Come in from the cold

Practical ways from feline experts to help your cat cope with winter. Sun-loving cats can find winter a challenge, particularly if they like to spend a lot of time outdoors. Cats Protection advises: “Winter can be a wonderful time of year and there is nothing quite like snuggling up with a cat indoors during a cold spell. The cold weather
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29th November 2022

Practical ways from feline experts to help your cat cope with winter.

Sun-loving cats can find winter a challenge, particularly if they like to spend a lot of time outdoors. Cats Protection advises: “Winter can be a wonderful time of year and there is nothing quite like snuggling up with a cat indoors during a cold spell. The cold weather can present a few risks to our feline friends, however, so it is important you're prepared.”

Pet welfare charity Blue Cross adds: “Most cats prefer to snuggle up inside during the winter, but if yours is the outdoor type, make sure they always have a warm place they can go to at all times.”

From top tips for helping outdoor loving cats cope with cold snaps and how to make indoor life especially cosy, to advice on how to make time inside much more fun for your feline friend, read on and you’ll be well prepared for whatever this winter brings!

Top tips for outdoor loving cats

If you have a cat that loves to spend time in the great outdoors, even in winter, feline experts at Cats Protection have some great advice:

  • If your cat has access to the outdoors, provide them with an outdoor cat house or cat shelter to ensure they are safe. Even something as simple as a sturdy cardboard box covered in plastic sheeting can do the trick.
  • If you’ve got a cat flap, make sure your cat can get easily in and out. A heavy snowfall or icy patch might result in the cat flap becoming stuck or blocked.
  • Always make sure your cat comes inside at night, locking the cat flap once they are inside. Provide them with warm, comfortable and safe places to sleep.
  • Ensure that your cat has plenty of fresh water indoors, in case outside sources freeze.
  • Regularly check sheds, outhouses and garages to ensure your cat hasn’t strolled in and is locked inside. Cats Protection even has a handy ‘Look before you lock’ door hanger to remind you.
  • Make sure your cat is microchipped and the details are up to date. If they do wander off in search of a warm place, they can easily be traced back to your address.

If the weather becomes particularly icy, it’s best to keep your cat indoors. While they might seem bored or restless, pet cats aren’t used to extreme cold temperatures. They can even develop frostbite, which causes damage to the skin and other tissues, or hypothermia, which is a dangerous drop in body temperature that can cause an animal’s body to shut down and, if left untreated, may be fatal.

Along with wintry dangers such as antifreeze, which is lethal to cats, so always keep any locked safely away and clear up any spills immediately, there are further perils to be aware of. Blue Cross advises: “Cats left outdoors often crawl into a warm car engine to get warm and, when the engine is started up, they can be seriously injured or even killed. They might also venture somewhere they shouldn’t and get trapped without food or water. If in doubt, keep your cat inside.” Find out more about why cats need to sleep in the warmth of the sun >>

Top tips for making indoor cat life cosy

PDSA Vet Lynne James advises: “Your puss may want to stay indoors more when it gets cold – give them toys to play with to keep them occupied and a litter tray so they don’t have to brave the elements if they don’t want to. If they still prefer to go outside, make sure they can easily get back inside or have access to a warm, sheltered area when the temperature plummets.” Here are a few ideas:

  • Pet safe heat pads or radiator hammocks will be much appreciated.
  • Many cats adore hiding away for a snooze in a comfy and cosy igloo bed.
  • Provide a litter tray somewhere private indoors (one per cat) so that your favourite feline won’t have to brave the cold outside.
  • Open fireplaces are a lovely focal point in winter but can be a risk to cats. If you have one screen it off and, if you light a fire, always supervise your cat.

Top tips for making indoor cat life fun

If you do have a cat that becomes restless when kept indoors, it’s important to give them things to do. Enrichment toys, puzzle feeders that you can fill with tasty dry cat food nuggets, and intriguing cat water fountains will keep them entertained and, importantly, exercised.

  • For cats, the best games are those that make the most of their natural repertoire of behaviours – stalking, pouncing, chasing and batting objects with a paw, exploring, climbing, jumping and patrolling. These ‘hunting’ skills, replicated by pursuing or swiping at a toy, release feel-good hormones called endorphins, which boost feline feelings of wellbeing. Discover more ideas on playing games with cats of all ages >>
  • As sensual animals for whom scent plays a big part in understanding the world, adding some toys that contain dried catnip will heighten their pleasure. About 50% of felines will respond to this herb, by going into raptures of rolling around and meowing. Scented toys can be particularly beneficial for blind cats.
  • Cat grass can add some welcome variety to your favourite feline’s indoor environment. In fact, feline welfare charity International Cat Care advises that all cats should be provided with grass, either from an outdoor or indoor source (grown in a pot), to enable them to exhibit their natural grass-eating behaviour, while preventing them from ingesting unsuitable potentially toxic greenery.
  • Cats love to climb and hide, so getting a cat activity centre could be a good investment – although some cats will have endless fun playing in a selection of cardboard boxes.
  • In the wild, cats have to work for their food, which exercises their bodies and stimulates their minds. And, according to the world’s leading feline experts, providing our pet cats with the opportunity to put some effort into getting their paws on the edible prize, could have a big effect on their health and wellbeing. All manner of cat food puzzles are available to buy, or you can make your own from everyday items such as shoe boxes, yoghurt pots and plastic bottles. International Cat Care has lots of info to help you out.

CARE MORE Get more advice on caring for your cat from Burgess, the pet experts. Training, nutrition, grooming and general care. It's all here >>

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