Pet Project: Keeping Outdoor Cats Safe in Extreme Cold

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Extreme cold weather can be uncomfortable and dangerous for humans and pets.

That’s why it’s so important to keep an eye on our indoor and outdoor animals this time of year, says Pennsylvania SPCA animal advocate Carol Erickson.

When it comes to dogs, owners should keep their pets indoors during extreme winters.

Free-roaming cats, on the other hand, are better suited to adapt to the weather, experts say.

Colonies of barn cats and feral cats are outdoors year-round, and do relatively well in winter. But Erickson says these outdoor cats need special attention to survive frostbite and hypothermia.

Related: The Pet Project: Tips to Protect Your Pets from Cold Temperatures in Winter

Outdoor cats need shelter and places to go to escape prolonged exposure to cold and wet conditions. Experts say barn cats that are able to find shelter can survive harsh winters, according to Erickson. But domestic cats that are unwittingly let outside are at great risk, as their primary focus is on avoiding predators, lack of warmth and shelter.

And because they’re used to being indoors, indoor cats don’t have an extra layer of fat and a thick undercoat like you might find in an outdoor cat.

Cats that are outdoors should be monitored for frostbite on the ears, legs and tail, Erickson says. As frostbite progresses the tissue may darken, so it is important to help shelter outdoor cats away from wind and moisture.

Related: Pet Project: Study shows humans can read facial expressions in dogs.

If you suspect a pet has been left outside without food, water or shelter, you can reach the PSPCA Cruelty Line at 866-601-7722.

You can watch the full interview with Erickson in the video player above. Stay tuned until the end of the interview to meet some of the animals available for adoption at the PSPCA.

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