Cats and frostbite

By Krista DeCarle, Royal Pooch Pet Services

During cold winter weather, please be cautious about how long you leave your pets outdoors — especially cats and small dogs. Depending on age, health and breed, cold temperatures affect animals differently. It goes without saying that northern breed dogs such as Siberian Huskies can handle cold weather much better than small breed or short-haired dogs and cats.

Frostbite is damage to the skin and deeper tissue from extreme cold. This happens when an animal is exposed to severe cold for longer periods of time without shelter. Even though cats have a thick fur coat that doesn’t mean they are immune to frostbite. In cats, areas with thinner hair — such as the tips of the ears, nose, tail and toes — are susceptible to frostbite.

Signs of frostbite:

  • Skin appears pale to bluish white in colour and is much cooler to the touch than surrounding area
  • Skin may have a leathery feel
  • Skin may scale
  • If left untreated, the skin may develop blisters and swelling may occur


  • Contact your vet immediately if you suspect frostbite. Your vet will ensure the best care and outcome for the cat.
  • In the meantime, handle the cat with gentle care as this condition will become painful as circulation returns to the frostbitten area.
  • Bring the cat out of the cold and warm him up slowly. Do this by wrapping him in a warm blanket or using your own body heat. You can also warm the area with warm water, NOT hot. Either immerse the area in warm water for about 15 to 30 minutes or wrap the area in a warm, moist towel.
  • Remember not to warm the cat up by rubbing the area as this can cause more pain and damage.

—Krista DeCarle is the owner of Royal Pooch Pet Services and is a pet first aid instructor for Walks ‘N’ Wags Pet First Aid.