Ask A Vet: How Can I Make Winter Easier For Cats?

There are two sub types of winter cat safety: Those pet animals that are indoor or mostly indoor and those animals that are outdoor cats or homeless.  We as human beings should care about them all.

The strictly indoor cats have few special winter needs. Sometimes osteoarthritis will worsen for indoor cats in winter even though they are seldom cold. Make sure her litter box is easy for her climb into if she feels stiff and sore. If your cat suffers from seasonal allergies, winter time may even be easier on her. Set up some time with your vet to be sure that your cat is not dealing with an issue that will make winter time rough on her.

Winter time snows can be disorienting to lost pets and with the winter holidays, there are often doors left open and cats can escape. All pets should be identified. I like microchips for cats because they cannot be lost and will not accidentally become hung on objects and endanger the cat. Sometimes animal hospitals or pet stores will offer free or discounted microchips and now is the time to start watching for these specials.

Some cats have access to both indoors and outdoors. Make sure that you know where your cat is each evening, especially when temperatures become extreme. If you cannot find him, place a shelter box near the door for him and check for his return often. Build the shelter box now and make sure he feels safe and comfortable with it, just in case he needs it.

Stray animals that are forced to deal with the elements will often seek shelter and warmth around humans. Every year we hear of cats that are maimed and killed inside of cars.  It is a good idea to bang loudly on the hood of a vehicle that is parked outside to frighten out animals that have hidden inside.  Look under the car above the tires and around it, if possible.

If you know that a group of feral or displaced cats lives near you, you can build temporary shelter boxes for them from laundry baskets and straw. Cold temperatures put animals in a metabolic need so providing food is always kind. Make sure there is water that is not frozen available at all times. Plan for these early so that you are not caught by surprise when the temperatures dip dangerously low.

Winter is a hard time for everyone, but can be especially difficult for stray or lost animals. Making sure that the needs of the animals nearby is a responsible and humane way to be human.


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About The Author: Dr. Kathryn Primm is a practicing small animal veterinarian and practice owner at Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, TN.  She has consulted on articles for national magazines, done numerous radio interviews and appeared on local television. She has contributed to articles for Prevention magazine (April 2015) and Woman’s Day (Feb 2014 and June 2015). Her radio segment Chattanooga Pet Talk airs each week on all the local iHeart Media affiliates. She has a social media presence on TwitterFacebook and Google+ and enjoys interaction with others about her passions, animals and communication.  She has written a book, Tennessee Tails:Pets and Their People. The book received recognition as Runner Up in the Memoirs category at a national book festival. You can read more about Dr. Primm and how to get the best value for your pet care dollar at her website,

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