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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.


In many parts of the country, winter is in full swing and temperatures are dipping. So far, here in Rhode Island where I live, we’ve been pretty lucky. We’ve had no snow to speak of and reasonably mild temperatures on many days, particularly for this time of the year.

However, I suspect it’s only a matter of time until winter hits us with its full force.

Those who know me well know that I’m not really a winter person. I don’t enjoy cold weather. I’m not a big fan of snow, particularly when I have to drive in it. And I’m not the type of person who enjoys winter sports. My idea of a pleasant afternoon at a ski resort is sitting in front of a roaring fire with a good book, a cup of hot chocolate, and, hopefully, a cat on my lap to keep me company.

My cats, of course, live strictly indoors. So to them, winter is just a different view from the windows. They don’t really appreciate how cold winter can get or how difficult it can be for a cat to survive during the winter. And that is what I recommend for most cat owners. Keep your cats indoors, particularly during inclement weather. That, to me, seems a simple enough solution.

Some of you may have cats that spend some time outdoors. If so, I recommend supervision when they are outdoors. Catios and similar cat enclosures work well for this. During cold weather, limit the time your cat is left outdoors and always make sure that he is indoors at night. Be aware of approaching storms also. You don’t want your cat outside during a blizzard!

However, there are times when keeping your cat indoors may not feasible. For instance, if you’re caring for a feral cat or a feral cat colony, bringing these cats indoors may not be feasible for many reasons. The cats may be unaccustomed to living indoors and simply not amenable to the idea. Or there may be simply too many cats in the colony to make housing them all indoors a feasible alternative.

Certainly, living outdoors during the cold and snowy weather is not optimal. But there are some things that we, as cat lovers, can do to help keep these cats warm and make sure they successfully survive the winter cold.

  • Providing covered enclosures with blankets and towels, or even hay as bedding, will provide these cats a place to get out of the worst of the weather and at least stay relatively dry.
  • Provide plenty of food for these cats. Be prepared for the fact that their nutritional requirements may increase as a result of being forced to deal with nasty weather.
  • Provide fresh water also. Consider using a heater in the water bowels so that water does not freeze. These devices are battery operated and can simply be dropped in a water bowl or bucket.

When all is said and done, I hope that you, like me, will be able to simply keep your cats indoors and not to have to worry about keeping them safe from the winter cold. I do have to admit that I find it particularly enjoyable on a cold winter evening when my cats come to snuggle close with me. What about you?

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: Katerina Havelkova / via Shutterstock

Comments  5

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  • Winter
    01/16/2012 09:56am

    I don't mind winter as long as the streets don't get slick. Big sweaters and fat socks are so comforting.

    However, I agree 100% with your description of a nice afternoon at a ski resort... inside with a good book, roaring fire and a few lap cats.

    For those caring for feral colonies and outdoor kitties, I think the main thing is high calorie food and to provide shelter where the bedding doesn't get wet.

  • cool kat
    01/16/2012 08:44pm

    wright now i am looking after i guess you would call a semmie feral cat,being that his owners moved a year ago and left this beautiful boy he is about 4 years of age,i have now after 6 months of no contact he just did not trust any one,am now able to pet him,he is steel grey in colour,i have 2 other cats one that is 21 years of age she is a Russian blue her name is blueberry,and there is Rufus he is 10 years and last time at vet he weighed in at 18 pounds and not a mean bone in his body just a soft lovable guy he is a main coon,now getting back to my out door guy witch i named Shadow i cannot get him in side he is still leery of that and being that there is another male here that might ad to it,he is definitely the dominate one,i have a box out side in the car port with the proper kitty heater witch he uses day and night,i cant put a top on the box if i do he wont stay in it so to day i went and got a heat lamp to turn on at night so as to keep his top warm it is now freezing out,so i think that with the food that he gets he should be ok,he has put on a lot of weight since we started this i hope that one day he will be able to get along with my indoor kittys,and he can be inside also,thanks .

  • Quick & Easy Shelter
    01/16/2012 10:03pm

    As a feral colony caretaker, I was SO pleased to see eRubbermaid support the shelters so many of have been using for so many years! It is quick, inexpensive and easy - and now they offer it at wholesale for feral rescuers! www.erubbermaid.com/roughneck-homes

  • Keeping ferals warm
    01/17/2012 08:54am

    I am a care giver for my community's strays/ferals and just wanted to share with ye another tip/photo to help keep them warm,tis wot I use.

  • kitty shelter's
    01/17/2012 04:21pm

    thank you for the info on the shelters,i have printed of some copy's and will put them up on bill board's around town and to the SPCA,i would put one together for my out door kitty but at this point i realy don't think that he would go into it,as he is afraid to get closed in,i have a box in my car port that has got about 6 inches of bedding on each side and a proper heating pad for him to sleep its dry and he has as much food as he needs. thanks again.

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