Cat Emergency Prevention

Pet Emergency Prevention: Four Simple Things You Can Do to Keep WNY Cats Safe This Winter

Welcome back to the blog! Here at VEC, we understand that when your furry little kitty has an emergency, it’s always stressful. This blog serves as a tool to help prevent emergencies, but we understand that WNY brings a particular type of danger. Winter weather.

Today, we wanted to take a couple of minutes to talk about our cats who may want to get out and explore, and talk about 4 simple things you can do for an “outdoor cat,” (yours, or the neighborhood cat)  to prevent emergencies! 

Please keep in mind though, that although outdoor cats may be adapted to colder weather, there is such a thing as too cold for them to be outside! Generally, this falls around the freezing point (32ºF or 0ºC). If it’s too cold out, please keep your cat indoors. Indoor cats and young kittens shouldn’t be let out if the temperature falls below 45ºF. 

We hope that everyone is safe from the storm that WNY was hit with recently, and we will be creating some new blog content surrounding what you can do to keep pets safe during a power outage in the next few weeks. 

Here are a few high-level things to consider for outdoor cats during (normal WNY) winter days.

Provide a Safe & Warm Shelter

Make sure the cat has access to a secure, dry, and warm shelter. This gets difficult when facing sub-zero temperatures and snow. Many people think that if a cat was raised outdoors, that it can survive ANYTHING. This is not true. Even the toughest Tomcat can freeze to death if not properly sheltered.

You can use a commercial cat patio/shelter or build your own simple unit out of wood and screens for a fun DIY project! Many folks in downtown Buffalo have winter cat shelters set up for neighborhood cats to have somewhere to go, just in case!

If you’re making your own winter cat safety shelter, make sure the roof is slanted so that snow and rain don’t accumulate and collapse the cover. You want your shelter to be large enough for your cat to move around in, but small enough so that your cat can retain its body heat. Insulating it is essential! Use blankets and/or straw for insulating and to keep moisture out. You also may want it to be elevated to further help keep the shelter warm.

You may know this, but cats often try to find a warm spot, and that spot can sometimes be a vehicle. When it’s cold, a cat may try to find a nook in the warm engine or tire of your car, so always beware. You can give it a knock to ensure anyone hiding finds a safer place.

Don’t let the cat out if it’s too cold, but if they are out, ensure they have somewhere to go that is warm and safe until you can get them in.

Consider Diet for Outdoor Cats

Outdoor feral cats typically have a harder time finding food in the winter. It’s important to make sure that your cat is well-fed but beware of overfeeding. You can leave out some extra dry food in the cat shelter to be safe, but keep in mind that dry food does take more energy to digest. Serving wet cat food from the metal tin is a recipe for that food freezing fast before your cat can eat it! Consider providing an indoor cat that’s allowed to go outdoors with more lean proteins to account for increased activity in the cold. 

Feral cats that strictly live outdoors develop a winter coat in the fall, whereas domestic cats will suffer more from cold conditions than feral cats. 

Provide a Good Source of Water

Cats, domestic or feral, need access to clean fresh drinking water to keep hydrated. Obviously, water freezes when it gets cold. Finding that source can be much more difficult in our Buffalo winters, so providing one is essential. You can use a heated water dish to prevent freezing or put out warm water so that it takes longer to freeze. Without a good drinking source, the cat may resort to other means, like gutters, or puddles, that could be toxic.

You should also use a deep dish, rather than a wide one, placed in a sunny spot to prevent the water from turning to ice as quickly. Another choice is to use a running water source, like a spigot or fountain, as running water takes much more to freeze than still water (also, cats prefer running water to a still source, hence why your indoor cat loves the faucet so much). 

Beware of signs of frostbite from ice and frozen snow. Cats are most susceptible on their ears, nose, tail, and toes because they don’t have much fur in those areas. If you notice affected areas appearing pale or bluish white, or feel cooler than the rest of your cat, call your vet or an emergency vet immediately. Cold water and freezing can also lead to hypothermia, so always keep a close watch on even the bravest cats. Consider giving your kitty a little check whenever you see them, and if you can, give them a nice warm towel to pat them dry.

Beware Winter Chemicals

Other than freezing cold temperatures, there are other risks that apply to outdoor cats in the winter. Antifreeze is extremely toxic for cats. Any spills or leaks could cause significant emergencies. The sweet smell is enticing for animals, and if it isn’t cleaned up properly could lead to an emergency. 

Many commercial ice melts (salt) cause burning and irritation on a cat’s paws. Ingestion of these chemicals could cause issues like vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and worse, depending on the amount consumed. Use pet-safe ice melt on your sidewalks and driveways to be safe. 

Get in Touch! 

We at Veterinary Emergency Clinic are always here when you need us most. Being part of a pet emergency can be upsetting, but knowing that a team of experts is available near you here in WNY allows you to rest assured that your pet always has somewhere to go. If you have an issue with your animal, know that we are always here.

Stay up to date with our blog for more helpful pet health hints and more information! You can also follow along with our Facebook and Instagram pages to see more. We’re always available via our 24-hour emergency line. Calling our emergency line could save your pets’ lives! We also have a contact form if you have questions regarding your pet. We’re happy to help! 



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