BY: BRYONY VAN NIEKERK
A strange phenomenon happens every winter, whereby my normally spacious queen bed transforms into a very small single. The cause of this magical bed shrinkage is the fact that I find myself sharing it with a male human, 2 dogs and at least 3 cats. And don’t think they spread out- oh no! They all congregate around me on my side, turning me into a human burrito, so tightly wrapped I can barely move. All while my partner snores away happily. The upside is that I save on electricity with no need for hot water bottles, electric blankets or heaters
A strange phenomenon happens every winter, whereby my normally spacious queen bed transforms into a very small single. The cause of this magical bed shrinkage is the fact that I find myself sharing it with a male human, 2 dogs and at least 3 cats. And don’t think they spread out- oh no! They all congregate around me on my side, turning me into a human burrito, so tightly wrapped I can barely move. All while my partner snores away happily. The upside is that I save on electricity with no need for hot water bottles, electric blankets or heaters (save the planet, cuddle a dog). The downside is that I wake up with aches and pains that a 35-year-old has no business having.
I can already hear a few of you tutting ‘Why don’t you just move them?’ and ‘This is why I don’t allow the pets to sleep on the bed.’ And I get it. I could move them. But the bed is the warmest place in the house, and it’s only for a few months of the year, so I put up with it.
This is not to say that Oliver doesn’t have any manners. He just gets so excited that he completely loses his hearing and the ability to control himself. You may However, some people simply do not have the option to have the pets on the bed or even in the house, therefore it is important to be able to keep them warm. Pets may have fur, but they are still susceptible to the cold. Remember, if you feel cold, so do they.
Provide your pet with adequate shelter if they spend prolonged periods of time outside. The kennel or doghouse should preferably be placed in an area that is dry and as draft-free as possible, such as the corner of a covered patio. The kennel should also be raised about 10-15 cm off the ground to avoid the cold seeping up and removing the heat from the kennel. You can also insulate the inside of the kennel by nailing old carpet, towels, or even plastic sheeting to the floors and walls.
Whether your pets sleep indoors or outside, they need a cosy place where they can curl up and sleep. You can’t go wrong with a soft bed and a nice, thick blanket. These can be placed in their kennel or in a designated spot in the house. Once again, don’t place the bedding directly on the floor, but rather on a mat or piece of carpet. If you have a dog who likes to drag their blanket around the house or yard, you can get a bed where the blanket is attached. This is also a good option for dogs who like to burrow under the covers. I highly recommend you invest in a good quality ‘human’ blanket. The blankets marketed for dogs are often thin, flimsy, and can be ripped up in seconds, whereas the blankets you buy for yourself last for ages.
Dog breeds with thick fur coats, such as huskies and Malamutes, can handle cold weather better than breeds with short coats, e.g., Jack Russel, Pug, Great Dane. For these dogs, a jersey or jacket can help to keep them warm when they are outdoors or on a particularly cold day. Make sure you measure your dog properly and follow the sizing guide to ensure that the jersey fits correctly and is not too tight. While it is tempting to get the super cute and fashionable jersey/jacket, try to avoid ones with potentially scratchy zippers or add-ons that could be choking hazards. Not all dogs like wearing jerseys/jackets and if that is the case, don’t force them. They could injure themselves trying to remove it. In my house, if I put a jersey on Linc, he simply refuses to move, so I gave up on that idea years ago.
There are various heating elements that you can use to make your pets’ bed/ kennel toasty and warm if you feel it is really cold and a blanket alone won’t do. One of the safest options is a self-heating mat that you can place in their bed/kennel. It works by absorbing their body heat and reflecting it back to them, keeping them warm.
Other alternatives are the microwavable heating pads or a hot water bottle. Just take care as the water bottle may leak. Lastly there is a heating lamp. These are an excellent source of heat but once again, care must be taken when installing it. Make sure you use one with a red light as a white light can hurt your pets’ eyes. The lamp should also be mounted well out of reach of your pet. As tempting as it may be, do not use heaters. Especially if unsupervised. Your pet can so easily burn themselves and their blankets could also be a potential fire hazard.
Who doesn’t love a good sunny spot on a inters day? From the moment the sun rises to about 10 am every morning, you can find all my pets lounging on the bed, soaking up the sun’s rays. Place a few beds around the house in all the sun spots and guaranteed they will be occupied within minutes!
I am no pet nutritionist, but I have noticed hat my cats in particular eat more during the winter months. We even have a running joke about Tinsley’s ‘winter body.’ The fact is that animals burn energy in order to maintain body heat and this energy comes from the food they eat. It may be a good idea to increase the amount of food you feed your pets in winter, but it would be best to discuss this with your vet first. You don’t want the winter body to become a summer body.