Cold Weather Care for Indoor Pets

Even though winter doesn’t officially start for two more months, a few US cities have already seen record snow falls. Now is the time to start preparing your household for cold weather. If you have a dog, you’re probably already aware of winter precautions. Maybe you’ve already busted out the doggie sweaters and booties for those snowy walks. But what about your inside pets? Even if they never go outside, the cold weather can effect your reptiles, birds, and small mammals too. Here are some cold-weather tips for your indoor pets.


Where is the cage placed in your house? Being by a sunny window is nice, unless that window is drafty. Check the temperatures at different times of the day and make sure where ever you place the cage is out of drafts. You can move the cage to a different location for the winter months, or insulate the window with plastic wrap. You may also consider covering the cage at night, especially with birds. This will help keep the drafts out and some heat in.

Dry Air

Winter air is dryer in general, and add to that hot air from heat vents. This combo can cause dry skin and respiratory issues. See if need to add a humidifier to the room, or mist reptiles more often to keep humidity up. Birds can have baths during the winter as long as the room is warm enough to allow them to dry properly. You can also add fatty acids to your mammals’ diets to promote coat health. Just talk to your vet for recommendations.

Temperature Differences

Unless you’ve got a temperature-controlpled animal room, the house probably isn’t holding steady 24 hours a day. Many people lower the temps while they’re at work or overnight. Will your animals need extra heat during those times?

Heat Sources

Check temperatures where animals spend time. Add heat sources if needed, such as an overhead heat lamp or an under-tank heat pad. No heat rocks for reptiles! Make sure there are still areas at different temperatures so that the animal can choose where to be.

Heaters and Fireplaces

Watch birds, rodents and ferrets for chewing on cords. Make sure heaters are secure if pets are out of cages, and turn them off and store them until pets secure. Fireplaces or kerosene heaters may give off fumes and smoke that are dangerous to your pet’s health.

Bedding Options

Mammals and reptiles will benefit from different bedding options during colder months. Thicker bedding will allow hamsters, rats and mice to burrow for warmth. You may also consider switching substrates, such as substituting newspaper for aspen bedding in your snake enclosure.


UV light is incredibly important to reptiles. If you haven’t already, now would be the time to get a UV light for your reptiles to make up for short and cloudy days. Mammals and birds can also benefit from a little dose of UV. Just make sure to check with your vet for any possible dangers.

Vet Visits and Other Outdoor Trips

There may come a time when you have to take your pet outside, either to the vet or to shows or friend’s houses. Place your pet in a crate and cover it with a towel to protect the animal from wind. Warm up your car before transporting the animal, and minimize time outside as much as possible.


Some species of tortoises and snakes can hibernate, but only if done properly. Make sure you know what you are doing! Do not hibernate an animal before talking to your vet. If you don’t do it right, you are basically starving your pet to death.

We sometimes forget that the cold weather can impact our indoor pets too. While cats and dogs are able to move around the house to find a warm spot, pets in cages don’t have that luxury. Responsible pet owners need to make sure they are doing whatever they can to minimize the effects of cold weather on our furry, feathered and scaled friends.

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