Freezing weather, snow, and ice bring a completely new set of potential dangers for cats during the winter months.

Freezing weather, snow, and ice bring a completely new set of potential dangers for cats during the winter months.

While most of these hazards will only affect cats that spend a lot of time outdoors, some of them can affect indoor cats as well.
Here are some things to consider.

Cold weather will cause problems for an outdoor cat.
Felines that are arthritic, debilitated or have chronic health problems do not tolerate cold very well.

They are unable to maintain body heat if exposed to freezing temperatures without proper protection.

Make sure that your outdoor cat has a warm shelter to use with plenty of warm bedding. It should only be large enough to contain the pet with straw for insulation.

The opening ought to face away from the wind. Consider bringing the cat indoors, at least overnight when it is freezing. If you have an indoor/outdoor cat, it also is wise to create a shelter for them in case they are forgotten and stranded outdoors.

Stray and feral cats are very susceptible to cold weather. If you have an outside "guest" cat or if there is a colony in your area, they need protection from the cold. Even a cardboard box or an overturned plastic crate with an opening cut in one end will be a welcome respite from the cold.

These cats also need high calorie food and access to fresh water that is unfrozen.

Note, sometimes, metal water bowls or dishes in extreme cold will cause the cat's tongue to be stuck and frostbitten. Switch to plastic dishes.

Cats that spend a lot of time outdoors seek shelter in the strangest places.

This includes under the hood of your car. If you turn your engine on with your cat under the hood, disaster could occur.
When starting up, you could try startling him by blowing the horn or knocking on the hood itself.

When putting antifreeze in your car, ensure that you do not spill any. Cats are attracted to the sweet smell.
They may then lick it up because of its sweet taste.
Unfortunately, the smallest amount of antifreeze can be deadly to your cat.

There is non-toxic antifreeze available so why not switch.
Indoor cats are not safe from danger during the winter either. Giving a cat tidbits of turkey or other high fat foods causes severe indigestion and discomfort for them. His digestive system cannot handle certain human foods, and painful symptoms could result.

The ribbon and wrapping on presents may look nice, but they are a potentially lethal attraction for felines. Be careful allowing your cat to play with these objects. If he swallows something, it could cause an obstruction.

Tree ornaments are tempting and once batted off the tree can get broken and cause lacerations.

My cat "Winky" used to love our Christmas tree but it was not because of the fascinating, dangling ornaments. Her specialty was tree climbing.

We had a large, full natural tree with many, many lights. She would shoot under the branches, disappear for a moment, then, after having climbed straight up the trunk, would appear in the branches at about the 5-foot level, and then would remain there resting on the branches. Amazingly, she did little harm and I finally realized that the allure for her was the heat from the lights.

We became accustomed to seeing her little tabby face nestled in the branches looking like a special ornament.

The corrosive chemicals in "ice melt" products can cause serious harm to cats. It actually burns their footpads and gets in their fur.
Then when licking and grooming, the cat ingests the poisons, causing gastric problems.

You can clean your cat's paws with fresh water after an outing to remove the chemicals. This will also melt any ice balls that may have formed between their pads.
There is non-toxic ice melt available as a substitute.

Anne Divine is a long time member of LAWS and has volunteered at Animal Control for 18 years. She can be reached at: