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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: Preparing an Outdoor-Only Cat for Winter continued...

"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.

Pet Winter Safety: 4 Tips for When the Temperature Drops

Providing all the cold weather needs for indoor-outdoor pets in winter is usually easy, but it can be tougher for outdoor-only pets like abandoned or feral cats. So when the weather outside is frightful, here's how you can protect your feline and canine friends from winter's bite.

Tip # 1: Beware of cats sheltering under cars. In cold weather, cats will seek shelter anywhere they can. Even if you haven't run your car in days, a cat may still seek the nominal protection found in your car's engine compartment.

That's why McGeorge says to, "Always bang on the hood of the car if it is parked outside or even in a garage if your cat has access to it." You can also try giving your car's horn a quick toot or two to shoo kitties away.

Tip # 2: Antifreeze is deadly. Antifreeze is thick, very sweet, and can be irresistible to some pets. "During the winter, the most common toxicity we see is from antifreeze," Sonnenfield says. And it doesn't take lapping up much antifreeze to kill an animal. Antifreeze can be deadly to a pet if the pet is not treated aggressively soon after ingesting it.

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