Caring for Cats in Winter
In all seasons except for the roasting Melbourne Summer, our domesticated cats thrive on finding a warm place to snooze. In Spring and Autumn, it is common to discover that our beloved feline has quietly curled up in the sunniest area of the room (or patio). But we all know that during Melbourne’s winter – particularly June and July; they often need a helping hand to stay warm and comfortable. Some owners and carers want their mature and arthritic cats to be in a photography session, and they often share with us their hints and tips for keeping their furry beauties happy during these cooler months.
When Vanessa and I arrived here from the colder-climes of England back in 2002, we adapted to the relatively short winter quite quickly. But the contrast between winter and the rest of the year was still surprising, and not just to us. Both of the tabby cats that we migrated over with back felt the changes as much as we did – their demeanour said it all.
Particularly for more mature felines, a heated cat bed can make sense. However, we don’t mean those expensive and (potentially unsafe) electric blankets. Instead, a good old-fashioned water bottle, wrapped in layers of towels or soft (easily washable) blankets can provide hours of welcoming comfort. The only problem you may have is in getting them to move away from their spot to do anything else! We find the bribery tactic of a “treat” cat biscuit can wonders here :o)
If their cat-basket has soft raised sides, then this adds to the ‘safe security’ that they feel. Having said this, just watch for how comfortable they are as they move in and out of their winter ‘abode’. If it is difficult to enter or exit, this may mean they simply sleep next-to, rather than in their provided winter basket.
For sheer luxury – and particularly for arthritic felines; have you considered one of those ‘memory foam’ beds? Although they are certainly not cheap, they will retain their ‘memory’ for much longer than the equivalent ‘memory’ pillows and mattresses for us humans. Very simply, Cats weigh far less than we do, so the special foam can return to its normal relaxed state very quickly. This is even after the lengthiest of cat sleeps!
A choice of sleeping options around the house is also recommended, as different times of day or night mean that an ideal position now can be less ‘secure’ later on. Putting beds (or lined cardboard boxes) upstairs and downstairs also helps when that option is available. If nothing else, it will encourage exercise for even the most lazy of felines. If a basket is placed on the floor, have a look underneath to see if additional towelling is needed to insulate them from cold tiles or concrete slabs that are just below timber flooring.
This brings us to the idea of window-seats. They are very nice to look down from of course; but they can also be draughty on windy winters days. A good-tip is to run the back of your hand across the window sill, feel for any small draughts. Also have a close look for any gaps in window seals, and consider temporary tape over any gaps that you can find. A pet-friendly draught ‘sausage-shape’ draft-excluder is also welcome, and can be home-made. Even a simple towel can be laid across the window-sill to increase comfort.
Obviously, common-sense applies to all methods of heating. The bed should only heat up to the cat’s natural body temperature. In particular, the ‘naked’ rubber side of a hot water bottle should never be in direct contact with your cat. Again, the back of your hand is an ideal way to feel the temperature in the same way that a cat will experience this warming sensation through their fur, over a protracted period of sleep.
If you typically lower your thermostat for the times during the day while you’re at work or before you go to bed, remember to take your cat’s comfort into consideration. A healthy cat with a good coat will be fine but an older, thinner or ill cat may be uncomfortable. Be sure to provide warm places within the house or raise your thermostat just enough to take the chill off.
To suit our own human comforts, we will naturally adjust the heating up, down (or off!) during the 24-hour day. If we leave the house, it is worth estimating what time we will return, so that the indoor temperature does not drop-down too far for our cat. This is particularly true if our estimated time of arrival is after dark, and the outside temperature is dropping like a stone. Also, the use of ‘dry’ heating methods can mean their air indoors can be as low-humidity as the hottest summers day!
Occasional use of a home-humidifier, or a simple bucket of water placed directly under a heating vent can make all the householders – human and feline; feel a little more ‘comfy’. If nothing else, everyone will sleep a little easier, with the reduction in positive ions and related static ‘shocks’ as we stroke our felines.
And just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean that cats don’t need their daily playtime and general exercise. Just as with us humans, our cats need regular encouragement to do more than ‘graze amd snooze’ the day away. Playtime and gentle walks are fun for all us!
It goes well beyond the scope of this article to describe other the many other ways of caring for our felines over winter. Diet comes to mind here, but it is only through discussions with your Vet that appropriate dietary ‘tweaks’ can be made. These seasonal changes will ensure our cats receive all the nutrition and (particularly) the vitamins that they need during the shorter winter days.
There’s nothing chilly or uncomfortable about the fine felines shown here. They are all very comfortable indeed thank you very much :o) They couldn’t wait to rock-up in front of our cameras, take centre-stage, and join us for one of our more recent cat photography sessions:
If you suspect that your cat may have caught a winter cold, there is an authoritative article on the subject here.
Winter – Cat Photography Melbourne