Protecting Cats from the Cold

Published Jan. 16, 2012

Last reviewed on November 10, 2015

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


Lorie Huston, DVM


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