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Published: Dec 08, 2011

Outdoor cats deal with dangerous situations from avoiding predators and street traffic to making sure they always land on their feet. Another danger cats must avoid during winter weather is frostbite.


VCA Animal Hospitals reports that frostbite or congelatio occurs when cats are exposed to temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. At these temperatures, blood vessels close to the skin surface will constrict or narrow to help preserve core body temperature.  This action pushes blood to the core of the body and away from the cooler parts of the body.  After an extended period of time, areas that aren't receiving enough blood can be damaged.


Clinical signs of frostbite in cats include discoloration of the affected area of skin—often pale gray or blue, pain when the area is touched, or swelling of the area.  In more severe cases, blisters or skin ulcers may appear, or the site may be black or show dead skin. These signs can take several days to appear.


If an owners suspects their cat may have frostbite, the cat should be examined at a veterinarian health clinic immediately.  Cats suffering from frostbite may experience pain and secondary bacterial infections that your vet will need to carefully treat and monitor to avoid major health complications.  The best strategy to avoid frostbite is by keeping cats indoors during cold weather.  Ideally for best health, cats should be kept in year-round to avoid other outdoor dangers as well.

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