Winter and Cold Weather Hazards for Cats

Posted on December 19, 2017 under Cat Articles

3 Common Cold Weather Dangers to Watch Out For!

3 Common Winter and Cold Weather Hazards for Cats

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 in the gutter.

Antifreeze can contain ethylene glycol, which 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. Pets may display confusion, weakness, or a wobbly gait. If given soon enough, veterinary intervention can prevent severe kidney damage caused by antifreeze toxicity. Consider using one of the newer nontoxic antifreeze compounds in your car’s radiator.

2. Hypothermia

Cold weather itself poses a hazard. 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. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, shaking, lethargy, and slowed or dull mental state.

3. Frostbite

Another cold weather hazard to cats during the winter is frostbite. This condition occurs when skin or body parts actually freeze from being exposed to extreme cold. Skin at the affected areas may look discolored, painful when touched or lack of feeling altogether, cold to the touch, and even frost or ice crystals may appear on the skin.

Common pet extremities susceptible to frostbite include:

  • Paw pads
  • Toes
  • Tail tip
  • Nose
  • Ears
  • Muzzle
A cat outside in lots of snow.

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.

Enjoy all the pleasures of the season and with a few precautions your cat can be there to enjoy them too.

Need help identifying signs or symptoms of the hazards mentioned above? Every Pets Best Insurance policy includes access to our 24/7 Pet Helpline. Learn more about this service and how it can help keep your pets safe and potentially save a trip to the vet.

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.