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Cold Weather - Traveling & Outdoor Safety for Cats
Holly Nash, DVM, MS
Hypothermia is a major concern during cold weather. Inadequate shelter, calories, or becoming wet can make a pet much more susceptible to this condition. There are additional indoor and outdoor hazards associated with cold weather. We hope this article will help you become more aware of how you can keep your cat comfortable and safe during the cold weather season.
Shivering is a sign your pet is too cold and indicates the start of hypothermia. A shivering pet should be slowly warmed until signs of hypothermia are gone. Provide your pet with fresh, unfrozen water available at all times. Avoid stainless steel or metal bowls; instead, use heated buckets or bowls.
Walking In The Cold
Snowballs can be fun unless they are between the toes. Snow collecting between the toes of cats and dogs can be very painful, and if large enough, obstruct blood flow to the toes.
Thin ice on lakes is hazardous for people and animals. Keep your pet away from lakes or other bodies of water which may have thin ice. In the northern United States, remember that snowmobile trails can be dangerous places. Be sure to keep your pets off of the trails. One of the most seriously injured dogs I have cared for was hit by a snowmobile.
During the cold winter months, many people use space heaters and woodburning stoves. Do not allow unsupervised pets in areas with space heaters which could be bumped over by the pet. Wood burning stoves are especially dangerous for cats who may try to jump up on them. Train kitty to stay away from the stove by using a squirt bottle of water or throwing a pop can filled with coins near the stove when the cat approaches it. (Please have a good aim and do not hit the cat!) Placing 'Scat mats' on the floor may also be helpful in keeping pets away from stoves and heaters.
Boarding and Traveling
Clip your pet's nails so they will not become caught in the crate door or other openings. Reservations with airlines and hotels should be booked early. Be sure they know you are bringing your pet so they can advise you of any special requirements. A health check-up for your pet and up-to-date vaccinations are important. An interstate health certificate and a copy of the vaccination records may be necessary in some cases.
Pack your pet's medications and special diets where they are easily accessible. Be sure your pet has water available. Place a harness on your cat and always have a pet identification tag attached to it. Make sure the address and phone number are current. Some pets are afraid of traveling and others may have motion sickness. See our article Car Sickness and Fear of Riding in Cars for help with these issues. If heading South, remember it will be warmer and make allowances for your pet. Protect your pet against fleas and heartworms, too.
If you are traveling during the holidays, and need to leave your pet(s) at home, start to make accommodations for your pet(s) early. Many boarding facilities fill up very fast. Responsible pet sitters are a good alternative. If they are unfamiliar with your house or pet(s) have them come over and get acquainted before you leave. Wherever you may be with your pet this winter, we hope it will be a happy and beautiful season for you.
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