Cats, famously, do what they want.
But with the weather being so unpredictable at the moment, and icy blasts coming out of nowhere, it’s important that your kitty doesn’t stray too far from home and get caught out.
Most cats have a good amount of fur to protect them from the elements, but when it’s particularly cold they are still going to be at risk if they are exposed for too long – especially if they’re not used to it.
But, a cat won’t be told what to do. Most won’t wear a lead, and if you try to call them in they will likely stare at you and then walk the other way. So how can you make sure your four-legged friend is safe in the cold weather?
We asked Ele Hacheme, a cat nutritionist at Republic of Cats, for her expert advice.
Keep them inside
Cats are keen adventurers, and a bit of cold weather is unlikely to put them off exploring. However, the icy temperatures puts your cat at risk of frostbite and hypothermia, so it is important that pet parents take extra precautions.
Ele recommends that you; ‘Provide your cat with more sheltered areas in the garden, such as a cat hut, preferably a heated one. This will give your cat a place to recover if they simply cannot resist venturing outside the house.
‘Don’t worry if some cat huts appear out of your price range, as a simple cardboard box, filled with soft blankets and covered in plastic sheeting should make for a very efficient, and affordable cat shelter.’
Especially at night
Once night falls and the temperature drops completely, not even the cosiest of cat shelters will be enough to keep your cat completely safe from the cold.
‘When you go to bed at night, double check that your cat is safely inside, ideally with any exit routes closed off. If your cat is particularly affectionate, you may even want to keep them in the same room as you overnight, for peace of mind,’ says Ele.
‘Provided you have given your cat sufficient exercise and playtime, as well as a fresh litter tray, there should not be any real need for your cat to venture outside at night.’
Fresh food and water
To keep your cat from getting restless, Ele says you should provide them with every home comfort you can.
‘That includes a full bowl of fresh water and a few nibbles to tide them over until the morning,’ says Ele.
‘Ensuring that your cat has plenty of water inside the house is especially important during the winter months, as outside water sources can often freeze over during cold weather spells.
‘If you are leaving food out for your cat overnight, be sure that you are sticking to dry food, as wet food spoils easily – especially if left untouched for a prolonged time.’
Check your cat flaps
Cat flaps are a brilliant invention, but they are not infallible.
During the winter months, a heavy snowfall could cause your cat flap to become blocked from the outside, or particularly icy conditions could cause your cat flap to become frozen shut – two nightmare scenarios if your cat is stuck outside in the snow.
‘Consider not using the cat flap at all during the colder periods, by locking it if your flap has that feature, or by blocking access to it from the inside of your house,’ suggests Ele.
‘This way your cat’s outside time will be on your terms, and you can help to keep them safe from the cold.’
Our cats are not so different from us – they appreciate comfort.
So, a comfortable kitty, surrounded by warm cushions and blankets, will be less likely to want to go outside.
‘If your cat has a tendency to get bored at night and roam the house, consider setting up an enticing spot for them to curl up and sleep in every room of the house,’ says Ele.
‘Having a few different cosy spaces in the house for your cat to go between will ease their sense of boredom while you’re asleep, and reduce their temptation to venture out into the cold.’
Games and activities
Cats are fickle beings and they can get bored quickly. Provide your cat with plenty of fun indoor games, activities and exercises, to keep them entertained and less likely to wander outdoors for entertainment.
Ele reminds cat owners: ‘However restless your cat gets, it won’t keep them safe from the hypothermia or frostbite that they could catch from staying out in the cold for too long.
‘Ensuring that your cat has plenty of ways to occupy their attention over winter, using things like enrichment toys, will make them a much happier and safer cat.’
Get them microchipped
We all know cats have a tendency to wander off and do their own thing, occasionally for a really long time.
A microchip is a device, no larger than a grain of rice, that you can get inserted under your cat’s skin by a vet. A microchip gives your cat their own unique code and is a helpful tool to help you locate them at any time.
‘If you haven’t already done it, get your cat microchipped immediately, as it is especially important to know their whereabouts during the winter months,’ says Ele.
‘So if they do wander off in search of something, you will know exactly where they are and how to find them, to bring them back to safety.’
Be extra vigilant
When our cats do sneak off to explore, they don’t usually tell us about it, meaning it can be difficult to know whether our cats are at home or not.
Ele recommends extra-vigilance: ‘Do regular checks of areas that your cat may tend to roam, such as the garden, the shed or the garage to ensure that your cat isn’t stuck in these places overnight.
“’Cats aren’t meant to be out in the cold, and just one night of being stuck somewhere at freezing temperatures can be enough for your cat to be overcome with conditions such as frostbite or hypothermia, which they are not guaranteed to recover from.’
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