January 2010 Issue

The Real Danger of Hypothermia

Cats left outdoors during freezing temperatures are at risk — especially kittens, elderly cats and those that are injured.

Cats whose breed developed in frigid areas of the world are likely to tolerate cold weather better than cats whose origins can be traced to more temperate regions. But even the fattest, furriest Maine coon will have only a slight edge over a trim, thin-coated Siamese when it comes to prolonged exposure to the biting winds, ice, snow and sleet that come with winter. Indeed, any cat that is left outside for extended periods of time when the temperature is below freezing — not to mention any poor creature that happens to tumble into an ice-cold pond — will be at risk for a potentially deadly drop in body temperature. The chances that this condition — called hypothermia — will prove fatal depends largely upon the animal’s age, overall physical condition and ability to regulate its body temperature, says Dr. Gretchen Schoeffler, chief of emergency and critical care services at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals.

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