It’s cold here.  I wouldn’t expect anything different given the time of year and my location.  We all do things to keep ourselves happy during times of extreme temperatures.  Our second thought needs to be for our pets.

When our kids were little, I dressed them the way I dressed.  “I’m cold, you put a jacket on.”  It’s not exactly the same with our pets.  Most of them come with their own fur coat so we need to take into consideration how thick that coat is when we make decisions.  Some pets are happy in those extreme temperatures when others are not.

Extreme Temperatures and Shelter

Our pets love being outside.  The dogs love playing in the snow, the heat and the rain.  Some pets live their entire life out of doors.  It all depends on what their job is in our lives.

Libby and Donnie love playing in the snow. When they are done being cold, we have a warm dry place for them.

That makes shelter very personalized.  Shelter can be a dog house in the shade, a pet door to the garage or barn or a kennel in the human’s house.  It doesn’t matter what makes shelter as long as the shelter is dry and gives the animal a protection from extreme temperatures.

One of the problems that our dogs have in the winter is snow and ice getting stuck in the pads of their paws.  If it stays there, the ice can cause cuts and abrasions.  The dogs need a dry place to be while the ice in their pads melts and dries.

Shelter is needed year round

Dogs with a heavy fur coat really struggle with heat.  They need a shady place to go to find relief periodically throughout the day.  Find a shelter that is the right size for your pet and is located out of the wind.  Keep it dry and inviting and it will soon be your pet’s safe place.

Our dogs have kennels in our house.  When outside temperatures are extreme, we bring them inside several times a day to warm up or cool off.  Those kennels are where they stay if we are going to be gone for a long time during times of extreme temperatures.  In their kennels, they are safe and dry.  An added bonus is that they get an uninterrupted nap while we are away.

Extreme Temperatures and Cats

Cats need a sheltered place as much as dogs do.  The reason that cats who catch mice around a farmyard are called “barn cats” is because that is where they find their shelter.  There is a beautiful unused dog house on our back deck.  It has a bed in it made of towels.  Under the towels there is an electric heating mat.   Long ago it belonged to our big, black bear of a dog, Duchess.  She shared it with our cat.

Zedd the cat loved small spaces. He stole the dog house outside for his shelter.

When Duch died, the cat took over the space and dared anyone else to enter.  Now that the cat is gone, it stands empty unless the neighbor cats decide to snooze there for a while.  Our Golden Retriever, Libby, will not enter.  She was scolded so many times by the cat that she will not use it.  Everyone needs a space of their own.

Pets and Water in Extreme Temps

Water is vital to life for all living creatures.  Many have adapted to be able to survive on very little but all need some.  In the case of our domesticated pets, water is important to stay healthy year round.

In extreme cold, keeping drinking water from freezing up is a problem for outside pets.  Electric heated water bowls are available to help.  We check our pets water bowl several times a day.  Animals are better at staying hydrated than humans are so they really do drink a lot in the winter.  The fact that the water is being heated slightly leads to evaporation which also steals water from the bowl.

There are many times that it is so cold here that the heater can’t keep up and the water freezes anyway.  If we are checking the water dish, we can fix the problem before the animals are without water for a long time.

Since our dogs spend so much time in the house with us, we have solved the problem of the iced up water dish by offering fresh water in the house.  When this is not possible, we carry water out to them several times a day.  Don’t forget that while hot water might thaw ice faster than cold water does, it also freezes faster.  Offering cold water on a cold day still might be the best idea.

Our furry friends need a kiddie pool during times of extreme heat.  We put fresh water in it every morning and use the water we dump out to water the flowers.  It sits in the shade so the water stays cooler.  Just wading through it cools off hot, dry paws and pads.  Laying down in it is even better.  Since they are already wet, giving baths during the warmer months is a cinch.  The shaking off process cools off any nearby humans as well.

Feeding Pets in Extreme Temperatures

All commercial pet foods have feeding charts on the package.  To maintain better health, it is important to stick pretty close to those feeding amounts.

It is also important to remember that everyone, including animals, burn more calories when they are out in the cold than they do when they are warm.  Just staying warm is hard work!

Our dogs don’t eat all their portions when it is really hot.  Well, let me change that just a bit.  Our ADULT dogs don’t eat all their portions when it is hot.  Puppies don’t have a full line on their stomach gauges so they eat everything.  During the winter, they all tend to eat more.  The trick is to decide if the extra calories are needed for warmth or if your pet is eating because they are bored.

Pets Need Entertainment Too

When it is extremely cold and we have our animals in the house, they get bored.  The rules in the house are different than the rules outside.  Things like running wild, ambushing each other and wrestling are mostly frowned upon.

The result is either that they are constantly begging treats or that the humans become animal entertainers.  We have come up with some ideas to help them enjoy their time stuck inside while we are still able to get something done.

One game that is loved by the the cat and the dogs is laser tag.  I have heard some some criticism about entertaining animals with a laser but it is not a great idea to throw a ball in the house.  The laser game does a good job of running energy out of a dog or a cat.  This game also multi-tasks as it gives the humans some fast-paced entertainment guaranteed to chase away the winter blues.  After about 5 or 10 minutes, our pets will settle down and I can go back to writing or baking with a clear head.


The dogs also have chew toys strewn all about the house.  When there is no other option besides laying down, there is something safe to gnaw on.  We use bone and tire shaped toys  in the house.  Toys are available that hold treats and the dog has to figure out how to get the treat out of the toy.  Its a great concept, but at our house, treats come at very specific times or as a reward for exceptional behavior.

Our little cat lives in the house all the time.  She loves that the dogs are in the house more.  Her favorite game is to create chaos and then hide under the chair to watch the fun.  We have toys for her stowed all over the house just to keep ourselves sane.

After she undecorated the Christmas tree, this crazy cat loved to hide out in the branches.

The first week of December, we set up and decorated our tree and put out all our decorations for Christmas.  About 3 days later, we undecorated our tree.  Our cat had immediately started climbing up the inside of the tree and knocking decorations to the floor where they shattered.  We were losing them at the rate of two a day.

In order to try to save my Christmas village, I came up with a fun idea that we have just left in place because IT WORKS.  I hung a hook on the inside of the front door and on the back window.  Next, I cut 2 pieces of ribbon so the they hung high enough off the ground that the cat could stretch up to reach them.  Pssst, it is a bit of cat psychology.  I wanted her to think I didn’t want her to have them.

Cat toys made from ribbon and hair ties. Watch out! These are NOT safe for dogs or babies to chew on.

I tied a loop in one end of the ribbon and an elastic hair tie to the other end of each ribbon and hung one on each hook.  The one on the front door works really well because closing the door makes it swing enticingly.

Allowing our pets some play time helps with the boredom that comes with being stuck in the house.  Interacting more with our pets because they are stuck in the house helps with our boredom as well.

Extreme Vigilance in Extreme Temperatures

We need to pay special attention to our pets during extreme heat or extreme cold.  It just takes some watching to learn right away if the heat or the cold bothers them.  Note the changes in their eating and sleeping habits and make adjustments as necessary.  Check their fur and paws for sunburn and ice abrasions.  Watch for signs of dehydration.

Pets will stay happy and healthy during extreme temperatures if we extend our own survival habits to include our animal friends.  What did I miss?  What do you do to keep your pets happy?  Let’s discuss it in the comments!



Rhonda Brown lives in rural eastern Montana, surrounded by her family, chickens, gardens and dog. When she isn't writing or weeding, she loves spending time with her family, baking, and all things CHOCOLATE.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: