Once the chill starts settling into the air, we automatically start to pull out all the necessities of living in a place where it gets cold—boots, jackets, gloves, salt and more. We prep ourselves and our children for the long winter months, but what about our pets? We tend to think that because they wear a fur coat all year long that they don't require any additional cold weather prep, but that's not entirely true.
Think Of Fur Like Skin, Not A Jacket
You change what you wear based on the seasons, so that same theory should apply to your pets as well. Your Husky might not need a coat until temperatures reach sub-zero, but there are many breeds of dogs that do not have a thick undercoat to help protect them in the winter. If you're wearing a jacket, it's probably a good idea to have one for your pup as well. But just because they're wearing a coat doesn't mean they're fine to let out in the backyard by themselves; they can get caught on twigs and other objects, so keep a close watch on your pup.
The same idea applies to your dog's feet. Sure, the concept of dogs wearing shoes is amusing to most people, but do you walk around in the snow without shoes? Probably not. Booties for dogs don't only protect their paws from frost bite, though. Once it starts to snow or get cold enough for water to freeze to ice, cities and residents start applying liberal amounts of salt to streets and sidewalks, which can cause problems for dogs. The salt can burn their paws, and they may get sick from licking it off after a walk.
Getting dogs to wear booties isn't always a simple task, though. It may take a while for them to get used to the sensation. Try putting baby socks on them to start. There are several different kinds of dog booties on the market, from disposable rubber ones to ones that velcro, so spend some time trying out different styles. If your dog refuses to wear booties at all, just make sure you wipe off his feet as soon as you get in the house, and place your own boots out of reach so he can't lick the salt off.
Choose Pet-Safe Winter Products
Outfitting your pets with cute clothes to keep them warm isn't the only thing you can do to keep them safe in the winter. When it comes to salting your own sidewalk and driveway, purchase products that are specifically pet safe. Even if you don't own a pet, it's still a good idea to opt for pet-friendly de-icers because dogs aren't the only animals out in the winter; outdoor cats and wildlife that don't hibernate may come scurrying across your property and walk over the ice. Also be sure to keep antifreeze sealed and in a safe place because it's highly toxic to pets. Even a small puddle that your cat walks through and licks off her paws could be fatal.
Don't Forget About The Cats
Outdoor, stray and feral cats need care in the winter just like dogs. Cats will seek out warm places, so if it's a particularly cold day, check the engine of your car before you start it; cats are known to hide inside the hood of a car for warmth. Indoors is the best place for your cat year-round, but if you have feral or stray cats in your area, the best way to help them stay warm in the winter is to provide shelter. You can buy prefabricated shelters, but making your own isn't very difficult, as you can see from this video from Cole and Marmalade:
Check out more tips for building a shelter for your cat here.
It's All Fun And Games
We humans can get stir-crazy being cooped up during the cold months, and so can our pets. Dogs who normally get long walks or plenty of time to run around in a backyard might find themselves unable to get rid of their excess energy. Find an indoor location where you can take your dog to run around, like an indoor dog park or a doggie day care.
Cats are similar in this regard, so providing climbing trees and toys to help keep them active is key to the happiness of indoor kitties. Try actively playing with them for at least 15 minutes a day.
Many of us turn our thermostats down during the day to save money while we're at work, so provide a warm bed and plenty of blankets for your pets to snuggle up in. You can purchase beds and warming pads made specifically for pets if you want to provide extra warmth.
Keeping these tips in mind will help prepare you and your pet for the long winter ahead. And once you're all prepped, your pet can repay you with plenty of wintertime cuddles.