Sunday, December 27, 2020

Feline Safety and Comfort in Winter

Winter can be a beautiful time of the year with the holidays and snowfall. However, these events can be a stressful and dangerous time of the year for our feline companions. Even if your cat stays indoors, you should provide a safe place for your cat to feel comfortable for both the cold weather and the festivities of the holidays.

Cats have fur that helps regulate their body temperature in both heat and cold. However, the average housecat lives indoors now and isn't accustomed to the extreme cold weather in the winter. If you live in a temperate climate as we do in the South, we still have extremely cold days where we must make sure our cats are kept comfortable, especially if they must go outside for a trip to the vet or a road trip for a holiday vacation. If you live in a colder climate such as the Northeast of the United States, you must find ways to keep your cat safe from the extreme temperatures. We talked with Holly Dustin (Life & Cats), who shares her home with several cats in the state of Maine.

Black Persian cat, Plush, in the snow
Plush, from Life & Cats, would rather be in his warm Sleepypod instead of the cold Maine Snow

Interview with Holly Anne Dustin

Holly is a professional cat groomer who lives with several cats, one of which is a Persian Cat who competes in the pet division of cat shows. Holly's cats are also adventure cats, which means they are indoor cats that have been trained to wear a harness and leash to accompany her on outdoor excursions. Holly lives in the state of Maine where the mean (average) winter temperatures range from 25°F in the far south to less than 15°F in the northern and interior portions of the state. 

How Cold is Too Cold?

For the most part, road trips follow the same rules as other outside winter activities. If you are comfortable, your cat will be comfortable. A sign that your cat is too cold if she's shivering or her ears and paws feel cold to the touch. A cat's fur will help keep her warm and double and triple coated breeds, such as Persian Cats, do naturally have more cold tolerance. However, a cat's fur isn't enough to keep her warm in cold temperatures.

Cats can develop hypothermia if exposed to cold temperatures for too long. A normal temperature for cats is about 102°F. Hypothermia happens when body temperature drops to below 100°F degrees. Young kittens and senior cats need more help to stay warm and comfortable. Without the heat turned on, the inside of your car can quickly become a refrigerator in the winter. You don’t want to leave your cat alone in your car in cold weather any more than you do in the summer heat.

Cat in snow
Treena admiring the snowman
Photo credit - Life & Cats

How Do You Keep Your Cats Warm During Winter Travel?

My cats tend to skip their adventure activities when it gets really cold but sometimes we have no choice of getting out in the bitter cold when we must travel. There are several steps I use to help keep my cats safe and comfortable when traveling.

  • Coat. A cat can be a great first step if your cats tolerate wearing clothing. It's important to choose something that will allow your cat to move around and relax safely and comfortably. If the coat is too tight on your cat, it may keep your cat's fur from insulating her properly. Cat specific coats are hard to find, so I tend to pick dog coats. They can't be too bulky and must give them full range of motion around the front legs and covers as much of the belly as possible.
  • Fleece Blanket. Putting fleece blankets and self-warming pads in your cat's carrier can give her something to burrow into and keep her body heat contained.
  • Warming Accessories.  If the weather is extremely cold, consider putting something like a microwavable warmer, a bottle of hot water, or heated rice-filled socks inside the carrier. These work for short trips, but aren't as effective for long road trips because there is no way to reheat them on the road.
  • Hot Hands Pockets. Hot Hands packets that many people use to keep their hands and feet warm are another consideration. They get much hotter than the self-warming beds and microwavable warming pads. Make sure you don't let them touch your cat directly. I tuck them inside the outside pocket of my cat's backpack carrier when we go on outdoor adventures. They warm up the pack but don't get too hot against their bodies.
It's important to remember that your cat should not be left alone with a heat source such as hot hands or a heating pad without a way for her to get away should she get overheated. Make sure you check on your cat regularly to make sure she is comfortable.

Silver shaded Persian Cat, Truffle, inside her Sleepypod Mobile pet bed

Truffle strapped safely inside her Sleepypod® Mobile Pet Bed

How Do You Prepare to Travel?

like to use the Sleepypod® Mobile Pet Bed when traveling, especially on a road trip, because it helps keep my cat safe, comfortable, and warm. My cats sleep in the Sleepypod at home and using this on the road reduces their stress because of the familiar smells from home. The Mobile Pet Bed has an ultra plush padded base inside that allows your cat to curl up inside when heading out into the cold temperatures.

When it's cold outside, start your car and let it warm up before taking your cat outside to get in to travel. While waiting for your car to warm up, prepare your cat for the cold by putting on the harness and coat (if he wears one). 

Sleepypod has a warming unit you can purchase that allows your cat to stay warm. I like to warm up the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed so my cats don't get the "wow! It's cold" shock when putting them into the car. If your car has the appropriate chargers, you can keep the pet bed plugged in while traveling. The warming unit comes with a car charger and a wall charger.

Don’t forget to pack a roadside emergency kit when traveling, especially if you get stuck in snow/ice and can't keep the car running, which means no heat. In addition to my car stuff, I keep comfort items like bottled water, protein bars, snacks, and food for my cats. I also keep Mylar blankets, a couple fleece blankets, and a generous supply of hot hands packets in my car. I haven’t had to use them in my Sleepypod yet, but if we get stuck it would be easy to slide a heat pack under the ultra plush bedding to keep the cats warm.

