Published: 05:00, 03 January 2022
Specialists are urging owners to take extra precautions to keep their animals safe and warm this January,
Keep them inside
Cats are keen adventurers, and a bit of cold weather is unlikely to put them off exploring.
However, the icy temperatures put your cat at risk of frostbite and hypothermia, so it is important to take extra precautions.
Cat Nutritionist, Ele Hacheme, said: “Provide your cat with more sheltered areas in the garden, such as a cat hut, preferably a heated one.
"This will give your cat a place to recover if they simply cannot resist venturing outside the house.
“A simple cardboard box, filled with soft blankets and covered in plastic sheeting should make for a very efficient, and affordable cat shelter."
However, once night falls and the temperature drops completely, not even the cosiest of cat shelters will be enough to keep your cat completely safe from the cold.
Ele said: “When you go to bed at night, double check that your cat is safely inside, ideally with any exit routes closed off.
"If your cat is particularly affectionate, you may even want to keep them in the same room as you overnight, for peace of mind.
“Provided you have given your cat sufficient exercise and playtime, as well as a fresh litter tray, there should not be any real need for your cat to venture outside at night."
Frostbite and hypothermia are also risks dogs face. When it’s cold outside, avoid taking long walks and break them down into shorter, more frequent walks.
Exposing your dog to cold temperatures for a long period can be dangerous.
Head vet, Sean McCormack, has explained how to look after your pets paw pads.
He said: "A dog’s paw pads are tough enough to withstand the snow, ice and frozen ground.
"They have adapted to the cold and are designed to survive the outside, their body temperature plays a big part in this, as the pads draw warm blood to the skin to keep them warm.
"The tissue on a dog's paw pad is built to protect them from temperatures as low as -35 degrees.
"It's the toughest skin on the entire body and the gripping texture allows them to maintain traction and balance.
“But while paw pads are tough, they’re not indestructible.
"When walking in winter, dogs are more susceptible to cuts and cracks on their feed, which is why dog owners need to be most cautious.
"If your dog keeps picking up their paws when walking, or if they are excessively licking their pads then this could be a tell tale sign that your dog’s paws are sore and may need treatment."
Fresh food and water
Ele said: “To keep your cat from getting restless, provide them with every home comfort you can.
"That includes a full bowl of fresh water and a few nibbles to tide them over until the morning."
Ensuring that your cat has plenty of water inside the house is especially important during the winter months, as outside water sources can often freeze over during cold weather spells.
She said: “If you are leaving food out for your cat overnight, be sure that you are sticking to dry food, as wet food spoils easily - especially if left untouched for a prolonged time."
Changes to your dogs diet may also be needed in the winter.
Whilst puppies are growing their food quantities increase, however, adult dogs often follow stead-fast meal plans.
Despite this, experts suggest dogs diets should be fluctuating in accordance with the weather.
In the winter, it’s reported that dogs should receive 15% more calories for every 20-degree decrease in working temperatures.
More meat supports their immune system and certain foods help to protect their coats during cold periods.
During the winter months, a heavy snowfall could cause your cat flap to become blocked from the outside, or particularly icy conditions could cause your cat flap to become frozen shut.
This could cause issues if your cat is stuck outside in the snow.
Ele said: “Consider not using the catflap at all during the colder periods, by locking it if your flap has that feature, or by blocking access to it from the inside of your house.
"This way your cat’s outside time will be on your terms, and you can help to keep them safe from the cold”.
Our cats are not so different from us - they appreciate their comfort.
So a comfortable kitty, surrounded by warm cushions and blankets, will be less likely to want to venture outdoors.
Ele said: “If your cat has a tendency to get bored at night and roam the house, consider setting up an enticing spot for them to curl up and sleep in every room of the house.
“Having a few different cosy spaces in the house for your cat to go between will ease their sense of boredom while you’re asleep, and reduce their temptation to venture out into the cold.”
Games and activities
By nature, cats can get bored quickly.
Provide your cat with plenty of fun indoor games, activities and exercises, to keep them entertained and less likely to wander outdoors.
Ele said: “However restless your cat gets, it won’t keep them safe from the hypothermia or frostbite that they could catch from staying out in the cold for too long.
“Ensuring that your cat has plenty of ways to occupy their attention over winter, using things like enrichment toys, will make them a much happier and safer cat."
Get them microchipped
Cats have a tendency to wander off and do their own thing, occasionally for a really long time.
So, a microchip is a helpful tool to help you locate them at any time.
Ele said: "If you haven’t already done it, get your cat microchipped immediately, as it is especially important to know their whereabouts during the winter months.
"If they do wander off in search of something, you will know exactly where they are and how to find them, to bring them back to safety.
“Cats aren’t meant to be out in the cold, and just one night of being stuck somewhere at freezing temperatures can be enough for your cat to be overcome with conditions such as frostbite or hypothermia, which they are not guaranteed to recover from."