4 Fall & Winter Hazards for Cats

Posted on November 3, 2016 under Cat Topics

A cat outside in lots of snow.

While Fall is definitely my favorite season, it does bring certain hazards to watch for when it comes to your cat.  Knowledge of these potential dangers gives you the power to keep your cat safe. Prevention is much better than treatment! Here are four hazards you should be aware of:

1. Antifreeze

Cooler weather often brings the necessity for changing or adding antifreeze to your car. If your radiator leaks, which occurs more commonly in older cars, antifreeze can end up on your garage floor, driveway or the gutter.

Antifreeze containing ethylene glycol is extremely poisonous to cats. Because ethylene glycol has a sweet taste, cats, dogs and wildlife are attracted to it. As little as a teaspoon of antifreeze can cause irreversible kidney damage and death, if not treated within the first few hours after ingestion. Antifreeze causes harm, first by gastrointestinal irritation and then by the formation of calcium oxalate crystals that destroy a cat’s kidneys, if prompt action isn’t taken to remove as much of the toxin as possible, followed by intravenous fluids to flush the kidneys, for two to three days. You might see initial neurologic signs of confusion, weakness and a wobbly gait. If given soon enough, 4-MP or 20% ethanol can prevent severe kidney damage caused by antifreeze toxicity.  Consider using one of the newer nontoxic antifreeze compounds in your car’s radiator.

2. Cold Weather

Another cold weather hazard is the actual weather itself. Extreme cold weather can cause life-threatening hypothermia, despite cats’ fur coats. While certain breeds such as Maine Coons have adapted to withstand harsh weather conditions, and most shorthaired cats can develop a thick undercoat when exposed to cold temperatures over time, the combination of cold and wet can be deadly.

If your cats live outdoors, shelter from cold, wind and damp will be very helpful, and indeed lifesaving in extreme weather conditions. If bringing your outdoor cat indoors into your home is not an option, please make sure he or she has an insulated doghouse, barn or out building to shelter in. The floor needs to be raised enough to stay dry, even in heavy rain.  Certain breeds cannot withstand severe weather, even with shelter. The “oriental” breeds, such as Siamese, Burmese, Tonkinese and Abyssinians have sleek coats with little undercoat. They love warmth and would be miserable and at risk in cold weather.

3. Turkey

One more seasonal hazard is turkey, while cooked white turkey meat is an appropriate treat for almost every cat, raw turkey waiting to go into the oven is not. Salmonella and E. Coli bacteria contaminate many uncooked turkeys, and they can cause severe gastrointestinal illness in cats, similar to humans. Signs to watch for are fever (often indicated by third eyelids being visible), vomiting and diarrhea. Uncooked gizzards are also dangerous.

Check out Pets Best to learn more about pet health insurance for your cat.

4. Bones

Once your turkey has been cooked and carved, make sure to remove the bones and dispose of them securely. Cooked bones are dangerous, as they can splinter into sharp fragments in your cat’s throat, stomach or intestines.

Enjoy all the pleasures of the season – crisp air, colorful leaves, feasts and family; take a few precautions and your cat can be there to enjoy them too.

By Dr. Tracy McFarland, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best. Since 2005, Pets Best has offered pet health insurance plans to U.S. dogs and cats.