Pets suffer from exposure to the cold - Jan. 03, 2013
“Winnie,” lost the tips of her ears at some point in her life, likely due to being out in extreme cold for too long. She since game into the care of the Charlotte County SPCA, and was then adopted. Cold weather has a great impact on both house cats as well as the feral population, according to a local vet.
Although animals can tolerate colder temperatures better than humans, it’s still not a good idea to leave pets outside for any length of time in frigid weather.
That’s the advice of veterinarian Dr. Melanie Mallet of the Mayfield Veterinary Clinic in St. Stephen.
“They can tolerate the cold more than we believe, but I don’t think they should be outside for hours or overnight. They can get frostbite,” said the veterinarian who joined the practice in May. The most common area of an animal to be affected by frostbite is its ears said Mallet.
Mallet said she has often examined animals and noticed bits of an ear missing only to have the owner confirm it was due to frost bite.
The thermometer in the last few days has dipped to a chilly -20 overnight. Those temperatures have been made even more uncomfortable – and colder - when combined with brisk winds which create a dangerous wind chill factor.
Mallet encourages pet owners to provide shelters for their animals if they are going to be outside for any length of time. She also urged people to consider building shelters for feral cats. She has built feral cat shelters from plastic totes, sized so that one fits inside the other, with a layer of rigid pink Styrofoam insulation in between.
“There are some cats out there we will never get into a household,” said Mallet. “They are wild cats but we could help them by providing some sort of shelter.”
Cats will often take shelter in abandoned sheds or dog houses, but those often are open to drifting snow.
Mallet advises people to seek resources on the Internet to determine how to build various structures for feral cats or even their own animals.
She said a lot of the feral cats don’t have ready access in the winter to food sources – “mice are limited.”
Mallet hesitated to use the phrase “common sense” when advising people what to do about cold weather and their pets.
“We don’t all have the same degree of common sense; we all have different standards. When a farmer sees a cat outside, well a farmer is used to that. They have enough buildings that a cat can hide,” said Mallet, adding this is not always the case in more urban settings.