It’s cold outside, bring those pets in

I am not a big fan of winter.

In truth, I hate almost everything about it, save for the excuse to buy more coats and boots. Which, given my inclination to overdo things, probably isn’t as big a plus as I might think.

Apart from the first 16 minutes when it still looks pretty, I hate snow. I hate freezing wind. I hate that the air hurts my face. I hate scraping my car, slipping on ice several times a day, and getting shocked every single time I touch something.

But most of all, I hate thinking about all the animals out there suffering in it — be it wildlife forced to brave it ’til spring, or the pets I often see people leaving outside, even though it’s well below freezing.

It plagues me, these thoughts. For four months my brain hurts, trying to conjure ways to help. My heart sinks every time I see a paw print in the snow.

I worry pretty much constantly until April, and keep my phone with me at all times, in case I need to call the police to report a dog tied up in an icy yard. Which I do, a lot.

And so, because this is where we are again, I thought I’d take the opportunity to remind everyone, again, the perils animals face during winter.

Do I write this column every year? Yep. You better believe I do. Because I can talk (and write) and they can’t. And until they’re all safe and sound and warm and well-treated, I won’t shut up about it.

I grabbed these from the American Veterinary Association. Here goes:

  1. Make sure your pet is up to date on his check-ups. Severe cold can make already-exisiting medical conditions worse.
  2. Know the limits. Different pets have different coats. Obviously, a thicker-coated animal can withstand colder weather. But not indefinitely. Be aware.
  3. Provide choices for shelter and sleeping needs that are warm and easy to access.
  4. Stay inside. Not difficult.
  5. Make some noise. Cold kitties can curl up under the hoods of cars to get warm. Bang on the hood or honk the horn to rouse a sleeping cat and allow him time to escape before starting your engine.
  6. Check paws. Snow, ice and salt can hurt your pet’s feet. Wipe them off after going outside, and use pet-friendly salt alternatives on sidewalks. The salt can burn and cause their little feets to crack.
  7. Dress them up. I bought my dog Pops a sweater that makes him look like a college professor. I highly recommend everyone do the same.
  8. Collar and chip. Snow and ice can make it hard to smell for familiar surroundings. Keep your pet from getting lost by making sure he’s equipped with the address and phone number where he belongs.
  9. Just as you shouldn’t leave a pet in a hot car in summer, you shouldn’t leave him in a cold one either. Leave him at home. Just because you’re panic-shopping for toilet paper and milk, doesn’t mean they have to join you.
  10. Feed well. A well-fed pet is a healthy one, especially when the thermometer dips this low.

There you go, folks. And remember, if you see an animal outside in the cold, do something. Pick up the phone. Knock on a door. Make shelters for the kitties in your neighborhood (it’s easy, you just need a Styrofoam cooler, straw, a plastic tub and a YouTube video).

I’ll never learn to like winter.

But if we all do our part, maybe I could worry a little less about those sweet, furry creatures out there, and focus on curbing this coat addiction instead. 

Katie McDowell is a copy editor/lifestyles writer for The Dominion Post. Email kmcdowell@dominionpost.com.

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