It couldn’t have been more than 10 degrees; the wind was brisk, and the bright sunshine was barely adding any warmth to the snowy/icy terrain around my home. Today was one of the milder mornings during the arctic plunge that continues to grip the Granite State and points beyond.
Then, I heard something — a haunting, piercing sound. An animal was crying, obviously in distress.
I went to the window to see if I could find the source, and there sat an adult cat on my front cement steps trying to escape the cruel, cold January air. The cat was crying out and attempting to stay warm as it remained huddled with its back against my front door.
I wasn’t sure if it was a stray or feral feline. I didn’t know what to do. Should I have invited the cat indoors to warm up?
I don’t own a pet; I’m more familiar with dogs. But I also know that our domestic animals are like humans and as vulnerable to these kinds of unbearable conditions despite their warm, thick coats.
Cats can develop hypothermia and frostbite. So, why would anybody allow their pet cat to roam free outdoors on a day like this?
Then, I noticed the cat was wearing a collar before it quickly bounded from my steps. The poor thing was sprinting in and out of yards — that is how frozen and brisk the air had become. I hope the cat is doing well. It is someone’s pet.
I am not here to pass judgment on anyone’s feline or canine companion. I’m newer to the neighborhood, so maybe the cat lives nearby and the owner was aware of its comings and goings. A lot of cats really enjoy the outdoors in all kinds of weather and probably manage well. I’ve had friends install a cat door in their home to enable their felines to come and go as they please. But why risk the health and welfare of our pets in plummeting temperatures?
I don’t have to remind my readers about the incredible effort, compassion and mission of The Humane Society for Greater Nashua. Douglas Barry is the president and CEO of our local chapter. He is accessible, easy to speak with and a true believer in the nonprofit’s ethics of celebrating animals and confronting cruelty.
Barry is the first to say that cats in New Hampshire are no doubt “hardy and more apt to deal with outdoor temperatures,” than cats found in other parts of the country, but the Humane Society, he says, believes that our “cats should be kept inside when the weather reaches a certain degree.” And a reading of 10 above means keeping a domestic cat indoors.
Barry and his wife have often “provided several feral cats with outdoor shelters made of boxes and straw, and they did fine.”
Feral cats are unique in that they have learned to survive outdoors with little to no human interaction and are usually difficult to tame. Ferals often live in colonies but need help during cold winters with food and water and a place to hunker down.
The kind of icy, snow-packed terrain and single-digit temperatures the area has been experiencing can have an impact on an animal’s paws, Barry told me. After prolonged contact with these conditions, a cat’s paws can freeze to the ground. It also happened recently to a Canada goose stuck to the ice on the frozen Nashua River by Margaritas Mexican Restaurant.
The Humane Society of Greater Nashua welcomes donations as they “provide hope, health and homes to over 3,000 animals every year.”
Ms. Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column is published weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.