Baby, it is COLD outside. Bitterly, bitterly cold. With -40F wind chills predicted here (north-east Iowa) my thoughts always turn to animals stuck outside. Miss Moose is extremely happy to spend her second winter with us as an inside dog (I found her on a highway in a blizzard, she smelled like a cow and we found out her owners moved and left her).
My horse even gets to stay inside on very cold days at his barn. But with cats still coming in to our local (no-kill!) Animal Control I feel for those left to fend for themselves.
Cats especially have it rough. I see so many with ears scarred by frostbite. One way to help feral or lost cats in your neighborhood is by putting together a simple box. I made one similar to this one: http://www.petadoptionnetwork.org/?cat=1
I took a rubbermaid tub, lined it with foam board insulation, and put some straw inside. I cut a small (cat-sized) hole on one side. If you have animals that may trap a cat in the box (Coyotes, etc) an escape hole on the other side is a good idea. I usually put a bit of cat food out on top of the box on very cold days too. I imagine some raccoons or opossums may benefit from that, and I am OK with that. They need help as well.
Water sources can also be helpful. I have a small pond that I keep a bird bath heater in so there is some unfrozen water critters can get to. I didn’t think it mattered, but last winter (record lows here for weeks!) I kept seeing a little Maine Coon drinking from it. I thought she was another neighborhood feral that I would trap and neuter and release, but one day I saw her sitting on our patio shivering. I went out to feed her and she jumped into my arms. After some Facebook networking through my vet it turned out she was a beloved family pet who got out in October (we found her just before Christmas). I was so happy to see her reunited!
Dogs can also be in trouble in cold weather. I found Moose just before a blizzard hit, she is one lucky girl! This post from Lost Dogs Illinois on Facebook shows one way to help pups in need:
Obviously, if you see a dog tethered outside in extreme weather with no shelter please call your local police department or animal control. No animal needs to live like that.
Also be sure to tap on your car hood before starting it, kitties like to crawl up near engine blocks for warmth. And if you use salt, use pet-friendly kinds.
Your indoor pups may like a coat when going outside in frigid weather. Our husky-mix Kailie is built for cold weather (though we don’t let her stay out in it long).
However, short-haired dogs like greyhounds and the like need coats in cold weather. The greyhound rescues usually tell new owners “If you need a coat on, your dog does too.” Here Cedric, my Galgo Espanol (or Spanish Greyhound) and Marigold, my ex-racer (RIP sweet girl) model their coats my mom made for them.
If you don’t have a specially fashioned coat or need a quick one for a lost dog, use a sweatshirt. Put the legs in the arms and clip the sides up on the back with a safety-pin.
I hope this post helps some animals in need. Stay warm, friends!