Tips for keeping your cats safe this winter
Being a cat owner is full of surprises, but you might notice since the nights have been darker, there is more to think about in terms of cat care.
Outdoor cats enjoy roaming and can become lost or very cold when it’s darker, and when kept indoors, they might be prone to cabin fever without enough stimulation and entertainment. Whatever your cat’s usual routine, there are some things you can do to make these cooler months enjoyable and cosy for you and your feline friend.
Here, the feline care experts at Catit share some tips on how you can help ensure that you and your cat have a pleasant and cosy winter.
Provide a litter tray
You might find that as the weather becomes colder, even cats who usually go outside to do their business will be unwilling to venture out into the cold. Providing them with a litter tray enables them to have the choice to go inside and can be a great option until the weather becomes warm enough for them to venture out again. Place the litter tray in the same place each year, and your cat might be able to get into a seasonal routine gradually, which will make everything run more smoothly.
Make sure to place the litter tray away from your cat’s food or water and remember that your water bowl should be placed away from the food bowl anyway as cats dislike drinking too close to their food. This also stops food particles getting into the water, meaning that it remains much cleaner. Keeping everything arranged like this will provide them with a much cosier alternative when they don’t want to go outside.
Find indoor activities
While cats usually entertain themselves when they go out, they might be prone to getting bored if they are staying inside a lot because of bad weather or longer, darker nights. Try getting some new toys for them, and make time to ensure your feline friend gets lots of stimulation. Playing games, giving them a scratching post or climbing frame, or even just making toys out of paper and cardboard can all be great options to keep your cat’s mind active while you’re at home.
Try out interactive toys for when you will be gone for longer amounts of time, and remember that timed feeders and water fountains can help look after them too — some can even be controlled by an app. Cats need to stay hydrated and outdoor cats will normally get their water from a consistent source — an outdoor water bowl or even just a plant pot — so when cats are going to be inside, it’s crucial to give them access to water. Getting a water fountain will save you having to run the tap and top up the water bowl repeatedly, but also give them an experience of running water indoors, which many cats prefer. It will also be cleaner, and allow you to provide water when outside water sources freeze over in the colder months.
Having options for keeping your cat stimulated will do wonders for keeping your house neat too, as when cat’s get bored, they can become more destructive. So, keeping your feline friend fed, watered, and occupied will benefit both them and you!
Be careful with antifreeze
If you are going to be using antifreeze this winter (technically known as ethylene glycol) then remember to keep it away from your cat, as it can be fatal if ingested. Cats strangely enough enjoy the taste of antifreeze, so it’s doubly crucial to make sure they can’t get at it. Antifreeze is most commonly used in screen washers, de-icers, and car radiators, but sometimes it’s also wrongly used in garden ponds and water features to stop them freezing over. Don’t use it for this purpose as this is highly dangerous to your cat, dogs, and to the local wildlife, and simply breaking the ice when it forms will be much more effective.
If you do need to use antifreeze products, ensure that your cat isn’t around when you use them and then place them safely away in a cupboard that your cat can’t get into. If you ever suspect that your cat has ingested any antifreeze, call your vet immediately. Signs of antifreeze poisoning include vomiting, lethargy, seeming uncoordinated, and an unusually fast heart rate.
Check your car before driving
It might seem strange, but cats often use cars for shelter in the colder months and it’s not unheard of to find your feline friend hiding under your car bonnet in the morning or evening. Make sure that you check for this by looking underneath the car and on the top of the vehicle. In particular, always tap the car bonnet and look under the wheel arch to ensure that you aren’t going to be disturbing a sleeping cat. It’s even possible for cats to curl up on top of the tyres themselves, so every corner is worth checking.
If you want to encourage your cat to find safer places to sleep, try putting a new cosy bed in their favourite spot in the house — or even an enclosed area outside — to coax them into using it. Many cats will find their own sleeping spots instead of using what we provide for them, but by establishing the bed in a location they already like, you could work with their natural preferences.
Paul Trott from Catit added:
“Winter can be a challenging time for cats who usually enjoy venturing out to explore, but there’s plenty you can do at home to ensure that your feline is safe and well occupied. Try out using interactive toys and climbing frames to make sure they always have plenty of stimulation when you’re at work, and provide indoor litter options when you can tell they don’t enjoy going outside anymore. Being outside can also be more risky for cats in winter due to it getting dark quicker, meaning they might get lost or traffic might not be able to see them. So, entertaining your cat inside can be a real help in this season.
“If your pet is getting a little cabin fever, a scratching post can really help them to work off some steam. Interactive sensory toys are a great choice for restless cats and can encourage them to complete little challenges for treats while you’re still travelling back from work.
“Another thing to take into account is that cats really enjoy their home comforts, and having a cosy living room or bedroom will go a long way to keeping them happy and healthy during the winter months. You might want to get some extra blankets or throws, and maybe a new cat bed with a fleece lining. All these measures will ensure that the colder months are as enjoyable as possible, even with the dark nights drawing in.”