Plunging temperatures, icy conditions and heavy snowfall can present a number of risks for pet cats, particularly those who enjoy exploring outside.
If your cat is seeing snow for the first time, let it cautiously wander outside and get used to it in an enclosed space such as the garden. Stay close by while your cat adjusts to it, and use words of encouragement.
When your cat does get used to going out on its own, don’t let it stay out too long if the temperatures are really low, and check the cat flap regularly to ensure it hasn’t frozen over or become blocked with snow.
When your cat returns home from the snow, remember to wipe off any road grit, salt or other substance that’s stuck to its fur or paws so that it doesn’t try to lick it off. Also look for signs of frostbite, this can be seen mostly on the ears, tail and footpads (look for pale, glossy or white skin).
Older cats need even more protection, particularly if they have arthritis, as the cold can affect inflamed joints. Provide an additional warm and comfortable place for them to sleep and raise their bed slightly off the floor if possible so they avoid draughts.
Take care outside too. Provide them with water and a safe shelter such as a cardboard box covered with plastic sheeting if they are an ‘outside cat’, but keep the doors of sheds and outbuildings shut or wedged open so they don’t become trapped inside by frozen hinges. Keep antifreeze out of reach, it tastes sweet to cats but can prove lethal if swallowed.
When you go out in your car, make sure your cat hasn’t taken refuge underneath (or under the bonnet) and rev the engine for a couple of moments before driving off.
Just as we take extra care of ourselves in winter to prevent becoming cold or getting into danger with icy conditions, we should do the same for our cats, and they will stand a better chance of getting through the frost, snow and ice without incident.