Eight Ways to Keep Your Pet Warm When the Weather Turns

Holiday & Seasonal

Fall and winter mean shorter days, crisper air, and colder days and nights. Some pets might be rejoicing in the lower temps, but if your pet isn’t among them, read on for how to keep your furry friend cozy and warm.

1. Extra Blankets

Small dogs especially love to make nests and burrow in blankets (although my 75 lb. Pit Bull joins in with the best of them). Leave a few extras on your couch, bed, and pet beds so your pooch can hunker down when he feels a little chilly. Even cats like to snuggle up with a blankie!

2. Clothes

Dressing your pet sometimes gets a bad rap, but clothes really can serve a great purpose--to keep him warm! If you’ve got a cold companion, don’t be afraid to experiment with different apparel. Pets who have short or no hair are particularly susceptible to getting cold, so take a trip to your local pet shop and see what they’ve got. Pay attention to seams, tags, and where the bulk of the material hits to make sure your pet’s furless spots (like his stomach) will be covered.

Tip: Be sure to ask about the return policy; it might take you a few tries to find something that works.

3. Pet Beds

A bed that gets your pet up off the floor can do wonders for keeping him warm (heat rises, remember?). If they don’t like that, try a burrowing style bed or a really thick traditional pet bed. For extra warmth, look for beds that have fleece lining or simply add a fleece blanket. If you have a senior or arthritic pet, look into getting a heated pet bed. There are even cat beds designed especially to fit onto your radiator for a super cozy sleeping experience!

4. Heating Options

Who doesn’t love a little personal, supplemental heat? If your pet shivers even under 12 layers of fleece while sporting his own footie pajamas, there are options for him: heating pads, hot water bottles, and even a plethora of grain-based bags and things you heat in the microwave. If your pet uses these items, it should always be with caution and supervision--don’t allow your pet to have direct contact with a heating pad or hot water bottle (place a towel or blanket over it) and NEVER leave your pet alone with it.

5. Rugs

If you don’t have carpeting, think about adding some area rugs to your house. This will help keep your floors (and house in general) warmer. You don’t have to go all out and get a bunch of expensive, fancy ones. Just get one or two for the rooms your pet spends the most time in. There are many pet-friendly, washable styles available that can provide a soft layer of insulation between your pet and the ground. It sounds simple, but it’s effective (works on cold humans too).

6. Check for Drafts

Since we are upright bipeds, we humans don’t always detect the drafts that plague our pets, who are mere inches off the ground. Take some time to do a little “draft tour” of your house. Check windows and doors for cold air and take appropriate measures: you can seal windows with plastic or add curtains, and get door draft stoppers. Also--check the placement of pet beds, cat trees, and crates. Stick your face right at their level to see if any cold air hits them. If so, relocate.

Extra tip: Don’t forget to open your front and back doors to see if that results in an icy blast to these places.

7. Check Your Dryers

As the weather gets cooler, your cat is more likely to seek out the coziest, smallest, warmest places in the house to curl up in. For many, that means the dryer. Get into the habit of always checking the dryer before loading it, and then loading it and starting it right away. Never leave the door open and unattended, even for a second. Cats are stealth ninjas, and it only takes a few seconds for them to find their way in without you knowing. Don’t take any chances!

8. Insulated Dog and Cat Houses

If you have a full-time or part-time outdoor pet in your life, make sure they have protection from the elements in the form of a well-insulated house that’s properly placed and tended to. There are many different types of houses you can purchase or build. The most important features to provide are a sloped roof, insulated walls, an elevated floor, a weather flap in the front, and plenty of insulating bedding material (straw, shavings, blankets). Also, make sure the house is big enough for the pet to turn around in and lie down but not so large that all of his body heat escapes. When you place it, make sure the door is pointed away from the wind!

If you have feral cats in your neighborhood, here’s a really easy DIY shelter you can make them. And finally, if you see a pet in your area struggling in the cold, offer your help. There are national and local organizations like the ASPCA, Humane Society, Dogs Deserve Better, and Coalition to Unchain Dogs that you can turn to for advice and guidance in those situations. You may be a shivering pet’s only chance at warmth!