Thursday, January 17, 2013

Your Cat in the Winter

Cats and the Outdoors

We know that cats live longer healthier lives if they are inside your home. Cats that live indoors can live to about 20 years old. But cats that are outdoors live to be about 3-5. That’s a big difference!

Outdoor cats are exposed to weather extremes, hardships, and face many potential threats and dangers. They have to try to keep themselves fed, and thwart the ever present dangers of other predators, never mind the accidents and injuries.

Cats have incredibly acute senses to protect them, like vision, hearing, and their sense of smell but they are a domesticated species and are our collective responsibility. Providing food shelter and warmth is of paramount importance. Cats that are not able to stay indoors will appreciate and utilize a dog house, or other enclosed small structure, especially if that structure is kept in another larger shelter. The smaller shelter should be filled with blankets, straw and be weather and wind proof. If you have more than one outside cat have multiple shelters so that each cat can seek their own shelter.  Keeping the small shelter off of the ground, or at varying levels so the older cats don’t have to jump, and the younger ones can get away from the older ones.

An outdoor cat should be monitored very closely. Cats that are outdoors are susceptible and will get fleas, intestinal worms, ear mites, wounds that turn into abscesses, and can suffer from diseases that are very difficult to identify because their clinical signs can be missed. If an outside cat is only observed for short periods of time the subtle changes in their demeanor can be easily missed.

The many potential dangers that an outside cat faces are so diverse and varied that they are impossible to list completely. 

The common dangers that are seen at the veterinary hospital are as follows;

·         Antifreeze. Some brands of antifreeze have a very sweet taste. Pets that ingest even a very small amount can die from it. There are commercially available antifreezes which are sold as more pet friendly, but all toxins of every kind should be kept in closed containers and locked away safely from pets. Also any vehicles or equipment should be inspected to insure that they are not leaking any fluids.

·         Cars. Cats seek warmth and shelter in cars. Honking or banging on the hood will scare them away so that when the car is started they will not get caught in the motor.

·         Frostbite. Just like people frostbite tends to affect the extremities first. Fingers, toes, ears are usually the first affected parts bitten. Frostbite usually looks like shiny, grey, pale or white skin.

·         Cleanliness. If your cat is dirty or matted, itchy, smelly, or sparse. Please see your veterinarian as soon as possible.

If your cat is not eating normally, not acting normally, not looking normally, or in any way appearing as if they need attention please bring them to your veterinarian as soon as possible. It’s a rough world out there for a little feline alone. We are their advocates and they are our responsibility.

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