Tonawanda News

March 3, 2014

CRITTER COMPANIONS: Keep warm in March madness

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — “As it rains in March so it rains in June,” is a much less popular saying than “in like a lion, out like a lamb.” But will either of these hold true? What about “a dry March and a wet May will fill barns and bays with corn and hay?”

It also seems like there are always May flowers regardless of the March winds and April showers. So in the end, the main thing that all of these sayings teach us is that March can be an unpredictable and teasing month and we must keep our critter companions warm.

Keeping those barns filled with hay and wood shavings is still essential in this wishy-washy month. Extra bedding and hide huts for chickens, ducks, rabbits and large farm animals are important. Although day-time temperatures might be more comfortable than a month ago, our Western New York nights still get cold. Wind blocks, such as tarps, around outdoor enclosures should still stay up.

Keeping your home humidified and towel-drying your dogs after important but frigid walks will hopefully reduce itchy and flaking skin. Pay close attention to their toes when drying them off. Trimming long-haired dogs to reduce the collection of ice balls, salt crystals and de-icing chemicals is a great idea. Wiping off your dog’s legs and stomach in addition to their feet reduces the chance of your canine ingesting road salts, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous winter chemicals.

Although trimming long hairs is a good idea, never shave your dog down to the skin in the winter or in WNY’s March. If you own a short-haired breed, consider keeping those Christmas and warm Halloween sweaters on them until the weather warms up. Dog clothing that has a high collar, such as a turtleneck that has coverage from the base of the tail to the stomach, is ideal. This is one time you will not hear me complain about dressing up your pets!

The ASPCA would like to remind those people who care for cats to keep them inside. “Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed,” according to the organization. “Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.”

The ASPCA also would like those who care for cats outdoors to check under their hood before starting their cars. Often outdoor cats sleep under the hoods and when the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, banging loudly on the car hood before starting the engine could give the cat a chance to escape.

If your pets do spend a lot of time outdoors, consider increasing their food supply to keep them warm. Pets and all living organisms use extra energy to stay warm, so this is one time a little winter weight is OK. Fresh drinking water is always important regardless of the month.

If your pets spend a lot of time inside, consider increasing their physical and mental activities with enrichment. I’ve mentioned at least seven categories of enrichment in the past to help keep your pets occupied when you are snowed in. Thinking about foraging, self maintenance, their senses, how they move, novel food items, feeder and toy puzzles and rearranging their environment.

If you have pictures of your pets in their winter attire or stories of your pets entertaining themselves this winter, ‘Like’ us on Facebook and share them. It will help inspire other critter companion caretakers.

Always make sure your companion animals have a warm place to sleep. A spot off the floor and away from all drafts is important. A cozy dog or cat bed, or fabric hammock for your bird, is perfect. My cats will be on the human bed sleeping on my legs, keeping both of us warm this March.

Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior and is a certified professional bird trainer through the International Avian Trainers Certification Board. Please email your questions to, or search for “Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan” on Facebook.