While there are many differing opinions with pet owners regarding indoor and outdoor cats, regardless of your stance, there are things you need to know to provide proper care for your cat during the winter months. Seasonal pet tips are valuable, whether your cat lives indoors or outdoors. Some pet owners keep their cats outdoors in the summer months when the weather is mild and then bring them indoors for the cold New England winters. There are issues that can affect your cat’s health during the winter months. Cats with dry skin, exposure to extreme temperatures, and increased threats from seasonal poisons, chemicals, and other environmental issues should all be taken into consideration and discussed with your veterinarian in South Coast Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Indoor and outdoor cats can experience hypothermia if the temperature drops down far enough during the winter months. Power outages can leave humans and their pets at risk for severe consequences caused by low temperatures. Indoor cats that get outside by mistake during the winter and outdoor cats that do not have a place to go when freezing weather hits are most at risk during this time of year. Symptoms to watch for include weakness, shivering, and inability to concentrate or lack of mental awareness.
Cats that have moderate hypothermia will display symptoms such as low blood pressure, short or shallow breathing, and muscle stiffness. Extreme hypothermia symptoms can include difficulty breathing and coma-like signs. If you notice any degree of these symptoms – or if your cat has been exposed to the cold temperatures and is not behaving normally – contact your local Dartmouth Animal Hospital right away. If you even suspect hypothermia, it is better to contact your vet or bring your pet in for an emergency evaluation than to take a risk that it could be serious.
Even cats that live outdoors a majority of the time can be at risk for frostbite. When cats are exposed to extreme temperature drops, it will typically affect the ears, tail, and toes first. Even if your cat has just been outside for a few minutes or more, check their feet and wipe them carefully to ensure that all snow and ice has been removed. Check for any ice that might also be stuck to other parts of their body in the fur. If you let your cat out during the day, make sure you monitor the amount of time they spend outdoors.
While some breeds are built for cold weather, not all have enough fur to handle low temperatures, snow, and ice. Norwegian Forest, Maine Coon, Persian, and other similar long-hair breeds have very thick fur that is designed to keep them warm in the winter months. Short-hair breeds, including the Manx, Siamese, and many tabby varieties, will require a bit of protection from the cold. Sweaters and coats can be used, just make sure you aren’t making your cat too warm. Whenever you are in doubt, seek the advice of your trusted veterinarian in South Coast for professional seasonal pet tips.
Outdoor and indoor cats are also both at risk for coming in contact with – and possibly ingesting – toxins during the winter season. Plants, cleaning products, and automotive chemicals top the list of dangers found in the typical American cat environment. During the winter, when cats can feel just as trapped by the cold weather as we do, they tend to get even more curious out of boredom and tend to get into things that they shouldn’t. Make sure to keep all items out of your cat’s reach and locked up whenever you have to leave the house. Many pet owners have come home to find their pets sick after ingesting some unknown item while they were at work during the day.
Antifreeze is a serious threat to cats and dogs. Even a bit of antifreeze that has dripped onto the ground while you were adding it to your car engine in the winter can be enough to harm a cat or dog that ingests it. Antifreeze is highly toxic but has a “sweet” taste to pets. Signs of antifreeze poisoning include twitching muscles, unsteady gait, nausea, vomiting, and increased thirst and urination. Be careful with chemicals of all kinds, and if you suspect antifreeze poisoning or exposure to other toxic items, bring your pet to our Dartmouth animal hospital for emergency care right away.
What You Can Do
Bring your cat in for a check-up during the winter months to ensure that they are doing well throughout the season. Cats with dry skin may require a change of diet, increased water intake, or special shampoos and conditioning treatments. In some cases, a vitamin or supplement may be in order. However, it is best to get a prescription from a professional veterinarian instead of trying to manage potentially dangerous symptoms at home. Contact Anchor Animal Hospital to speak with a veterinarian in South Coast about your cat’s health concerns or call our staff at 508-996-3731 to schedule an appointment for a veterinary check-up.