This past weekend the Northeastern United States experienced an early snow storm, with some places getting 15-30 inches of snow – in October! Our kittens were fascinated by the snow falling as they watched from our windows. Huge puffy snowflakes fell for hours and our kittens tried to touch them when they came close to the windows (but of course they only whacked the window panes!) It was their first snow and we carried them to our porch and stuck one paw each into the snow, so they would have the experience of feeling their first snow!
This seems like a good week to write about frostbite!
For cats who spend time outside, frostbite is a concern during the cold and snowy months. When a cat’s body is exposed to the cold, the body automatically diverts more blood flow to the core of the body. This protects the vital organs. The body diverts blood flow from the appendages, such as the paws, tail, and ears, so these are the most common places for frostbite to occur. Frostbite occurs when skin tissue freezes and can affect any skin on a cat’s body.
Signs of Frostbite (may take days to appear)
Skin discoloration (pale, gray, or bluish)
Extremely cold or brittle skin
Blisters or skin ulcers
How to Help a Frostbitten Cat
DO Seek veterinary attention immediately!
DO Move your cat to a warm and dry place, UNLESS the cat is going to be re-exposed to the intense cold. If the frozen skin tissues thaw and re-freeze, even worse damage will occur.
Do NOT rub the frostbitten skin
Do NOT use a heating pad or hairdryer (sources of dry heat will cause more damage)
Do NOT give your cat pain medication (human pain medications can be fatal to cats)
The only acceptable way to heat frostbitten skin is by soaking the skin in warm water. Warm water should be between 104-108 degrees Fahrenheit. You should be able to comfortably submerge your hand in the water. Please keep in mind that it is very hard to treat frostbite without causing further damage and it is best to take your cat to a veterinarian immediately, or at least call and consult a veterinarian before trying this technique at home.
Treatment of frostbite often depends on the severity of the case and a veterinarian will be able to evaluate and treat your cat the best!
Jennifer Kean is a writer and pet-lover who owns two rescue kittens (lifetime cat owner too!) and has a 40 gallon fish tank!