Cold winter weather means more than just an inconvenience to some outdoor animals. The cold weather brings hazards of its own – both man-made and natural – to our beloved pets. And let’s not forgot those pets who’ve been abandoned or who have never known a loving home.
Share some warmth with the outdoor and stray animals in your area. Here are 7 Ways To Be More Pet Friendly in Winter:
1. Call your local shelter
There are organizations that provide warmth and nourishment to pets with nowhere else to go. When you become aware of a stray pet in your area, your first reaction should be to call a local pet shelter.
Pet shelters usually have the means to capture, care, and find a suitable home for strays. They also are usually the first place people call when they are missing their pet. What you believe to be a stray may just be an accidental escapee.
2. Spread awareness on social media
Have you seen a dog or cat loose in your area that you don’t recognize? Spread the word on social media! Local groups for missing pets are good options. You can also share a photo or description of the suspect pet with your contacts. You might be surprised how quickly word can get around.
3. Make some noise before starting your engine
Cats seek the residual warmth and shelter a car engine brings. Many stray or outdoor cats meet an unfortunate end on a cold morning, and the driver is unaware until it’s too late.
Always bang on your hood or honk the horn before starting your car. This is particularly important for those people with remote car starters. Giving a cat some warning can mean their life.
4. Make a warm shelter
We’re not always around to see strays. Cats, especially, may seek the comfort of the dark to go out into the open. Unfortunately, temperatures often drop lowest in the middle of the night, sometimes to deadly levels.
But you can help animals stranded in the cold with a safe shelter right in your backyard. Even a cardboard box can make a big difference on a bitter cold night. There are a few key things you should look for in a shelter: dryness, insulation, and protection from wind.
To protect from wind and the elements, use a cardboard or wooden box, dog house or igloo, favouring smooth sides instead of slat boards which drafts can penetrate. For dry insulation, straw makes a comfortable addition to an outdoor pet house. Avoid the use of blankets which actually attract moisture. Position the shelter out of the wind, particularly the door. Lastly, add a heated pet bowl nearby for a trusty water source.
5. Fix any fluid leaks in your car quickly
Fluid leaks are never a good thing for your car, but they can mean a tragic end to unsuspecting pets. Antifreeze in particular has a sweet taste that cats and dogs love. Its main component, ethylene glycol, happens to be highly toxic and can be fatal in even small amounts.
Switch to a less-toxic propylene glycol based antifreeze and check your vehicle regularly for leaking fluids. Store your antifreeze in a tightly secured container, safely stocked away in ashed or garage.
6. Use a pet safe ice melt
Many pets use walkways and driveways in the winter just as you do. However, unlike you, most pets aren’t wearing protective boots or footwear. Use an ice melt marked as pet-safe to save the paws of passerby pets from painful cracks, drying out, and harmful ingestion.
High levels of salt in traditional ice melts can cause vomiting and diarrhea in pets when ingested. Always wipe paws clean after winter walks, even when there’s no snow or ice visible outside. Residue can still be present on dry sidewalks.
If your pet will wear boots, put them on. If not, a protective wax applied to the foot pad can help.
7. Aid local efforts
The winter can be a tough time for local pet charities. Many more pets are in need of immediate relief in the winter, when weather conditions can be fatal. Winter also usually means higher utility bills. Local pet charities or shelters may be pressed for space and funds more than usual in the winter months.
There are a number of ways you can help your local pet shelters.
- Provide financial aid if you are able. Money, which can be used in many ways where needed most, is perhaps one of the most versatile and indispensable ways to help local pet charities.
- Help out with time. Most pet shelters are run almost exclusively by volunteers. Whatever your time availability, whether it's a few hours a day, a week, or a month, there is likely a volunteer position or task you can fill.
- Give space in your home. Many pet shelters have limited space or are responsible for pets who need special care. Both situations necessitate foster homes. If you are able to give of your home and love, please consider letting a pet shelter know you are willing to help in this way.
- Donate gently used items. If you have gently used pet items, leftover pet food, old blankets, or other items you feel may be of use to a local shelter, give them a call. What may be trash to you could provide a service to others. Always ask before dropping off, however, as abandoned items of no use just add more work for volunteers who need to dispose of them.
- Support fundraising efforts. Whether it's by sharing an event with your friends or by purchasing an item through a charity auction, supporting fundraising efforts can do a local charity a big favour at little expense (whether time or money) to you.