Last week, the country was mesmerized by the story of a tan-and-white Tabby cat from the Bronx, NY, who survived an unusual ordeal: a two-mile drive through his northern NYC borough, while stuck inside the engine of an SUV. The stray was so severely wedged inside that the battery and other engine parts had to be removed in order to free him. Though the story has a happy ending—two detectives from the NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit pulled the cat, who is now recovering nicely, to safety—the incident points to a winter phenomenon that many felines do not survive.
During the winter, ASPCA experts explain, it’s common for outdoor cats to sleep under the hoods of cars for warmth and protection. Once the motor is started, however, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. One solution is for owners of vehicles to bang loudly on the vehicle hood before starting the engine. This gives a sleeping cat the chance to escape or announce his presence by meowing or moving around.
The danger doesn’t only apply to strays, however. Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, ASPCA Executive Vice President, warns: “For their own benefit and for the benefit of the communities where they live, owned cats should not be allowed to roam freely outdoors.”
Pet parents, be aware: there are many other dangers that our animal companions face during winter. Thankfully, ASPCA experts have provided a list of essential cold weather tips
Keep your cat inside. When outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. And cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.
Engine coolant is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, minimize his time outdoors—briefly take him out, and only to relieve himself. This includes puppies, who can be paper-trained during the colder months rather than housebroken.
Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter—a longer coat will provide more warmth. And continue to brush your pet regularly during the winter months. This will remove dead hair and keep the coat clean to ensure better insulation. It will also keep natural oils distributed throughout the coat.