Keeping outdoor cats and dogs warm | Living the Country Life

Keeping outdoor cats and dogs warm

Even with fur, dogs and cats can suffer from the cold if they’re not protected

On a chilly winter day my cat likes to snuggle up in the recliner next to the fireplace. I keep telling her how lucky she is that she’s not an outside cat.

Drew Hanzlicek is an associate professor of small animal internal medicine at Oklahoma State University. He says some people think if a dog or cat lives outside all the time, they’ll be fine because they’re used to the cold and have fur. Animals have different tolerances, but it can become dangerous for them. If it’s not possible to bring them inside, they need a way to keep warm.

"They need to have an insulated structure that they can stay in. It’s ideal to have that facing in a different direction as the prevailing wind because keeping the wind out and avoiding drafts is important for them staying warm," says Hanzlicek. "It needs to be off the ground so it needs to have its own floor, the ground absorbs lots of heat and can make it feel much colder. It needs to have warm bedding that you change regularly and it needs to be dry."

Hanzlicek doesn’t recommend adding a heat lamp or some other source of heat because it can cause burns or become a fire hazard.

One way to keep your pet’s own body furnace burning is to fuel it with extra food.

"They certainly burn more calories just staying warm when it’s really cold, so we recommend increasing their food amount by 25%-50% when it’s cold and when temperatures are close to freezing or below," he says. "That will help them have the energy they need to maintain a warmer body temperature."

Keep in mind that a warm vehicle engine is an appealing heat source for outside cats and they might crawl up under the hood. This can be deadly, so honk the horn or bang on the hood to get the cats out of harm’s way before you start the engine.

Find more tips for keeping Fido and Fluffy warm in the winter

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