Winter can be a particularly challenging season for managing energy costs when you have pets in your household. We know—we have pets too—and we want to make sure they stay warm, cozy and healthy all winter long!
How do you know when your dog is too cold? Are you sure your cat can’t get near the space heater running in your bedroom at night? What about fireplace odours—do they affect your pets, and if so, how much?
In this timely post, we share some of our favourite tips for how to keep your precious pets warm and safe this winter without spending a fortune on heating bills!
If It’s Too Cold for You, It’s Too Cold for Your Pet
When you look at different pet dog and cat breeds, you see how some breeds (Maine Coon cat, Siberian husky dog) have literally evolved to live and work outside in some pretty severe winter weather. As well, some “outdoor” cats or feral cats may insist on staying outside even when it is freezing.
But most pets, from dogs and cats to small pocket pets and birds, are just as vulnerable to extreme cold as we are.
For this reason, veterinarians and animal experts say this a good general rule of thumb to follow when deciding whether to bring your pets indoors:
If it is too cold for you to stay outside comfortably, it is too cold for your pet as well.
Safety Tips When Using Heat Around Pets
Animal psychologists and researchers say that dogs, cats and most birds (including livestock animals like chickens and barnyard pigs) exhibit commensurate intelligence with a 2-year-old human child.
As anyone who has ever spent time around a 2-year-old knows, their favourite word is “no!” and they are insanely curious about the world around them. When this stubbornness and curiosity extends to winter heating elements, there can be some pretty serious safety implications to consider.
Gas and wood fireplaces, heating elements, space heaters and radiant heaters can throw off gaseous fumes that can pose special risks to pets. Carbon monoxide, smoke and soot, volatile organic compounds and other gases can cause serious injury and are sometimes fatal.
Maintaining adequate home ventilation is key to protecting all family members, not just pets, while using these types of heat sources.
When it gets really chilly, it can feel very tempting to crawl up quite close to a heating element, space heater or fire. Just as you never want to let your hair hang over any kind of open flame or hot element, so too do you want to keep ears, tails, feathers and fur safely away from hot areas inside the home.
Always monitor how close your pets are able to get to heating vents, radiators, space heaters, fireplaces, stoves, and other elements that throw off heat.
Animals do not sweat in the same way people sweat through their skin. For example, dogs and cats only sweat by panting and through their paw pads.
Make sure to monitor your pet’s water drinking habits during the winter months when conditions indoors are warm and dry.
Sadly, every year, curious pets who have access to heating elements and fireplaces inadvertently start home fires.
Protective safety grates and pet gates are a must to keep pets and heating equipment safely separated.
Energy Saving Tips for People with Pets
These tips can help you manage energy costs without compromising your pet’s health and safety.
Use your programmable thermostat to control heating costs
For general purposes, a home temperature in the 20°C (68°F) to 22°C (72°F) is typically considered safe for most pets. But for very small, thin-coated or temperature-sensitive pets, you may need to set your thermostat a bit higher.
Talk to your pet’s veterinarian to determine a healthy and safe temperature range for your pet’s species/breed.
Invest in pet-specific space heating aids
Self-warming pet beds, pet clothing, pet heating pads with auto shut-off features and kennel/crate heating elements can all help keep your pet’s quarters warm without running up your home energy bill. There are also safe heaters that can be installed in bird cages. Alternatively, fleece blankets and cozy enclosures also help.
Close off vents in unused areas of the home
Another potential option is to close off the vents in areas where no one will be occupying those spaces for hours or days and confine your pet(s) to one specific area.
Make sure any pet entry/exit doors are energy sealed
Pet doors are sure handy for when your pet needs a potty break and no one is home, but they can let a lot of cold air in and warm air out. Keep yours well caulked or change it out for one of the newer energy-sealed models.
Draft-proof your pet’s area
Birds and small mammal pets like rodents and ferrets can be especially vulnerable to drafty living quarters. Be sure your pets are protected from drafts to help them stay warmer.
Add ultraviolet or ceramic heating elements to your pet’s space.
For pet reptiles, including snakes, turtles and lizards, U.V. light and heat are common daily needs. But these types of space heating elements can help warm up a space for any pet. Just be sure to house yours in a suitably sturdy and pet-proof hood so there is no danger of burns.
Schedule your annual HVAC inspection and tune-up
Heating equipment is one of the main causes of winter home fires annually. Faulty or degraded electrical connections, malfunctioning components, dust and lint build-up and other dangers can put everyone—pets and people—in your family in danger.
Set your mind at ease and control your HVAC repair costs by scheduling your annual furnace inspection and tune-up.