An­i­mals need spe­cial care in stormy weather

The Sligo Champion - - LIFESTYLE - PETE WED­DER­BURN

Ir­ish win­ters seem to be get­ting bleaker. Ev­ery month we hear about another storm with a new name: the lat­est, just last week, was Storm Diana. We now ex­pect high winds, tor­ren­tial rain and cold weather dur­ing our win­ter months.

This weather is bad enough for hu­mans, with a risk to life from fall­ing trees or other ac­ci­dents, but what about an­i­mals?

It isn’t an easy time of year to be a farmer, or in­deed to be a farm an­i­mal. It’s a con­tin­ual chal­lenge for farmers to get food out to their stock, and open fields and hill­sides can be in­hos­pitable places for live­stock.

What about pets? It’s eas­i­est to con­sider these in three cat­e­gories: cats, dogs and other small an­i­mals.

Most cats are in­de­pen­dent crea­tures who come and go as they please from the fam­ily home, of­ten via a cat flap. They are sen­si­ble, en­joy­ing com­fort, so they seek out a cosy place to sleep dur­ing bouts of bad weather. My own cats are ei­ther curled up on a bed up­stairs or snooz­ing be­side the kitchen range when it is cold and wet out­side. If they do ven­ture out,

I have no doubt that they find them­selves cosy spots to hun­ker down, whether in a boiler house, a gar­den shed or sim­ply deep in dense un­der­growth.

More care needs to be taken with young kit­tens or very el­derly cats: these weaker crea­tures may not be able to look af­ter them­selves as oth­ers, so they de­serve some ex­tra cher­ish­ing. At the very least, lock­able cat flaps should be set to stop cats from go­ing out­side when extreme weather events are pre­dicted. And there’s a strong ar­gu­ment for the pro­vi­sion of a heated bed some­where in­doors: el­derly cats, in par­tic­u­lar, ben­e­fit from a spe­cial heated bed.

A warm, soft bed is good for ail­ments like arthri­tis, and it pro­motes more com­fort­able, deeper sleeps. You can buy plugin heaters for cat beds.

A sim­ple heated bed like this will make cats’ lives more com­fort­able dur­ing stormy or cold weather: all cats will ap­pre­ci­ate this, but for el­derly cats, it can be life chang­ing.

Dogs are more com­pli­cated than cats, as they are de­pen­dent on hu­mans for their liv­ing con­di­tions. While some peo­ple do have dog flaps, they’re not widely used: there are se­cu­rity im­pli­ca­tions, since small hu­mans can clam­ber through them just as eas­ily as large dogs.

So most dogs go where their own­ers put them, and sadly, many own­ers choose to leave their dogs out­doors. I of­ten hear tales of dogs be­ing locked out­side while their own­ers are at work. Their barks and howls dis­turb the neigh­bour­hood. This is bad enough in good weather: any dogs left on its own all day will suf­fer from se­ri­ous bore­dom. But when dogs are left out­side in stormy weather, there can be sig­nif­i­cant suf­fer­ing. Apart from the phys­i­cal dis­com­fort of cold and wet­ness., many dogs are over-sen­si­tive to high winds, be­com­ing ter­ri­fied and dis­tressed. It’s a crime un­der the An­i­mal Health and Wel­fare Act 2014 to keep any an­i­mal in con­di­tions which ad­versely af­fect its wel­fare. How­ever it would be dif­fi­cult to prove that this was the case in many in­stances, and the courts are al­ready busy enough with other, more se­vere, in­stances of cru­elty. It’s likely to be more ef­fec­tive to sim­ply talk to own­ers of dogs in these sit­u­a­tions, to per­suade them that their pet needs a greater level of care.

So what do dogs need in foul weather? The bare min­i­mum is shel­ter from the el­e­ments. This can be as sim­ple as an out­house or even a dog kennel, with soft bed­ding (even though the dogs may choose to ig­nore this) and a dry, draught-free in­te­rior. I know that most pet own­ers would feel that even this is not enough, and that an in­door bed is the only an­swer. How­ever the truth is that many farm dogs have lived con­tent­edly in farm out­houses for many gen­er­a­tions, and there is no ev­i­dence that they suf­fer as a con­se­quence. And even for some pets (e.g. larger dogs, with thick coats), it’s pos­si­ble to spend time out­side as long as there is some­where dry and draught free to shel­ter.

For most pets, an in­door life is still the ideal. Many dogs have short haired coats that of­fer poor in­su­la­tion. And smaller dogs have a large sur­face area com­pared to their body weight, so they get cold far eas­ier than larger dogs. For such an­i­mals, it’s hard to beat a com­fort­able bed in a cen­trally heated house.

By the way, dogs know what com­fort­able means: I have one spe­cial mem­ory foam dog bed, as well as sev­eral stan­dard plas­tic beds lined with ar­ti­fi­cial fleece blan­kets. My dogs - and cats – all pre­fer the mem­ory foam bed, queu­ing up to sleep there. The plas­tic beds are ad­e­quate, but for ul­tra-com­fort, mem­ory foam wins ev­ery time.

Even when dogs live in­doors, the noise of the wind and rain can dis­turb them: I know a dog that gets hys­ter­i­cally up­set in storms, rush­ing from room to room in a panic. So it can help to have a dog den deep in­side the house (e.g. un­der the stairs), in­su­lated from storm sounds. And a ra­dio can be left on, to drown out other noises.

Fi­nally, what about smaller pets like rab­bits and guinea pigs who live out­side in hutches in the sum­mer? These should all be brought to a shel­tered area in storms; an out­house or garage is ideal. Just as large an­i­mals are buf­fet­ted and stressed by storms, so are these smaller crea­tures.

Look af­ter your pets this win­ter: they de­pend on you.

A mem­ory foam bed is a pop­u­lar sleep­ing place for pets

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.