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Keep your cat safe in cold weather with our expert guide

Winter can be a wonderful time of year and there is nothing quite like snuggling up with a cat indoors during a cold spell. However, the cold weather can present a few risks to our feline friends, so it is important you're prepared. Read our advice on how to keep your cat safe, happy and warm during the colder months or take our quiz to find out how much you already know.

How can I make sure my cat is safe outside in the cold? Our top tips

  • Cats keen to venture outdoors might still want to brave the temperatures, even during a harsh winter. You can provide them with a shelter outdoors that is waterproof and sturdy/secure but, most importantly, make sure they have free access back indoors
  • If you’ve got a cat flap, you’ll need to make sure your cat can get easily in and out. A heavy snowfall or icy patch might result in the cat flap becoming stuck or blocked
  • Ensure that your cat has plenty of fresh water indoors in case any outside sources freeze
  • Always make sure your cat comes inside at night, locking the cat flap once they are inside. Provide them with warm, comfortable and safe places to sleep
  • Regularly check sheds, outhouses and garages to ensure your cat isn’t locked inside
  • Make sure your cat is microchipped, and the details are up to date. If they do wander off in search of a warm place, they’ll be easily traced back to your address
  • If the forecast shows extreme weather, keep your cat indoors. While they might seem bored or restless, pet cats aren’t used to extreme temperatures and can even develop frostbite or hypothermia. Keep them entertained and exercised with enrichment toys and feeders
Find out more about keeping your cat safe outside

You can do your part to keep a cat warm in winter. Our video has a range of tips for keeping cats safe and warm in the winter months, including providing outdoor shelter and checks around the home.

The danger of antifreeze for cats

Antifreeze, used in car radiators or in screen wash or de-icers in the winter, is particularly poisonous to cats. The solution contains ethylene glycol, a substance that can prove fatal if ingested. It only takes a small amount to harm a cat, whether they consciously drink it or walk through a puddle and then groom their fur.

To protect your cat (or cats in the neighbourhood) from antifreeze poisoning, try our top tips:

  • aim to use screen wash or de-icer sprays that do not contain ethylene glycol
  • if you have drained your car radiator and some of the solution remains, wipe it up quickly
  • keep products out of reach, so your cat can’t get to it
Read more about antifreeze poisoning in cats

Keeping cats cosy inside

Some cats might prefer to head indoors during the winter and find a warm spot for a snooze. Warm, comfortable and draught-free places are ideal for your cat, while heat pads or beds that go over radiators are even better. 

  • If your cat has come in from the snow, wipe off any road grit, salt, or anything that might stick to their paws and fur
  • Provide a litter tray somewhere private (one per cat plus one extra), that way your cat won’t have to head outside to go to the toilet. Remember to scoop it out daily and completely clean it out once a week
  • Open fireplaces are lovely in winter but can be a risk to cats. Screen off open fireplaces and always supervise your cat if you have lit a fire
Blog: Do cats feel cold?

How to keep your cat warm if it gets cold in the house

When temperatures drop or if you experience a power outage in your home, you may be wondering how to keep your cat warm without electricity. Cats are generally good at finding warm, cosy places to rest if the temperature drops indoors, but young, old or cats struggling with health conditions may need additional care. Here are a few things you can do for your cat when it gets cold inside:

  • create a cosy space for your cat by providing a snug bed and covering it with a warm blanket or towel
  • encourage play sessions to help your cat generate more body heat
  • if the temperature becomes very cold, ensure your cat is supervised around any alternative heat sources, such as an open fire or oil heater, and use guards or screens to avoid your cat getting too close to hot surfaces

Looking after a cat in winter with arthritis

Does your cat have arthritis? Arthritic and elderly cats can suffer in cold weather as it severely affects their joints. Offer plenty of warm places for your cat to sleep in and make sure they are easily accessible. If you are concerned about your cat’s health, or they seem arthritic, seek veterinary advice as they can provide pain relief medication. 

Find out more about arthritis in cats

Keep your cat calm during fireworks season

The autumn and winter brings with it the promise of fireworks and Bonfire Night. Unfortunately, this can be a stressful time for cats as they become distressed at the loud noises and lights. Ensuring they feel safe and happy is particularly important. 

  • Keep them in after dark, providing them with a litter tray, food and water bowls as well as a place to hide
  • Make sure all doors, windows and cat flaps are closed so that your cat doesn’t panic and escape
  • If you know your cat is fearful of fireworks, speak to a vet or qualified behaviourist prior to the start of fireworks season so you can put an actionable plan in place
Read more about keeping cats safe during fireworks

Other risks for cats in winter

Cold weather presents a number of risks for cats. Here are a few other potential dangers your feline friend might encounter during the winter months and what you can do to protect them:

Hiding or sleeping under a car

Cats that are outdoors may crawl into a warm car engine to get warm. Tap the bonnet of your car before you start up the engine to avoid a cat getting injured. 

Reduced road visibility

As the evenings get darker, reduced visibility makes traffic conditions riskier for wandering cats. If you’re concerned, keep your cat indoors overnight. See also: Cats at night.

Festive dangers

From tinsel to holiday plants like poinsettias, various festive decorations can pose risks to curious cats. Keep potentially dangerous items out of reach and supervise your cat or opt for cat-safe alternatives. Read more about keeping your cat safe during the festive season

Can cats get ticks or fleas in winter?

You might think that catching parasites like ticks or fleas might not be a problem in cold weather, but they can still be found year-round.

Although ticks are usually most active between March and October, some of them are around during the winter months and stay in damp places like woods or tall grass. If your cat goes outside, this is something to consider. As for fleas, they cannot survive in the cold and need warmth, so they can still spread in winter when we raise the temperature in our homes. 

To protect your feline friend, we recommend discussing your cat’s lifestyle and individual risks with your vet, who can advise which treatment option is best for your cat.

Can cats get colds?

Noticed your cat sneezing or having a runny nose? The symptoms of cat flu are usually caused by various viruses and bacteria. It can make your cat get a sore throat, runny eyes and nose. Other symptoms can present such as muscle and joint pain, fever, loss of appetite and eye ulcers. 

All cats can get it, but the most vulnerable to cat flu are kittens, older cats and those with weakened immune systems or other medical conditions.

It’s important to see the vet as soon as possible when you notice any of the symptoms. Maintain good hygiene at home by keeping other cats separate, and a cat that’s ill will need to be kept indoors until they are treated. 

Find out more about cat flu

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