What your cat needs in winter

Cats are skilled masters at finding warm, sunny spots, but they still need a bit of help in winter. Here are some tips that will keep your feline friend happy and cosy in the colder months ahead.

1. Food requirements

In winter cats conserve energy by sleeping more. They also tend to go outside less than usual, and this means less activity and exercise. Their diet may need to be adjusted so that they don’t pick up weight. Visit your veterinarian to determine what your cat’s unique food requirements are for winter.

2. Let the light in

Cats love basking in the sun, especially in winter. Keep your curtains open during the day so there are as many warm patches as possible in your home.

3. Cosy beds

Your cat will thank you with lots of purrs and snuggles if you invest in an igloo-type bed – this keeps out drafts and the chilled air. Add a warm, fluffy blanket inside for the ultimate sleeping toasty sleeping spot. For an extra spoil, warm up a bean bag for the really cold nights (avoid hot water bottles – those claws can cause a nasty accident).

4. Heaters and fireplaces

Cats love lounging in the warmest spots in the house. Unfortunately, they also have a knack getting themselves into dangerous situations when they venture too close to the heat, so never leave them unsupervised if you have a fire going or the heater on.

5. Slippery play areas

Rain and ice can make balcony areas and high walls that are usually easy to navigate a real hazard. If you live in a high-rise building, it is safest to keep your cat indoors. After it has rained, or if there is a bit of frost on surfaces like railings, wipe them down before you let your cat out to play.

6. Car danger

There are sadly a lot of injuries – and even deaths – when cats sneak unnoticed into warm car engines. Always check that you know where your cat is before you start your car, and it’s worth doing a quick check under your bonnet for your neighbour’s cats too.

7. Golden Oldies

Cold weather makes old bones feel stiff and sore, so if your cat already has arthritis they will feel it even more in winter. If you don’t already give your senior cat a joint supplement to lubricate her joints, winter is the perfect time to start.

Provide different levels for your cat to sleep and play on. Just because she can reach her favourite high spot at the window in summer, doesn’t mean she can in winter. Those sore joints mean less movement and agility.

8. Body warmth

Even the least affectionate and aloof cats tend to want to cuddle more in winter – far more snug than a hot water bottle, this purring sleeping partner will keep all your winter blues away!

A final note: feral or homeless cats live in SA’s parks, factories and streets. Life is always tough for them, but especially so in the cold, wet winter months. If you see a cat this winter that has just given birth, is injured, sick or starving, please get in touch with our TEARS Feral Cat Project as soon as possible – tears@tears.org.za or 021 785 4482.