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Get answers to common winter cat care questions and some tips to keep your cat warm, happy, and healthy in the winter months.
Unless they're a very short-haired or hairless breed, cats typically have warm coats, and (hopefully) they stay inside. However, they can still get cold. For instance, they might get outside unexpectedly on a chilly day or find themselves stuck in a cold area of your house, like the basement, attic, or an uninsulated crawlspace.
They can also get cold if you turn the heat down too far or if it goes off unexpectedly while you're out. Keep your cat's comfort in mind when you turn down the heat as you're leaving the house. If it's especially cold out, you may want to leave it up a few degrees.
Most cats have a smooth protective outer coat and a soft inner coat for extra insulation. Get tips on caring for your cat's coat.
Cats should be kept inside for their own health and safety. Cats who go outside are at a greater risk for catching diseases or parasites from other animals or getting hurt in an accident. These risks can be even higher in the winter when temperatures are colder, daylight hours are shorter, and visibility is lower due to bad weather. For instance, outdoor cats can be more likely to get frostbite, slip on an icy patch, get hit by a car, or lose their way home.
If you come across a stray cat or one decides to visit your home looking for food or warmth, you should contact your local shelter or animal control. They can help you determine the safest way to handle the situation. A stray cat may seem friendly at first, but they could be sick, injured, scared, or upset, which can lead to aggressive behaviors—exercise caution when dealing with any unfamiliar cat.
A loving cuddle on the couch together is one of the best ways to keep your cat—and yourself—warm in the winter. Here are some other tips to help your cat stay cozy:
You can also warm up your cat by initiating an interactive game. Invite them to swat at a safe cat wand, hunt mice toys, or chase ping pong balls. Some cats love an obstacle course of cardboard boxes and paper bags, which you can set up easily. Just be sure to supervise them while they play and put the boxes and bags away when you're done.
Your cat's skin can get dry in the winter, just like ours. Dry skin may appear red, scaly, and flaky. If it's especially itchy, your cat may bite or scratch at it, causing sores and scabbing. Check your cat's skin regularly for any issues all year round but especially during the winter. If you notice any problems, visit your veterinarian for treatment advice.
You can also ask your veterinarian if omega-3 fatty acids would be useful to keep your cat's skin and fur healthy. Be sure to follow your veterinarian's dosage directions carefully, even if they're different than what is listed on the product label. Some products can have high dosing recommendations, which can cause issues for your kitty.
You might think fleas wouldn't be a problem in winter, but they're attracted to our warm houses when it gets cold outside. They may take a ride inside on your dog, your clothing, or an animal that gets into the house, which is something that can happen more often in the winter. Talk to your veterinarian about the best ways to combat fleas in the colder months.
Your typical cat might sleep anywhere from twelve to sixteen or even up to twenty hours a day. In the winter months, they may sleep even longer than usual in response to shorter daylight hours or changes in your routine, such as an earlier bedtime.
You don't necessarily need to worry about extended cat naps during the winter. However, you should contact your veterinarian if your cat is especially lethargic, missing meals, refusing to play as usual, or showing signs of illness like a messy coat. There may be more going on than extra winter ZZZ's.
We can't tell exactly what's going on with our cats emotionally, but you may notice your cat is less engaged, sleeping more, and even looking a bit sad in the winter. Maybe they're down because they have less time to bask in the sun. Or perhaps they're responding to our own winter blues. Cats can be very in tune with our emotional states and may reflect back your feelings of restlessness or listlessness in the winter.
There are lots of ways to help keep your cat happy and engaged during the colder months. For instance, buy them a new toy or sprinkle a little catnip on an old favorite toy to renew their interest in it. Teach them a new trick like waving, shaking hands, or lying down. It can take patience and effort to train a cat, but it can be a fun bonding experience that's worth the time.
Another idea is to set up a bird feeder near a window for your cat's entertainment. Add a sturdy perch to the windowsill where your cat can sit comfortably and watch the birds come and go. Make sure the window is secure so your cat can't harm the birds or get hurt trying.
These tips can help you keep your cat happy and safe during the winter.
And of course, give your cat lots of love and attention to keep their motor running all winter long!
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.