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Winter is a particularly tough time for stray cats and dogs, and they often need some extra care during the colder months. Here's how the average person can help stray animals in winter.
Nearly all communities have localized social media pages where residents and visitors to the area can post messages about lost pets. Checking these should be the first step for those with stray animals hanging around their homes. Online ad services are good places to look for lost pet announcements.
Local shelters and rescues provide information, advice, and resources for those dealing with stray animals. These organizations typically have traps they can loan in cases where the animal eludes capture. Shelters and rescues can also check strays for microchips containing owner contact information. If the owner cannot be found, they can provide necessary veterinary care and find foster and forever homes for them. Keep in mind that many shelters and rescues aren't able to act immediately.
Winter is a tough time for strays, so provide as much shelter as possible for the animal while waiting for assistance. Storage bins with straw for insulation and warmth are a great option — although it may be tempting to use old blankets or towels, these absorb and retain moisture far more easily than straw. Cardboard boxes can be used in a pinch if storage bins are unavailable. Local shelters may be able to help with materials.
Some opt to provide shelter for strays in their homes. Provide a quiet space outside of heavily-trafficked areas of the home and be mindful that animals may act aggressively in unfamiliar surroundings. Always take stray animals to the veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure that they're not harboring infectious diseases and are up-to-date on their vaccinations.
Provide a steady supply of fresh, clean food and water. Only put out as much food as the animal can consume in one sitting or it may attract rodents and other wildlife. Remember that canned food is more likely to freeze when temperatures drop. Check the water in freezing temperatures several times per day to ensure it hasn't frozen over.
Stray animals, especially cats, frequently seek refuge and warmth under vehicles and in outbuildings. Always check under the car before starting it. Smaller animals may crawl into the engine compartment. Although outbuildings such as a barn, shed, or garage can provide good shelter for strays, make sure the animal has a way to exit them so they don't become trapped inside.
Those with dog or cat health questions can access real-time advice from Fuzzy’s qualified veterinarians. They are available 24 hours every day of the year to help those with pet care needs.