By Erin and Ducky Abay – Special to the Navarro County Gazette

If your inner little kid is gleefully enjoying this puffy, thick snow, then you are like me. If you’re also constantly concerned about pets and backyard wildlife surviving this Texas blizzard, then you are ALSO exactly like me.

Being an animal lover, it is hard to not think about the stray animals, pets with owners who refuse to bring them inside, or the birds and wildlife who are surely suffering in the below zero temperatures. I have taken time over the last few days to educate myself as best I can on how to care for our backyard birds during this weather, as well as gather some common sense tips on how to care for dogs and cats. This list is nowhere near comprehensive, but it will give you an idea on easy steps to take to help protect our pets and wildlife.

For Dogs:

BRING THEM INSIDE. Simple as that. While we all know a dog who loves this weather (Huskies and Great Pyrenees come to mind), it is not safe for them to stay outside through this historic weather event.

  • Straw is a better bedding material than hay. Straw dries out faster and provides more cushion than hay.
  • If you have a small dog or a very lean dog (think greyhound, etc.) then a winter coat/jacket/sweater may be necessary to help keep them warm during potty breaks or quick walks. You know your dog best and even if they have thick coats, a warm coat may not be a bad idea (and who doesn’t love a fashion forward pooch?). I will post a link to a YouTube tutorial on a no sew small dog sweater in the resources below.
  • It’s always a good idea to wipe a dog’s paws when coming in from an icy/snowy potty break. Not only will it help warm them up quicker, but if their paws came into a contact with any salt, de-icers, etc. it will help wipe off any toxic chemicals.
  • Make sure your dogs have fresh food and water at all times.
  • Be aware of space heaters. Dogs can easily knock them over and/or get burned.

For Cats:

BRING THEM INSIDE. Many of the tips for dogs also apply to pet cats. This list will focus more so on feral cats that live outdoors.

  • If your neighborhood is known for feral cats, please knock on your hood BEFORE you start your car. Cats, rodents, and a number of small animals can climb into your car to find warmth. Also check tires and wheel wells.
  • You can set out dry or wet cat food for feral cats. Wet cat food takes less energy to digest but is more likely to freeze. If setting out food, it is better to use bowls that are deeper rather than wide so they don’t freeze as quickly. Place them in a sunny spot.
  • Warm up the food/water before serving to help it from freezing for as long as possible.
  • Do not use antifreeze, salt, or other chemicals to melt the snow. These can be deadly to cats (and many other animals including your dogs).
  • Make an insulated cat shelter. I will provide a link with a downloadable PDF with instructions in the resources below.

For Birds:

  • Keep your bird feeders full of seed!
  • Shake some of your bird seed onto the ground. Birds like Robins will appreciate this since they typically eat off the ground.
  • Birds also enjoy fruit. You can toss chopped apples, pears, plums, berries, and raisins on the ground for your winged friends.
  • If you have a spare heat lamp, you can set it up on your porch to give the birds a warm spot to visit.
  • Birds can eat many common items in your pantry. If you do not have bird seed or are running low. Cheerios, dry dog and cat food (best to chop/grind it up a little bit), baked potatoes, cooked brown rice, uncooked oats, raw sunflower seeds, raw peanuts, peanut butter smeared on suet blocks, and (as a very last resort) bread.
  • Fresh water is important. Birds can get water from the snow, but that process takes a LOT of precious energy that they do not need to waste. If you can provide water through a heated water bowl, heated birdbath, or just changing a bowl of water throughout the day, please do so. A great tip is to plug in a spare crock pot on your porch, turn the lid upside down and place water in that so it stays warm and does not freeze.
  • If you find a bird in distress, carefully catch it and get it to warmth. You can place the bird in a cardboard box with fleece scraps, towels, blankets, etc. to help warm him up. Ideally, bring the bird inside and provide it with a tiny dish of water and seed (if the bird is not interested in the seed, he may prefer fruit). If you have a bird, I STRONGLY recommend you reach out to Rogers Wildlife Rehab in Hutchins by calling 972-225-4000, or go to their website. They are IMMENSELY helpful, and will give you the absolute best information on what to do.

Some final tips:

  • If you live in Corsicana and see an animal in distress, you can call Animal Control at 903-654-4929 or the Non-Emergency Police Department at 903-654-4902.
  • It is against the law to leave a dog tethered outside. I will put a link to Texas Tethering Law in the resources below.
  • Many local vet clinics are understandably closed due to this terrible weather, but if your pet has a medical emergency, here are some vet clinics that are open seven days a week.

Animal Emergency Hospital of Mansfield – 817-473-7838

Morton Small Animal Clinic – 903-675-5708
1404 E. Tyler Street, Athens, TX 75751
Hours: Monday – Friday: 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

I hope this short list will give you an idea on how to help care for our four-legged (and winged) companions during this unprecedented weather. We hope you all stay warm, safe, healthy and snuggled up to your furbaby!

– Erin & Ducky

On the Net:

YouTube Video for No Sew Pet Sweater

PDF for Outdoor Insulated Cat House

Rogers Wildlife Rehab in Hutchins

Texas State Law on Tethering (scroll down for Texas)

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