I believe if you take proper precautions to get your car maintained and prepared for the winter weather and pack the necessary gear to stay safe and warm, taking your cat on a winter road trip can be a great experience for everyone.

Black cat staying warm inside Sleepypod beside fireplace
Using the Heating Unit from Sleepypod helps keep your cats warm

How Do You Keep Your Cats Warm and Comfortable Indoors?

Cats need time to adjust when they are in a new environment and having a familiar cat bed can allow your cat a place to hide while he adjusts. I find the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed is the perfect place for my cats to stay warm and comfortable. I plug in the warming unit and put the opened bed out of the main traffic areas until he wants to come out on his own.

This Mobile Pet Bed isn't just for winter travel. It can help sooth the arthritic joints of older cats when used along with the warming unit. When I took my senior cat Treeno for a visit, all of the other cats in the home were interested in the bed. When I put the mobile pet bed out in my own home, it becomes all of my cats favorite bed. 

silver shaded Persian cats, Truffle and Brulee, on blankets on the bed
Truffle and Brulee like to stay warm by sleeping on their Peggy Blankies

Keeping Your Cat Warm in a Temperate Climate

We appreciate the experiences Holly shared with us about keeping her cats warm in the frigid temperatures of Maine. We live in South Carolina where the average daily high temperature is below 63°F. The coldest day of the year is January 17, with an average low of 36°F and high of 56°F. We think it's cold when it gets below 60°F year-round. My cats like to sleep underneath the heat/AC vents because they are near the ground and they can stay warm or cool (on hotter days). I keep the temperature in my home around 72°F year-round. This way, my cats have a consistent temperature in my home so they are comfortable. 

I place smaller blankets on the end of my beds and Truffle and Brulee love to sleep on them, especially the "Peggy Blankies" that were made for them from cat bogging friends. They have a of fur, but they do like to snuggle into their blankets or beside me when it's extremely cold outside. I also have a couple of Sleepypod Mobile Pet Beds that I keep out in the living room and they like to snuggle inside the plush liner. I don't have a need for the warming unit because we rarely have extreme cold.

On the rare occasions I need to travel with my cat to the vet, I will start my car in advance to allow it to warm up before taking my cats out to the car. I also have my sunroom shade open to allow for the warmth of the sun to help heat the inside of the car.

It's important to maintain your cat's body temperature as close to normal at all times, no matter what the outside temperature is to keep your cats healthy, comfortable, and happy.

Would you like to comment?

  1. Great tips, especially if you have to travel by cold weather. Purrs

  2. We like warm a cozy this time of year, but also the rest of the year too!

  3. Good tips! We hope we never have to travel with Ava, but if we do, we will remember what you've shared!

  4. Good to know! Sometime we have hurricaine evacuations

  5. Good information. It can get quite cold where we live.
    At cold temps, I am happy to be an indoor cat and mum tries to keep that environment cat friendly ;)

    Purrs, Julie

  6. All good tips that everyone needs to know! We have been having sub-freezing nights in low 20s too although we are pretty far south.

  7. Great post. My cats are all indoors, but they have heated blankets and heating pads so they can be extra toasty.

  8. Fortunately for me, my human has a very low tolerance for the cold! She gets cold before I do, so I don't have to worry much. Inside, she considers winter heating a good investment in her comfort, so she spends the extra bucks to keep us both warm.

  9. I have “heat hogs” here too. My furnace vets are in the floor. Jeremy and Tiger are always sleeping on the vents in the living room. Thanks for letting us share our experiences traveling in the cold weather with your readers

  10. I've always been concerned when taking the cats to the vet when the weather is cold.
    Normally, The Hubby will start the car and get the heat going before we enter with the carriers.
    Of course, I have a pile of worries about The PO'M during the coldest times (and warmest), so I keep a close eye on him.

  11. Wonderful tips for cold weather, and Truffle and Brulee are beautiful models.

  12. Mom and Dad feed the feral kitty, Coalpepper, that comes to our porch almost every evening. Now that the days and nights are colder they are making sure to feed him larger portions. Mom says outdoor kitties burn lots of calories trying to keep warm.

  13. Great post! I actually don't have any cats, but use many of these same techniques for keeping my small dogs comfortable in the cold weather. We live in the northeast, so keeping warm is for sure a concern in the winter months.

  14. I know that it's not what it is designed for, but the company LoveWinx has a 'heated massage heart' that is a small portable heating pad. It's reusable, you just boil it in water and the gel inside it returns to it's original state. To use it, you just pop the metal pieces and watch it take effect. We have multiple of them around the house because they are small and portable, easy to use and they hold the heat for a significant period of time. All key when you live in Canada hahaha

  15. These are great tips for helping your cat stay comfortable during winter travel. I think Theo and Nelly would love a warming unit from Sleepypod and would sleep it in all the time. (I'm not sure Theo could fit, but I know he would try!)

  16. This is SO useful. I am sure there is a lot here that people simply do not know!! Thank you for this (and I admire Plush too he is such an adventurous cat).

    I wonder if you would make this a printable for people to put on a wall or fridge?

  17. This is SO useful. I am sure there is a lot here that people simply do not know!! Thank you for this (and I admire Plush too he is such an adventurous cat).

    I wonder if you would make this a printable for people to put on a wall or fridge?

  18. This is SO useful. I am sure there is a lot here that people simply do not know!! Thank you for this (and I admire Plush too he is such an adventurous cat).

    I wonder if you would make this a printable for people to put on a wall or fridge?


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