How to help your pets enjoy winter

Winter – love it or hate it, it takes up a sizeable chunk of the year and has a big impact on our pets. But there’s lots you can do to boost the feelgood factor for your furry friends… “Winter in the UK is typically the coldest season with the shortest days often accompanied by unsettled weather conditions,” states the
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18th December 2023

Winter – love it or hate it, it takes up a sizeable chunk of the year and has a big impact on our pets. But there’s lots you can do to boost the feelgood factor for your furry friends...

Winter in the UK is typically the coldest season with the shortest days often accompanied by unsettled weather conditions,” states the Met Office, helpfully. Adding: “With dropping temperatures and shorter days, we might feel the need to sleep for longer, notice a change in our appetite, or find it difficult to do things we normally enjoy.”

And it’s not just us humans who are affected – our pets can suffer from the winter blues too.

That’s why, throughout those short, nippy days of rain, wind, snow and ice, it’s important to make an extra effort to ensure our furry friends are warm and cosy, have fun things to do –and are protected from winter hazards.


Keep them cosy

Veterinary charity PDSA advises: “Just like us, our pets might need a little extra TLC over the winter months. They must stay safe, warm and active as temperatures start to drop, whether you have a dog, cat or a smaller pet.”


  • TOG UP YOUR DOG Although they come fully equipped with a fur coat, many dogs feel the cold. Elderly dogs, puppies and short-haired dogs – such as Chihuahuas, Greyhounds, Dobermans and Staffordshire Bull Terriers – are most vulnerable. “Think about getting a coat for older dogs or those with thinner fur,” advises veterinary charity PDSA. As a rule of thumb, If the weather is chilly enough for you to need a coat, so do they. For longer-haired dogs, keep up your grooming regime – matted fur won’t insulate as well against snow and wintry rain. From a safety perspective, investing in hi-vis or LED collars and leads for after-dark winter walkies is also a good call.


  • HOME COMFORTS FOR CATS “Most cats prefer to snuggle up inside during the winter,” says pet welfare charity Blue Cross. “But if yours is the outdoor type, make sure they always have a warm place they can go to at all times.” Pet safe heat pads or radiator hammocks will be much appreciated. 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 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.” 



  • DON’T LET SMALL INDOOR PETS GET THE CHILLS Our smallest pet friends such as hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils, degus and chinchillas may also need some extra warmth to help them through the bleak midwinter. Move their accommodation away from drafts – cold air from windows and doors can give small pets a chill. Choose somewhere secure where they can stay warm without overheating. Provide extra bedding to snuggle into on cold days – and change it regularly to keep things fresh and dry.

Are your pets down in the dumps? At this time of year, our pets need their human to put a bit of sparkle back into those dreary winter days, which can be a whole lot of fun for everyone! >>



 Get your guineas nice and cosy with our Indoor Guinea Pig bundle! Warm up your buns’ winter with our Indoor Rabbit bundle!


Keep them active

“Don’t stop exercising your pet!” urges PDSA “They’ll still need to get just as much exercise as they normally would to keep them healthy and stop them getting bored. If it’s too cold or wet for playtime outdoors, why not try a game or fun toy to keep your cat, dog or rabbits entertained indoors instead?”

  • WINTER WALKIES AND INDOOR GAMES FOR DOGS It’s important to ensure that your dog has as much access to daylight and fresh air as possible. Ensure your furry friend is walked at least once a day during daylight to soak up some vital Vitamin D and give ‘feel good’ serotonin levels a boost. Also think up some exciting indoor games such as ‘hide and seek’ with a favourite toy or some treats, bouncing a balloon on their nose or playing tuggie. Place some of their food ration inside Kongs or food puzzles to give them fun and challenging tasks to do.
  • ENRICH INDOOR LIVING FOR CATS If you have a cat that becomes restless when kept indoors, it’s important to give them things to do. 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. Enrichment toys, puzzle feeders that you can fill with tasty dry cat food nuggets, and intriguing cat water fountains will keep them entertained and exercised.
  • INTRODUCE SOME BUNNY FUN Rabbits enjoy games that cater to their natural tendencies. A game of bunny bowling will appeal to their mischievous side, as they take great delight in knocking things over. Set up some toy bowling pins and watch as your buns nose-bonk them all down. Or why not try a hopping challenge? Build a low wall out of small cardboard boxes and encourage your buns to hop over them by repeating the word “hop” and holding a tasty treat in front of them. When they make the leap, reward them with the treat, along with lots of praise.


Cosy toes and snuggly noses! As well as digging out our woolly socks and bobble hats, it’s time to turn our attention to what our pet friends need to stay healthy and happy during the winter >>


Keep them safe

“When it’s cold for us, it’s cold for our pets, which is why it’s important to take extra precautions to keep them safe and warm,” advises the British Veterinary Association (BVA). “During the coldest months, dogs and cats need easy access to shelter and a cosy den, and while dogs will still need exercise, owners should take precautions to protect them from the cold.”

The BVA recommends taking extra care of small furries in winter: “Rabbits and guinea pigs are also vulnerable to hypothermia despite their warm coats, so owners should take steps to ensure any outdoor hutches are well protected from the snow, cold draughts and winter rain. If you have any concerns about your pet in this cold weather, please consult your local vet for advice.”



  • Take precautions during and after dog walks: Dogs still need exercise in the cold months but consider putting a coat on older dogs or those with thin fur to keep them warm during walks. Wipe your dog’s paws and belly on returning home from a snowy walk to remove any ice or salt, and regularly check for cracks in paw-pads or for redness between the toes. Grit or rock salt can be extremely toxic to dogs and cats if ingested.
  • Avoid antifreeze poisoning: Wiping your pets’ paws can prevent them from ingesting toxins that they may have walked through whilst outside. Antifreeze in particular is highly toxic for cats, even in small amounts. Apart from use in car radiators and de-icing products, some cases are thought to be linked to ingesting diluted antifreeze used in ornamental water features to protect the pumps. Store and use antifreeze products carefully and clean any spillages thoroughly.
  • Make sure your dog’s bed is in a draught-free, warm spot insulated from the floor in the house. Line it with an extra blanket or two.
  • Consider keeping older cats indoors during extreme cold snaps and provide even healthy, young cats with easy access to shelter and warmth.
  • Rabbit and guinea pig hutches or runs should be in a sheltered position, away from wind, rain and snow, and at least 10 cm off the ground. Line them with plenty of newspaper, provide lots of hay and cover the hutch with an old duvet, blanket or tarpaulin. Rabbits need a temperature between 10⁰C - 20⁰C (the lower temperature assumes rabbits are healthy and kept with other rabbits, with lots of bedding for warmth) and guinea pigs need 5⁰C - 20⁰C, avoiding significant fluctuations in temperature. If the weather becomes very severe, consider moving outdoor pets inside to a well-ventilated space with light and room to exercise. Check water bottles, or bowls regularly, as these can freeze when the temperature drops. 


Keep calm and cuddle your pets! Is the thought of winter getting you down? Find out how interacting with your pets can boost your mood >>


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CARE MORE Find lots of useful advice on caring for all your pets from Burgess, the pet experts. Training, nutrition, grooming and general care. It's all here >>


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