I have found over the last year or so that if I leave out our furry companions when speaking to folks in our community I am comfortably reminded. I have two dogs and I have had two barn cats in the past and when temperatures, in general, get on the low side, you need to consider a few tips and tricks to keep them safe.
- Bring them in – If you have outdoor companion animals, it’s time to make arrangements to bring them in. When temperatures would dip for us when we had cats, we would bring them inside for the night when the temperatures were at the lowest. If you have livestock as pets that can’t come in, be safe in how you heat the barm for them. Electric heaters can start fires and open flames can be more dangerous. Taking them out of the freezer and into the fire is not a great move for your animals either. Unless we are having steak which sounds more delicious as I write. Be right back I need to defrost some meat.
- Limit Exposure – If your dog is used to a half-hour walk each day, just because you can handle the cold doesn’t mean that their exposed paws can. Dogs get frostbit just like humans so shorten that walk into two half-sized walks to give the paws time to warm back up.
- Make sure their water doesn’t freeze – If your animals are outside and you are their primary source of water, make sure it doesn’t freeze up on them. I picked up a little water bowl heater at Tractor Supply that works well for what I needed and I am sure you can find them online as well.
- Wipe their paws – The driveways and sidewalks are covered in different types of ‘ice melt’ chemicals. Even rock salt can begin to taxiderm the paws of your dog the same way you would salt brine a pelt. Wipe their paws when they come in. Additionally, check for chunks of rock salt between their toes. They can get a chunk stuck in there and it will act as an abrasive. Once it rubs through the skin…well you know the rest – ouch!
- Clean up antifreeze spills – Hundreds of animals will die this year because people will top off their antifreeze in their garage, spill a little bit, then not clean it up. The flavor and smell are like candy to pets and they will lick it up. Because of the cat’s small size, it won’t take much for it to have an effect. Make sure you clean up your mess.
- Check for nesting cats – When it gets cold out and especially if you are using an engine block warmer, cats will snuggle under your hood or in wheel wells. I am sorry to report I have seen this one first hand. Bang on the hood or honk the horn before you start the engine and it will usually scare them off. Give the car a 1/4 turn roll and pause for a moment to let them off the tires before you peel away.
- Stock food like you would for yourself – A pet’s got to eat! Make sure you have at least a week’s worth of food available at all times. You getting injured or stranded in a storm because your pet needs food is not a story you want to tell. I’ll get another post out on how to use your freeze-dried food to feed pets in a pinch, but more to come on that.
Stay smart. Stay warm. Reduce risk. Just be a good person. Those are the keys to living through winter weather.