How to Care for a Cat in Winter
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If you share your home with one or more cats, you will know how they like to be cosy. While they may have a natural fur coat to keep them warm, this is not always sufficient in the winter months. If you have a hairless cat, then staying warm is an even greater concern. Even if they will still need to find ways to keep cool on a hot day, cats are generally better suited to temperate climates. They are sensitive to sudden changes in the weather and can feel the cold. Although their comfort is important, it is not as essential as protecting cats from the health risks of low temperatures such as hypothermia.
AnimalWised helps you to know how to care for a cat in winter so that you can know what to consider when the temperature drops. These will include all the preventative measures to keep their health strong before this time, as well as how to keep a cat warm in winter once it comes.
- Preventive medicine: safeguarding your cat's health in winter
- Balanced nutrition: paying special attention to a cat's diet in winter
- Winter cat shelters: building the ideal outdoor cat shelter
- Winter clothes for cats: when one fur coat isn't enough
- Air conditioning: maintaining the right temperature balance at home
1. Preventive medicine: safeguarding your cat's health in winter
Whatever time of the year, whether winter, spring, summer or fall, cats need adequate preventative medicine. It will begin when they are a kitten with their first round of vaccinations and deworming treatment. However, it will need to continue throughout their lives in the form of new treatment and vaccination boosters. It is also healthy practice to take your cat to the vet every 6 to 12 months for a checkup. This should be implemented with the general protections you make in the form of balanced nutrition, a safe environment and sufficient physical and mental stimulation.
You can make your checkup just before wintertime so you can feel confidant they are strong and healthy when the temperature drops. They will be able to update any necessary vaccinations and troubleshoot any problems which might make winter more difficult. This becomes more important every year the older your cat gets. The vet will also be able to provide ways to bolster the cat's immune system. This will help to protect against certain pathologies which proliferate more in the winter months.
2. Balanced nutrition: paying special attention to a cat's diet in winter
Diet is a key factor in optimizing a cat's health throughout the year. In winter, we need to pay special attention to their diet. A 2014 study on the seasonal variation of a cat's food intake found that a cat's “average food intake in summer is approximately 15% less than food intake during the winter months”. While this may vary according to geographical location, the increased intake didn't correspond in a marked increase in body weight. This suggests that cats need more food simply to function at the same level in colder months.
Complete and balanced nutrition is necessary for your cat to be strong and healthy both physically and mentally. Young kittens and elderly senior cats are particularly vulnerable to low temperatures. Your vet should not only examine your cat, but they should take their size, age, state of health and any specific health conditions into consideration. Your vet may recommend a particularly immunocompromised cat to be given vitamins and supplements.
While cats may eat more in the winter months, they also reduce their water intake slightly. We need to be vigilant so that our cat drinks enough water and dehydration doesn't enter the picture. This might include engaging in play and physical stimulation as cats will be more likely to consume fluids after exercise.
3. Winter cat shelters: building the ideal outdoor cat shelter
Some people may ask if an indoor cat can survive outside in winter. It's a reasonable question, but the answer depends on how cold it is outside. If temperatures drop below freezing, then a domestic cat will not likely be able to spend much time outside. Snow leopards and other big cats grow coats designed to withstand sub-zero temperatures. Unfortunately, many house cats do not have the same preparedness.
Some cats may be able to go outside in the winter as the temperature is at a level where they are comfortable. Unfortunately, winter weather can vary day to day. The temperature can suddenly drop while the cat is outside and you may not be around to let them in. This is where a winter cat shelter can be very handy. You can find them available in pet stores, but handier readers might be able to make their own.
Winter cat shelters can be as simple as an insulated box with a small flap at the front to let the cats in and out. These will allow the cat's own body heat to keep them warm, at least until you get home. More advanced options may include a heating pad, but this will require a suitable electricity supply and will be damaging to the environment to leave them on all the time.
These winter shelters for cats might not only help an outdoor cat, but it can be beneficial for feral and stray cats as well. In the winter, their resources are going to be even further strained. A shelter can help a stray cat to find somewhere safe on a harsh winter day.
4. Winter clothes for cats: when one fur coat isn't enough
Coats and jackets for cats can seem silly to some people. However, for some cats, especially hairless breeds, they can be a lifesaver. In hairless cats, the absence of fur makes it very difficult to conserve heat and leaves them exposed to climate related problems. If you have adopted a Sphynx or another type of hairless (or almost hairless) cat, then you will need to invest in cat winter clothes to maintain their health. This is unles you live somehwere perfectly clement year round.
When choosing winter clothes for our cat, we should invest in quality. The material used needs to be considered. Hypoallergenic materials are recommended in case the cat suffers an adverse allergy. Also, the type of material can rub against the cat's skin, so ensure it is soft enough not to cause any damage. Coats and jackets with buttons and toggles can also be a problem as they are distracting and also provide a choking hazard.
If you are wanting to invest in a coat for your cat, make sure you buy it before winter comes around. You will need to know their measurements, so take them with a tape measure. If it is too small they will feel restricted. If it is too large, they will be able to get out of it too easily. You need to ensure the cat is comfortable and it does not cause undue stress. When you put it on for the first time, make sure you are being gentle and provide lots of positive reinforcement.
5. Air conditioning: maintaining the right temperature balance at home
One of the essential aspects of a cat's care in winter is to avoid exposure to sudden changes in temperature. Unfavorable environmental conditions can cause stress and even increase the likelihood of contracting certain diseases. Indoors will be the best place top keep your cat protected from the elements during winter. We should be able to keep tour home appropriately heated. This will be for our own benefit as much as our cat.
Humidity is also something you need to consider. Excessive dryness can be harmful to the respiratory system of our cat. We should keep an eye out for signs of dehydration or coughing in our cat to ensure their health is maintained. Another way to help is to spray a little water in the environment every 4 hours or so. A humidifier will be more effective, but they can be expensive.
Even though it is cold, you will want to have windows open during the day time. This is because the natural sunlight will help the cat's circadian rhythm. Also, cats love to bathe in sun beams and even in winter, the light can provide some warmth. Be careful with hairless cats as even in winter skin cancer can be a factor.
If your cat is used to going outside, winter can be very stressful. This is because they grow frustrated about not having the freedom they enjoy during the rest of the year. If it is very cold, they may understand by recognizing the temperature. However, you might want to bring them out on supervised trips. Do it at the warmest time of day and ensure they are able to come back inside when necessary. If there is no way the cat is able to go outside, then you will have to ensure you provide sufficient mental and physical stimulation by playing with them indoors.
If your cat does go outside, ensure you check them when they come back in. If the cat is wet, they will be at a greater risk of hypothermia. Wrap them in a towel and keep them warm yourself. Do not put then on a heating pad as it is not wise to put a wet cat near an electrical device.
While you should be doing it throughout the year, keep a particular eye out on your cat's well-being during winter,. If you notice any unusual symptoms, take them to the vet for a checkup. There is one benefit of a harsh winter. Your cat may be even more likely to come into bed for a snuggle to share body heat. There are much worse ways to spend a cold winter's evening.
If you want to read similar articles to How to Care for a Cat in Winter, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.