Cats have a love-hate relationship with the snow.
They will often enjoy exploring and playing in the snow for a short time but are often not that used to the snow.
Cats are naturally very inquisitive animals and will love to explore and investigate the new snow.
Their fur will protect their skin and help to keep them warm even in freezing temperatures.
As with humans, cats have individual preferences.
Different cats will engage differently with the snow and you should allow your cat the opportunity to make up their own mind.
Cats with longer fur are naturally more suited to cooler environments and are likely to adapt better to the snow.
Some cats will really hate the snow and will refuse to venture out in it. Other cats will fall in love and play for hours. If there are large snow drifts you can see cats jumping in and out, having a ball.
Take cues from your cat’s behaviour as to whether to keep them outdoors and allow them to play or to bring them back inside.
It is a good idea to keep an eye on your cat if they head out in the snow, particularly if it is a thick layer. During blizzards and in cases of extreme snowfall we advise keeping your cats safe and warm indoors.
How should you care for your cat in the winter?
Ensure your cat does not come into contact with antifreeze of any kind.
Never put into large bodies of water such as ponds and fountains. This is because your cat is likely to drink from these water sources and the effects of ethylene glycol (the active ingredient in antifreeze) are fatal.
Cats are also highly attracted to the taste of antifreeze, so do not allow the temptation to fall in their path.
If there is a lot of ice or snow outside the roads may be salted or gritted. It is important to regularly and thoroughly check your cat’s paws. This is because granules of salt and grit can get caught in their paws and these substances can contain harmful chemicals.
Wipe their paws gently with a soft, damp cloth to remove any debris.
You should also use this opportunity to check your cat’s paws for frostbite, injury, and irritation. Long-haired cats can often get snow caught between their toes which can compress to form ice balls.
If your cat has got wet outdoors, we suggest drying them off gently using a towel. Ensure they have plenty of warm and cozy spaces to curl up away from the cold.
Experts suggest placing a litter tray indoors, even if your cat usually goes outdoors. This allows them to relieve themselves without being exposed to the freezing temperatures.
You should ensure your cat is eating and drinking adequately. Some cats may eat more to help them stay warm. Others will do less exercise and will need less food as a result. Ensure they always have access to a clean and fresh supply of drinking water.
As the temperature can cause water bowls to freeze over, you should check their dish at least once a day. You can also purchase heating pads and heated bowls to prevent the water from freezing over.
You can also consider using thick, deep plastic containers and place them in a sheltered location to minimize the risk of freezing.
If your cat likes to be outdoors, we recommend creating a sheltered area outside. This allows them to spend as much time as they like playing outside but gives them protection from the harshness of the elements.
This shelter should contain a bowl of water and a warm blanket that they can snuggle up in. You can even purchase cat-safe heated beds to place outside as an extra heat source.
Cats have a tendency to hide under car bonnets when it is cold outside due to the residual heat they store. It is a good precaution to tap lightly on your bonnet and above the tires before driving your car to alert any cats of your presence.
You should regularly check your cat flap when the outside temperature is cold. This is because it can easily freeze shut, trapping your cat outdoors in the cold.
We suggest keeping your cat indoors overnight as the ambient temperature drops when the sun sets. This will prevent your cat from getting hypothermia.
What temperature can cats handle?
Outdoor cats are much more acclimatized to cooler temperatures and will be able to cope better with the winter months. Cats that are older and have shorter hair are more prone to hypothermia than others.
Vet advice states that if the ambient temperature is under 44 degrees Fahrenheit then your cat should not be left outdoors. If you wish to allow them to roam freely, ensure they have a warm and dry shelter to hide in from the snow.
The normal body temperature for cats is between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia occurs when the internal temperature of the cat drops below 100 degrees.
Cats are particularly susceptible to hypothermia when they have wet fur and if they have been outside for an extended period of time.
Symptoms of hypothermia include violent shivering and a struggle to take in any breath. Their skin will likely feel cold and your cat will appear very lethargic. In extreme cases, this can cause your cat to lose consciousness and could even cause death if left untreated.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat or suspect they have caught hypothermia, please take them to the vet immediately.
If your cat’s fur is wet, wrap them up in a warm dry towel and keep in a warm location to help bring up their internal body temperature.
You can place your cat near a heat source such as a hot water bottle, but ensure it is not too hot as this could cause your cat’s skin to burn.