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Help Pets Survive Cold Weather

Xy's Feral Cat Shelter
Editor B (Bart Everson) [Flickr]
Cat shelter options (with interesting decoration on top!)

For most of us, the winter weather has been pretty mild so far.  But the forecast is for cooler weather, so you may want to do something to make sure your furry friend stays safe.

     Small breeds dogs, puppies, elderly dogs and those with thin hair, have more difficulty in cold temperatures.  They may be uncomfortable when it dips below fifty degrees.  When it gets down to freezing or below, even young healthy dogs with thick, heavy coats can suffer frostbite and even hypothermia.  And even a thick coat will not protect an animal’s paws.

     A dog that must stay outside should have a dry shelter out of the wind.  The floor should be two or more inches off the ground, and covered with straw or cedar shavings.  Cover the door or entry with canvas, or flexible heavy plastic to protect from the wind.

     Cats that live outdoors, such as feral cats, are also at risk in colder weather.  A cat can shelter comfortably in a small dog house, or other small space – even a Styrofoam cooler will work.  The insulation will trap the animal’s body heat.  Cut a small opening (just large enough for the animal to get in and out).  Small shelters work better for cats, because that means less body heat is needed to keep the animal warm.  Put straw in the bottom for bedding – do not use blankets which can hold moisture and freeze.

     For both dogs and cats, make sure they have food and water, and check it often to make sure the water hasn’t frozen.  You can look online for more ideas to make a shelter to protect an outside animal from the winter cold.

     Remember, outside dogs and cats can freeze to death, so keep an eye out for an animal in distress.  It might be moving slower than usual, or shivering, or whining.  Call a veterinarian if you think the animal is in danger.

     Helping animals survive the freezing winter temperatures is a kindness that will warm your heart, when you’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.