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Norwich Bulletin - 1/20/2008

It's Winter Again!

It certainly started feeling as if we were not going to have winter Ė but then it all hanged and, as always, the New England weather turned itself around and made it bitterly cold.

I personally do not like to be cold Ė ever. There is no way I could ever stay outside in frigid temperature for fifteen minutes, much less 8 to 10 hours a day as many people expect their cats and dogs to do. Even with a warm fur coat, gloves and a hat over your ears, I do not think anyone would volunteer to spend their winter days hanging around a kennel or under a tree.

In fact, I suspect you all would be loudly complaining. And if anyone had the audacity to ask you to spend the night outside with the promise of a warm blanket and a little wooden house, would you even consider it? Of course not.

Itís pretty obvious to me that my dogs or outside cats arenít thrilled with the idea of spending below freezing days outside. I canít figure out why humans think that their pets don't get cold. I can assure you that most animals get very cold. Even the Huskies that are bred for cold weather also seem to have their limitations.

Cats are just little creatures, with the average weight between six and fifteen pounds (if youíre a fat cat). Whether they have fur or not, when the temperatures go down, they are cold and subject to hypothermia and frostbite. And the little dogs have it so much worse than cats because they are not used to being outside, even in the nice weather. And there are many large breeds of dogs, when tied or kenneled during some very bitter cold days, that will suffer.

I say this every year and I hope that each time I say it, more and more of you are listening. Bring your animals inside when it is below freezing and do not expect them to sleep outside during the. If you are one of those people who do not allow your animals inside ever, (at which point the question becomes why have an animal in the first place), or you are taking care of feral or semi feral cats, then you need the following important tips for you to keep in mind during the winter months.

Of course, I am assuming that even though you are a bit misguided in thinking cats and dogs belong outside, that you do love your pets and want to care for them properly.

If the animals cannot come inside the house then you need to offer your basement or garage to your pet. And if you donít have either of those, go out and buy a nice little storage house like a Carefree Building. Our feral cats know that the garage is their safe haven for the winter.

They have beds, cat furniture, old chairs and couches, lots of food, water and litter in the garage. Every night most of them get into the garage before the doors close and if it is extremely cold or if there is rain or snow, they spend the day in the garage as well. After all, who cares if you can put your car in the garage Ė thatís just a machine. For the cat who fails to make it into the garage when it is time to shut the door for the night, we have several houses and igloos filled with straw for insulation that they can cuddle into and be safe from the cold winds.

Remember, improper shelters, lack of fresh water, antifreeze poisoning, frostbite or hypothermia are very real wintertime threats that need to be prevented. Add straw to your dog and cat houses to help insulate them and make sure any beds you are using do not sit directly on cold ground or concrete. You could even use wooden palettes to put inside large dog houses, basements and garages and put the bedding on the palettes. Keep a good lookout for antifreeze leaks, as even a small amount will cause death in a very short time.

And donít forget frostbite Ė it is a very real and painful problem during the winter months. Frostbite most frequently affects ears, toes, tail and other areas least covered by fur. The skin becomes red and swollen and very pale and white. Cats and dogs have lost parts of their ears and toes because of frostbite Ė it is your responsibility to make sure that does not happen to your pets.

Also, Hypothermia occurs when a pet has been exposed to very cold temperatures or winds for an extended period of time. NEVER LEAVE YOUR PET OUTSIDE WITHOUT A PROTECTED AREA. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, low body temperature, drowsiness or exhaustion. In order to save your petís life you will need to raise your pet's body temperature as quickly as possible. Surround your pet in hot water bottles, warm towels, heating pad, etc. and try to get him to drink warm liquids.

For either of these conditions, you need a vet and fast! Heated water bowls, heated beds and extra food are all musts during the winter, especially for feral cats who have no chance of finding any type of indoor protection. But please remember, your animals belong inside with you all the time, but especially during the winter months.

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