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How to look after domestic and wild animals during freezing temperatures

The RSPCA is urging people to make sure their own animals are kept warm and safe and to look after wildlife during this cold spell. Every year, between 1-2,000 wild animals are brought into RSPCA wildlife centres suffering from dehydration, hunger and cold. But a few small changes can make a big difference to animals. A bit of extra food left out for a hungry bird may be all it needs to last through extra cold weather.

Suggestions for what you can do include:

  • Look out for birds by leaving out extra food such as seeds, grains, net-free fat or suet balls, apples and pears.
  • Only put out peanuts which are unsalted, fresh and sold for human consumption or by a reputable feed shop, and should be chopped up or put in good quality mesh feeders.
  • Bird baths should be kept free of ice, bowls of clean water should be left out and feeders and water bowls should be kept clean to prevent disease spreading.
  • Garden ponds need to be checked every day to make sure the surface is not completely frozen as poisonous gases can build up under the ice. If it is, pour hot water on to the surface to melt a hole.
  • Birds should have easy access to food somewhere safe for them to feed.
  • Rabbit owners should consider moving hutches when temperatures start to reach freezing somewhere out of the wind and wet.
  • Guinea pigs should be housed indoors when temperatures are below 15C. If they have they have to be left outside they must have lots of extra bedding and protected homes.
  • Cats need to have constant access to warm inside areas – don’t lock them out.
  • Dogs need to be kept away from frozen ponds, lakes or rivers and owners should make sure their paws do not get impacted with snow.
  • Birds kept in aviaries, coops or runs should be protected against the wind, wet and snow.
  • Livestock and horses need adequate shelter and extra feed while water troughs and buckets should be kept clear of ice.