cold and wet weather might put them off. Making sure they have access to litter trays indoors is an important part of winter cat care, and remember the general rule: if you have more than one cat, you should aim for one litter tray per cat, plus one extra, to ensure every cat has their own space.
…And toys and activities
As we know, enrichment is a vital part of all cats’ lives, providing both mental and physical stimulation. It can help to keep their minds sharp and their bodies fit, and it’s also just good fun! If your cats usually have access to the outdoors, it is especially important to replace that activity with some indoor games and play during the colder months when they’re spending more time inside. Why not check out our DIY cat toy ideas for some inspiration?
Keep your cats indoors when the weather is extra cold
Your cats may love to explore the outdoors, but our pets just aren’t cut out for the especially cold winter weather. They might complain a bit at first, but it’s much safer to keep them indoors during spells of particularly bad weather, and especially if they’re old or unwell. Provide plenty of warm, cosy spots for them to curl up in.
Be careful with open flames and heat sources
While an open fire or a few candles are a cosy addition to a winter evening, they can pose a real danger to our cats. Try to keep all heat sources out of reach wherever possible, and never leave cats alone around open flames or heat sources.
Check paws that have been outside and keep them clean
Antifreeze is very toxic to cats, and can easily be picked up on their paws if they’re out and about. Grit and salts usually spread across roads and paths are another winter danger, which can get caught in our cats’ little paws. If your cats are roaming around outside, make sure to check their paws for grit and give them a wipe to rid them of any chemical nasties that can pose a danger to them when they groom themselves.
Check under and around your car
Cats can be attracted by the warmth of a car’s engine and might use it as a warm hiding spot when it’s cold out. Before you hop in your car, be sure to tap the bonnet and do a quick check around your wheels and under the car to prevent accidents and keep your neighbourhood cats safe.
Update microchips (and consider a high-vis collar)
It’s important that your cat’s microchip details are up to date so they can find their way home again in case they wander off in search of warmth. A high visibility collar can help to keep them visible if they’re going to be out during the darker mornings and late afternoons.