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. The cold weather can present a few risks to our feline friends however, 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. If your cat has access to the outdoors, provide them with a shelter to ensure they are safe. A sturdy cardboard box covered in plastic sheeting should do the trick
- 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 weather becomes particularly cold, 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
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.
While you might think nothing of using a de-icer on your car in your driveway, 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.
What makes antifreeze so deadly to cats is how quickly the chemical can affect their kidneys – sometimes the damage means that they are unable to survive.
To prevent 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 you cat can’t get to it
Signs that a cat has antifreeze poisoning
The main signs to look out for in a cat within 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion:
Find out more about cats and poisoning
- drooling saliva, looking depressed, vomiting
- unwilling to eat
- appearing 'wobbly' or uncoordinated
- if you suspect your cat has been poisoned, take them to the vet immediately
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) – that way, your cat won’t have to head outside to go to the toilet. Remember to scoop it out daily and completely clean 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
Find out more about keeping your cat cosy in our video
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, as well as making sure they are easily accessible. If you are concerned about your cat’s health, or there are any changes then seek veterinary advice.
Find out more about arthritis in cats
Find out more about spotting the signs of arthritis in your cat in our visual guide.
Other risks for cats in winter
Cold and icy weather presents a number of risks for cats, so it is important to be prepared. Take a look at our quick tips.
- Cats that are outdoors may crawl into a warm car engine to get warm. Check your car before you start up the engine to avoid your cat getting injured
- As the evenings get darker, reduced visibility makes traffic conditions riskier for wandering cats. If you’re concerned, keep your cat indoors
See also: Cats at night
Keep your cat calm during firework 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 firework season so you can put an actionable plan in place. Your cats need not suffer if you’re prepared
Find out how to keep your cat safe on Bonfire Night