If you’re preparing your family and home for winter weather, be sure to keep your furry (or feathered) companions in your plans! Here are a few important things to know about how to protect animals from cold weather.
- Bring all animals inside. No companion animal should be left outdoors during extreme weather. Dogs, cats, horses, you name it — they should all have access to a warm home or barn with blankets, plenty of food, and access to unfrozen water.
- Give them extra food. Just like humans, animals burn extra calories during the winter to stay warm. Remember to adjust their meals accordingly.
- Keep your pets dry. If you do venture out into the rain or snow with your animals, be sure to dry them off thoroughly with a towel when you get back. Even after you’ve returned to the safety of your home, cold rain or melting snow caught in your pet’s fur can still pose a serious threat to their health.
- Beware of common poisons. Keep antifreeze (and other dangerous chemicals such as paint and rock salt) sealed and away from pets, and always wash their paws after you’ve been out walking. Some brands of antifreeze, which can be lethal if ingested, have a sweet scent that attracts hungry animals. (Read more about antifreeze precautions, including how to buy nontoxic antifreeze.) Rock salt, which can cause dehydration and liver failure if consumed, also poses a considerable threat to animals who lick it from their paws after walking through salted areas.
- Provide a safe haven for feral cats. Even strays who prefer to spend all of their time outdoors will require extra shelter from the extreme elements of winter storms. To help them stay safe and nourished in the cold, set out a box or two (sideways, so the kitties can crawl inside) with dry towels, food and water.
- Check under and around your car before starting it. Small animals may sleep under your vehicle to stay warm when cold weather or heavy precipitation hits. To avoid harming them, check under your car and/or tap firmly on the hood a couple times before starting your engine.
- Speak up for animals in danger! If you see a companion animal tethered or left outside in the cold without proper shelter, do not hesitate to talk to their guardian about it. Explain to the person that cold weather is dangerous not just for humans, but for animals, too. If talking doesn’t resolve the situation, consult a local animal care organization or law enforcement agency. You may also view these helpful guidelines from The Humane Society of the United States about reporting animal neglect during extreme weather.
Stay safe out there, friends!