Winter weather advice – the RSPCA is urging the public to do their bit to help keep animals of all kinds happy and healthy.
RSPCA inspectors are also bracing themselves for a busy period as animals cope with the freezing conditions.
RSPCA inspector Tony Woodley said: “Winter weather can spell trouble for some animals as they struggle to cope with the conditions as much as we do.
“We can all take simple steps to help animals at this time however our inspectors are on-call around the clock so they can help if the worst should happen.”
Here’s our tips on how to help:
Dogs with thin or sparse coats may benefit from a coat when being exercised outdoors. Two or three shorter walks may be a better option to avoid being out in the cold for a long period of time although it is still important to maintain some routine.
If you are taking your dog out for a walk in the dark, remember that both of you should wear reflective clothing.
It is also important to keep dogs away from lakes or ponds which may have iced over to prevent them from falling in. Horses and ponies will also need constant access to shelter and fresh water which hasn’t frozen over as well as extra food and blankets if necessary.
Cats should not be shut out of the house for long periods of time and must always be able to find suitable warmth and shelter.
Pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs may need extra bedding to keep warm and could need moving inside into a shed or garage for shelter from the weather.
Farm animals will need access to drinking water at all times and possibly extra food. If it is not possible to bring animals inside, it is important to be extra vigilant to ensure they are not suffering in snow or ice and that they stay away from frozen water which could be a hazard to them.
Birds may have difficulty finding natural foods such as berries, insects, seeds, worms and fruit. Any alternative food you put out during these cold months will help such as crumbled bread, stale cake and biscuits, cheese and cooked rice.
Badgers do not hibernate but they do sleep through much of the severe weather. However, when the ground is frozen they have a tough time finding food. Nibbles such as lightly cooked meats, cheese, unsalted or unsweetened peanuts and fruit will be welcomed.
Squirrels enjoy unsweetened and unsalted nuts including hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds as well as chopped apple, carrots, spinach or green beans.
Hedgehogs hibernate between November and mid to late March so you can help by raking up the leaves in your garden and providing them with nests to rest in.
RSPCA wildlife scientist Sophie Adwick said: “Winter can be hard for wildlife and every year the RSPCA rescues lots of animals which are dehydrated, hungry and cold.
“Food and water can be scarce at this time of year anyhow and ground frosts make finding food even more difficult.
“There may be many animals out there in need of our help and the more we can do to help them through this chilly period the better. The small things can make all the difference.”
For more information on how you can help, see:
If you see an animal in distress, call the RSPCA’s 24-hour advice and cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.