Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Keeping your cat safe in winter

For many, winter in the UK wouldn't be complete without a seasonal frost or sprinkling of snow. However if you’re enjoying serene, white vistas from the comfort of your living room and planning how you’re going to stay on your feet when you eventually emerge from the warmth of your home, consider how much greater the challenge would be if you were under a foot tall, enjoyed spending time in the great outdoors and only owned one coat, courtesy of Mother Nature.

For most of us, the problems posed by a temperature drop represent little more than an inconvenience. For cats, however, the risks can be far greater – especially if there’s ice or snow on the ground and they aren't used to their new environment.

Cat running in snow
A snowy garden can be a whole new world! Photo by Tambako The Jaguar via flickr / Creative Commons
To find out how you can keep your beloved pet safe when the temperatures plummet, check out our top tips below.
  • If your cat is experiencing icy ground for the first time, consider letting them wander in a safe, enclosed area such as a back garden to allow them to get used to their new terrain. Stay with them as they explore, just in case they have any difficulties
  • Even if you’re confident your cat is happy with their new environment, it’s a good idea to ensure they only head out during the day when temperatures are at their highest (and traffic volume/risk of road traffic accidents are at their lowest)
  • If you haven’t already done so, consider taking out pet insurance to cover the greater risk posed to your cat by the winter weather. Also, make sure they are microchipped, to increase your chances of being reunited with your cat should they go missing
  • If you have a cat flap, make sure you check it regularly to ensure it hasn’t frozen over or become blocked by snow. If your cat has an outdoor water source, make sure it doesn’t freeze – and always provide an alternative source indoors
  • It's always advisable to provide your cat with somewhere they can take refuge from the elements, whether it’s a purpose-built shelter or a sturdy cardboard box partially covered with plastic sheeting
  • Cats in search of warmth and shelter may find their way into outbuildings, garden sheds and even vehicle engine bays. Be sure to keep outbuilding doors closed (or wedged open) and check under the bonnet before setting off on a car journey. Once back in the house, ensure your cat is sufficiently protected from open fireplaces, wood stoves and heaters

Cat in shelter in the snow
Provide a place to shelter from the elements. Photo by Julie Krawczyk (German) via flickr / Creative Commons
  • When your cat does come in from the ice and snow, wipe away any substances that may be stuck to them (road grit, in particular, can irritate paws) and be sure to check their paws and ears for signs of frostbite
  • Antifreeze, which can spill from car radiators during the winter, poses a huge risk to your cat’s health. If you suspect your cat has ingested antifreeze (first signs of intoxication include the appearance of being ‘drunk’) take them straight to a vet. Read more about how to spot the signs in our advice graphic, How to recognise the symptoms of poisoning in your cat
  • If your cat is arthritic, take special care as the cold can severely affect inflamed joints. Provide additional warm, comfortable places for them to rest and ensure their favourite resting places and toileting sites are easily accessible
For more advice on looking after cats during the winter months, check out the advice graphic below and remember, if you have a question on any aspect of cat safety, you can always call our national Helpline on 03000 12 12 12 or contact us via our website.

To enlarge, click on the image

Share this image on your site


  1. This article was extremely useful, I do tend to notice my own cat stays inside a lot more during the colder months & if she does go out into the garden, she doesn't stay out for very long knowing there's a fireplace in the living room!

    It's sometimes easy to assume you're cat doesn't get cold seeing as they have a 'fur coat' on all the time, but there's some really helpful tips above that I will continue to remember for future. Thanks!

  2. You'd think this advice is just common sense, but there are people putting their cats out for the night in sub-freezing temperatures. It's good advice and it's obvious some people really could do with reading this post.