It can be tricky to know how to care for your cat during a cold snap, and many of us struggle with keeping them content and entertained while indoors. Here are 8 winter wellness tips on how you can best support your feline during the chilly weather.
1. Keep your cat comfortable
For those cats that usually like to spend most of their time outdoors, you may find that they are very put out by the change in weather. Even when the weather improves, some cats will ‘go on strike’, refusing to place their paw in even the most shallow of snow falls. For these prissy kitties, it is essential that we keep them comfortable when within the home for long periods. Ensure that they have a litter tray that they are comfortable using, as well as a ‘safe space’ where they can spend time by themselves without human interruption. Consider using a ‘Feliway’ plug-in or calming supplements if there is a concern that the extra time spent indoors is leading to stress.
2. Entertain your kitty
Keep cats entertained by giving them things to do. Simple wind-up mouse toys and laser pointers can provide hours of fun. ‘Hide-and-seek’ games with their favourite treats are a great option. Ask the kids to hide the treats in a variety of locations (think high and low, under pillows and behind curtains) and then see how quickly your savvy feline can find the food. Mini obstacle courses can be set up within the house using cardboard and old containers, though some cats will need a little bit of encouragement in the form of food before tackling the jumps!
3. Watch out for urinary trouble
Sadly, winter time is the peak season for urinary infections and blocked bladders. Without as much outdoor access, rather than using their litter trays, some kitties will hold their urine in for long periods of time. Signs that something is wrong would include: excessive urination, urinating outside of the litter tray or general symptoms of feeling under the weather. If there is any suspicion that there is something going on with the water-works, a trip to the vet is advised.
To prevent these issues from occurring, ensure your cat’s bladder is thoroughly flushed through by offering wet food. Encourage drinking via the use of water fountains or by offering watered down food or broths. For multi-cat households, provide one litter tray per cat plus one spare (we know, so many litter trays!). Space the trays throughout the house, with some up high and others down low. Ensure the trays are cleaned out regularly, as some fussy felines will refuse to use a tray that has been ‘previously occupied’.
Antifreeze toxicity is a real concern in cats. They can be more at risk as they typically spend more unsupervised time outdoors and like to keep warm under cars and vans. Symptoms to keep an eye out for include: acting ‘drunk’, vomiting and excessive urination or depression. Consuming anti-freeze is most often fatal, or can cause life-long kidney issues, so prevention is always better than cure. Have a read of our blog on Antifreeze for further advice and remember that the earlier treatment is started, the better the prognosis.
5. Check under your car
Speaking of cars, always check under your car before starting it! Ideally, make some noise while entering the car, as this should startle away any unwelcome kitties.
6. Don't forget your older cats
Keep an eye on older kitties who may feel the cold more, becoming stiffer and acting out of sorts. Discuss with your vet if you feel they may benefit from some joint supplements or medication. A cat that grooms less or is reluctant to jump may have osteoarthritis, a disease that is incredibly under-diagnosed and can worsen in the winter.
7. Keep an eye on your cat's weight
Speak to your vet about an appropriate diet for your cat and also to have their weight checked. Some cats require a little extra food to meet their metabolic requirements during colder weather. However, around 50% of pet cats are thought to be over-weight, so this supplementation would not be necessary if your kitty could do with losing a few hundred grams anyway!
Finally, while this advice applies all year round, it is especially important in the winter that your cat is microchipped. Cats love to go missing inside garages and other warm hidey-holes, and can sometimes wander far from home. Ice and snow can make it difficult for kitties to find familiar scents and they may struggle to make it back to the house. The best way of ensuring you will be reunited with your cat is to make sure they have a working microchip that is linked to up-to-date ownership details and contact information.