The colder weather has finally hit us in Niagara Region and very soon we will see white stuff hitting the ground. Now is the time to evaluate your pets’ needs in the colder weather. Whether you pet is indoor, outdoor, or a bit of both, it is important that they are warm enough, have enough shelter, food and fresh water.
Many of our cats and dogs live inside most of the time, so the cold will hit them the hardest. If your dog is one of these that quickly goes outside, then back in, make sure that they have a good area that is cleared of snow and ice for them, that way they are not getting too wet trying to wade through snow drifts, or that they will cut their delicate little paws on an icy patch running back into the house to find their favourite spot in front of the fireplace.
If they need to take that walk, (cause no one really knows why they won’t go in their own yard) then make sure that they have a sweater if needed, booties (or you can make your own foot balm) and you are aware of when it may be getting too cold for them (or too hot if they have a warmer sweater). Salt, sand and ice can build up between their foot pads, causing discomfort, and sores so make sure that their booties are on, or you clean their feet when they come in, you don’t want them licking that off their toes as they may be toxic. A towel fresh from the dryer will help them warm up and dry them off.
If your dog is outdoors most of the time, it is vital that they have shelter and it is insulated properly. Pick a spot that is out of the wind, or that the house does not get a direct breeze inside. Put the house in a place that won’t flood either in case of warmer weather and a thaw. Raising the house off the ground will also help to stop heat from leaching into the frozen ground. As for insulation, there is a variety of solutions available. Many dog houses are already insulated, so there is little, if any work that is needed to be done. You can purchase a dog house insulation kit, or the DIY’ers can use Styrofoam or polystyrene to help keep warmth in. Straw or cedar shavings work well as bedding as they help with the warmth, while keeping your pet dry. If you use a regular dog bed or carpeting and it gets slightly wet, you may have troubles. Finally, using heaters can have benefits, but you have to be very careful to not use it too long as burns can occur, a fire, or electrocution if water is in the area. To keep your pet hydrated, keeping the water from freezing will be one of your big challenges. You can either replace the water multiple times per day (or as needed as it starts to freeze) or get a heated water bowl. Here is a great website of how to’s!
Outdoor cats have much the same needs as dogs do. Here is a link to build a cat house for those outdoor cats who may or may not be friendly. Again, keep the water fresh.
Now to start a little debate. Should you feed the outdoor cats or not? I am torn in my answer. First, if the cat is very thin or appears malnourished, sick, or possibly pregnant, you may want to feed them. But if they are feral and leery of humans, you may decide to leave the food out for them to come and get when they are ready, that can also bring in other cats (who may not need the food, leading to possible cat-cat aggression) or other wildlife such as raccoons or possums looking for an easy meal. The cats you are feeding may start to become dependent on the help of the well-meaning human, and may stop hunting, thereby not catching their own food, or helping to keep the rodent/bird population under control. If the cats are not spayed/neutered, then you can end up with many feral/semi-feral cats in a small area which may increase territorial fighting, which could lead to injury, or even death. Outdoor cats also have the same nutritional requirements as other cats, meaning a high quality protein, low ash diet. Going out to buy that bargain brand may do more harm than good when that cat develops health issues such as a urinary issue known as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). But I know how hard it is to resist those poor, cute eyes staring at you from the cold.
Please remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them. Please be safe and keep warm!