How to protect your feline friend when the mercury dips
While South African winters are not as extreme as in other parts of the world, even with their furry exterior, our feline friends do feel the cold, and as such, it is important to ensure they are warm and comfortable during the colder months.
Fortunately hypothermia and frostbite (two conditions fairly common in the colder climates of Europe), are unlikely in South Africa, but cats can succumb to a host of illnesses and diseases that the colder months might bring. Not to mention, a cold cat is a miserable cat. So here are a few guidelines to take note of when caring for your cat as we begin to gear up for winter:
- Cats do sport a “winter coat” to keep out the winter chill but it is important to supplement their diet with essential fatty acids which help this coat to grow.
- Cats need more food in winter – particularly protein – as the effort of keeping warm uses energy. But keep an eye on too much weight gain. A fat cat can suffer from joint and other health issues.
- Talk to your vet or pet shop owner for advice on a tonic or supplement to help with general health and vitality.
- Take particular care of elderly and arthritic cats, as well as kittens. They are more susceptible to feeling the cold.
- Ensure they have a warm place to sleep, away from drafts and preferably off the floor.
- If you have an outside cat, it might be advisable to try and keep them inside during winter, but if they still prefer to stay outside, despite the cold, make sure there is decent shelter, providing warmth and protection from the elements. Straw is a nice option to lay down as it retains warmth.
- Be careful of fires and fireplaces. Although cats enjoy the warmth of lying next to a fire, be wary of glowing embers and flying sparks. You want a warm cat, not one that’s on fire!
- Groom him or her regularly. Matted fur provides less insulation from the cold.
- If your cat gets caught in the rain, dry him/her with a towel as soon as possible.
- Be careful of cats sleeping under cars, or on the car wheel where it’s warm. Hoot as a precaution or double check your vehicle before you start the engine.
So just as we gear up for winter, ensuring we’re ready for the colder months that lie ahead, some planning and thought needs to go to our feline family as well. And before we know it, the long, warm days will be upon us once more.