Some people believe that since animals have fur, they are immune to the cold. This is not the case. According to experts at PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), they can still suffer from "frostbite, exposure and dehydration when water sources freeze." While dogs and cats in nature have ways of seeking out food, water and shelter, dogs who are tied out or in kennels and cats that live in residential areas must depend on their owners, or other concerned citizens, to provide proper care for them.
For those who are unaware of the dangers animals face due to cold weather, PETA offers the following tips:
- Keep animals inside if at all possible. This is especially important for puppies and kittens, as well as older animals. It is also vital for small animals and short-haired dogs.
Animals that have short hair can be better-protected from the cold by sweaters or coats.
- Outside dogs need adequate shelter. Houses made of wood or plastic are best. Metal is a conductor of cold. A dog's house should be placed in direct sunlight and raised off the ground. A flap over the door will keep out cold winds and straw should be placed in the house rather than blankets, which retain water, which will freeze.
- Cats and dogs should not be loose and unattended. Cats will often find the warmth from car engines comforting, until the car is started. People who park their cars outside are encouraged to bang on their hoods before starting their cars in order to scare out any cats who have sought shelter within.
- Animals should be given more food during the winter. More calories are used by bodies that are trying to keep warm. Pet-owners also need to make sure their cat or dog does not have parasites that deprive them of essential nutrients.
- If an indoor pet has been out in the snow, they should be wiped off. Snow often contains salt and chemicals that can be harmful if ingested.
- Water sources need to be replenished regularly. It will freeze and usually the ice must be broken at least twice a day.
PETA also encourages people to watch out for stray animals. A dog or cat seen roaming around the neighborhood needs care until its owner is found. Animals that cannot be approached should still be offered some means of shelter and nourishment.
If all else fails, a member of the community should call the local humane shelter for advice or to pick up the animal in need.