Temperatures are already below freezing but on Thursday it is possible that heavy snowfall will cover the Island, as previously reported by Island Echo. This poses a risk to animals great and small and therefore Islanders are being urged to take action now.
Operational Superintendent Matt Sacks has said:
“The RSPCA is releasing advice to ensure animals and wildlife stay safe during the cold spell. As parts of the country are waking up to a layer of snow, it’s important to remember to keep animals safe and warm contact the RSPCA in case of emergencies.”
Cold weather: Pets
As the temperature begins to drop, the RSPCA advises keeping a closer eye on outdoor pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs. You may wish to consider moving your rabbit hutch inside or into an outhouse, shed or unused garage. If you have to leave them outside, you must provide them with lots of extra bedding, such as dust-free hay, and make sure their home is protected from adverse weather.
Cats should have constant access to the house or to a warm, inside area such as an outbuilding or barn with appropriate heating. You should also ensure the cat’s bedding or sleeping area is warm, dry and away from any draughts. Be aware that antifreeze and rock salt can be poisonous to pets.
If you have an elderly or sickly dog, you can buy a special coat or jumper to keep them warm when you’re out on walks. Make sure your dog can still behave normally, for example, go to the toilet easily and that it is a good and comfortable fit. Keep your pet dog away from frozen ponds, lakes or rivers which can pose a danger, and make sure their paws don’t get impacted with snow.
If you keep pet birds in aviaries, coops, or runs, then you should also protect them from the cold weather. Provide plenty of additional dry, warm bedding such as straw and cover enclosures to keep the wind and rain out. Birds will eat more to keep warm in cold conditions so ensure the birds always have access to plenty of food and fresh water, ensuring water does not freeze over.
If you have a fish pond check it every day to make sure the surface is not entirely frozen as poisonous gases can build up under the ice. Don’t break the ice as this can harm the fish, but carefully place a saucepan of hot water on the surface to gently melt a hole in the ice. Never tip boiling water straight onto the pond either, as this can also harm or kill any fish living there. And never try to use antifreeze or salt to thaw frozen ponds or birdbaths.
Cold weather: Horses & livestock
Horses and livestock require extra time and care in the colder, winter months. Ensure they have adequate shelter to escape adverse weather and be prepared to provide extra feed and good quality long fibre, as grass is often sparse. It is also important to check water troughs and buckets are clear of ice.
Owners should use waterproof rugs to give their horses added protection from the cold and wet weather.
Make arrangements with a reliable and experienced person to take care of your horse or livestock in case of an emergency, such as being cut off by bad weather.
Cold weather: Wildlife
Birds can struggle to find food during the winter months so, to help them stay strong over this period, householders can leave out extra food for them. You can feed them suitable seeds and grains, like oats and sunflower seeds; cooked pasta or rice; boiled potatoes, cheese, or uncooked unsalted bacon rind; raisins and sultanas; net-free fat or suet balls; apples, pears and soft fruits; insects such as mealworms or waxworms. Only feed peanuts if unsalted, fresh and sold for human consumption or by a reputable feed shop, and make sure to either chop them up or put them out in good quality mesh feeders.
Keep bird baths free of ice, leave out bowls of clean water, and keep any feeders and water bowls clean.
Make sure you check carefully any wood or leaf piles for wild animals such as hedgehogs, frogs and mice, before lighting any fires or bonfires. If you find wild animals in hibernation, be sure to leave them be.
Remember – if you see an animal outside in the cold that looks like it is suffering, take a note of the location, the time and date and call the RSPCA on the emergency line 0300 1234 999.