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Healthy Pets

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Pet Winter Safety: Prepping Your Pet for Winter Weather

When the weather outside is frightful, these winter pet tips can keep your precious pets snug, safe, and warm.

Cats and Cold Weather: Transitioning an Outdoor Cat Indoors continued...

The best time to begin the change is late spring or early summer when it's warm enough to leave a door or window open, she says. Then you'll need to "coax the cat in with food or treats. But leave the door or window open so he or she can easily escape."

Once the cat is accustomed to coming inside for food, start giving meals inside. Close the door or window while the cat is eating, but open it immediately if she gets panicked and wants out. The goal, McGeorge says, is to gradually let the cat see that coming indoors is safe and comfortable.

Remember that any cat kept inside needs stimulation, says Wynn, author of Manual of Natural Veterinary Medicine. So make sure your indoor environment offers lots for your cat to do. Wynn suggests regular play with laser pointers and cat toys, as well as cat trees and catwalks.

Cats and Cold Weather: Preparing an Outdoor-Only Cat for Winter

No matter what we do, some cats may only feel safe outside. But you can still keep kitty snug and warm this winter. Once nighttime temps dip into the low 40s, your outdoor pet should have shelter, Sonnenfield says.

"If you're dealing with an outdoor-only cat, be sure kitty has a warm, dry shelter and fresh water," McGeorge says. "If you live in an area where water will freeze, consider using a birdbath heater in the water."

Providing shelter for cats in cold weather doesn't have to be hard. You can use an already-manufactured pet house, a wooden box, even a cardboard box. Insulate all sides of the shelter with foam board, old blankets, or plastic, then line the bottom with an old sleeping bag, coats, fleece, even inexpensive hay. No matter what you use, "check the bedding regularly," Sonnenfield says. Dirty, wet bedding could literally be the death of your cat. So each morning when you check kitty's water to be sure it isn't frozen, also check the bedding to make sure it's dry.

Try to place the shelter in a garage, covered porch, or beneath a carport, all of which can provide a few additional degrees of much-needed warmth. And be sure to raise the refuge off the ground to keep the cold from leeching up through the shelter's bottom while giving your feline friend a sense of security.

You can make any shelter even snugger with electric heating. But to avoid burns or the risk of electrocution, be sure you use pads, blankets, and other heating products specifically made for animals, Sonnenfield says.

Finally, make sure your outdoor-only cat is the one getting the food and water you put out, "not your neighborhood raccoons or squirrels," Sonnenfield says.

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