Outdoor animals face extreme cold
FINGER LAKES--As temperatures neared or broke record lows last week, animals left outside either on purpose or because they do not have a home suffered. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and humane societies around the area and state issued several warnings about animal welfare.
"Animals, who can suffer from deadly frostbite and exposure, become dehydrated when water sources ice over, and die," said PETA in a statement. "Already this winter, at least 24 animals have died after being left outside in the cold--and these are just the deaths that were reported in the media. Most are not."
Freezing temperatures spell extra hardship for "backyard dogs" or cats who often go without adequate food, water, shelter or veterinary care.
Keeping animals inside during the winter gives them the best protection. However, if animals are going outside they need extra care to keep them safe. An advocacy group called "Alley Cat Allies" offers the following winter tips.
Food and Water
• Dogs and cats need extra food during winter and fresh water twice a day. Wet food freezes, so put out dry food as well (or just feed dry food).
• Warm up canned food and water before serving, or use a heated bowl.
• Spray insulation foam into the underside of plastic feeding dishes to keep wet food from freezing.
• Use bowls that are deep rather than wide and place them in sunny areas to keep water from freezing.
• Build a feeding station that will shield food, water and the animals from the elements.
• Put a microwavable heating pad disk under the bowls.
• If there's a water source like a spigot, run the water slightly--it won't freeze as fast as still water.
• Bigger shelters aren't always better because heat disperses quickly.
• Clear snow away from house entrances and exits.
• Insulate the shelter with straw to repel moisture. Do not use hay--it soaks up moisture like a sponge, and gets moldy. Learn the difference between straw and hay.
• For cats, if they aren't using the shelter, try to make it more enticing by sprinkling catnip inside. You can also provide more than just one type of shelter. Since certain cats might be more particular about where they like to stay, more than one option is always a good thing. If cats still aren't using the outdoor shelters, try to find where they are sleeping and then do what you can there to "upgrade" the spot, such as adding straw.
• Also for cats, before starting your car, give a firm tap on the hood and check between the tires. Sometimes kitties crawl into the engine or hide under the car for warmth.
Keep pets safe
• Antifreeze is toxic and deadly. Keep it out of reach and clean up spills.
• Don't use salts or chemicals to melt snow. They can hurt paws and some are toxic.
"Remember, if it's too cold for you, it's probably too cold for your pet, so keep your animals inside," says the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). "If left outdoors, pets can freeze, become disoriented, lost, stolen, injured or killed. In addition, don't leave pets alone in a car during cold weather, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death."