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My Pet World Q&A

Some pets need to be kept indoors or

Some pets need to be kept indoors or dressed appropriately when temperatures dip in winter.   Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/cmannphoto

It's winter, and depending on where you live, you could be facing severe temperatures and wind chill advisories until the end of March. If you live in a place with cold winter weather, and there are dire warnings for you to stay inside or not breathe the cold air, please know those same warnings apply to all your pets, too.

Most pet parents know that when it's below freezing you should bring your pets inside. Putting extra blankets in the doghouse won't help. Animals can literally freeze and die if left outdoors in severe weather. 

But what do you do when your pets need to go back outside to relieve themselves? A cat has a litter box, but dogs usually need to go outside a few times a day. If you can't breathe the air or go outside for more than five minutes or risk frostbite from just a few minutes of exposure, then your dog can't take the same risk either. That means the only solution is to put some puppy training pads in one location of the house, preferably in a bathroom or garage, where they can go to relieve themselves until the weather improves. Training pads are a modern marvel and operate much like today's diaper with built-in odor control and an absorbent core. Buy pads that are size appropriate for your dog.

If your dog has never "gone" in the house, he or she may not know what to do at first. But the training pad is scented and meant to attract your dog to it. If they mess up during this time, don't get upset. Just clean it up and know you are keeping your dog safe from the cold.

If you live where temperatures will only be in the 20s, then your dog can probably go outside for a few minutes. Just make sure they don't stay out long and wear a coat that provides the extra protection they need, depending on their real fur coat. A Chihuahua, dachshund and beagle will need a jacket whereas an Alaska Malamute may not. Whenever you bring your dog in from the cold, towel dry them and remove all ice and deicing agents from their toes and paws.

If your dog (or chickens) stay in the garage, make sure it's climate-controlled; blankets and dog beds won't provide enough warmth. Put antifreeze and other chemicals out of their reach of all pets.

As for cats, if they are feral or stray, they may crawl into your car engine to keep warm. So, whether your car is in a garage or outside, be sure to bang on your car hood a few times before starting the engine. If you don't scare them out, starting the engine and driving away could kill them.

My feline was rescued from the streets when she was four weeks old. I fostered and adopted her. Since that time, she has become very attached to me. She is very affectionate, but only to me. I feel bad that she hisses and hits my friends when they come to visit. She will allow them to stroke her for a minute, but only after they give her a dish of treats. After that, she returns to her usual ungrateful and nasty self. Can you tell me why she acts this way, and is there anything I can do to make her more sociable? My cat is now 6 years old.

Grace, Valley Stream,

It's not about making her more social but understanding that she doesn't really want your friends to pet her. Dogs often walk away when they have had enough of humans; cats expect humans to be the one to walk away, and when we don't, they smack us.

Cats often react because of sensory overload, which means you need to train your friends to know her boundaries. Don't let them offer her treats to coax her over to them. Tell them they can only pet her if she comes to them on her own, and they can only stroke her three times or for 10 seconds, depending on whatever is well below her tolerance level for touch. Afterward, they can offer her a treat, and then they should leave her alone. If your friends respect her boundaries, she will eventually become more social around them.

You also can increase her sense of well-being by placing plug-in feline pheromones around the house.

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