7 Tips to Help Your Cat Beat the Winter Doldrums


Right now, my part of the country is in a deep freeze. Temps have gone below minus-40 at night, and we’re all going a little nuts here. It’s tough to want to go outside in such weather, and I’ve always loved, and needed, the outside for mental happiness. (Note to self: Maybe it’s time to move.) When temps get this cold, it can be unsafe to drive anywhere. So you end up not doing much, and maybe even getting a little cabin fever. How can you not get the winter doldrums or seasonal depression?

And if we’re facing these health and care concerns, maybe our cats are, too. Here are some tips for helping your cat through those winter down days:

1. Provide heat

Cats love heat! I know I’m really grateful for a heated home right now, and I think my cats enjoy it, too. In my house, the cats have a permanent, rotating spot in front of the wood stove, and the wood stove has been working pretty hard lately. We also have baseboard heaters and the cats will sit near those, but the wood stove is the first and best choice.

2. Provide windows

If your cats don’t go out (mine don’t, and I sure wouldn’t let them out in this terrible weather), provide them access to the outside world. Can they look out windows in your living space? Is there a sill or a way for them to easily look out? And what’s the view — is it interesting for a cat? In my case, our windows don’t have sills, but the bottom of the windows are close enough to the floor that a cat can easily look out the window. And there’s a bird feeder outside one window that can keep the cats captivated for hours. We cannot feed birds in the summer (because it attracts bears), but in the wintertime, the birds really come out. The cats love it.

3. Provide sun

My cats will bask in sun, winter or summer. And it does seem to me that they’re all a little more down on the cloudy days. So I make sure there are spots where they can amply sprawl in the sun that comes through the windows and any doors. They’ll nap this way for hours.

4. Move your body

One of the best mood elevators is movement (exercise or whatever gets you going), so if it works for us, it may work for our cats, too. Get out the cat toys and start throwing them around, waving them, running with them — whatever gets your cat going. You’ll see and feel the mood of your cats (and you) visibly rise. It’s fun!

5. Dance!

If you’re really nuts, like some of us, you can dance with your cat. Turn on your favorite music (another huge doldrum lifter), and if your cat will tolerate it, hold him gently, dance, and sing softly into his ear. This takes a special kind of cat. If your cat can’t handle it, dance on your own or with a partner — the good vibes will rub off on your cat. I promise!

6. Get out the seed catalogs

Okay, so cats don’t care about seeds and gardens, but this is a great human mood lifter. Look at those pretty pictures and drawings in the catalog and fantasize about the amazing gardens you’ll create in the spring. Visualize lots of fresh homegrown catnip for your loved ones. (We’ve grown it here. It’s a perennial and it took awhile to catch on, but now we have lots of it, every year.)

7. Indulge in some junk food — in moderation

This is a last ditch effort! Winter got you down? Let yourself have a nice piece of good chocolate, or mac and cheese, or whatever makes you feel better. And give your cat a special treat, too — maybe some tasty canned food that doesn’t usually make its way into your house, or a goodie. It will make you happy just to watch them enjoy it.

How do you get your cat through those winter doldrums? Share your thoughts in comments!

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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of a short story collection about people and place. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.

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