An MTAS volunteer holds Patty, a black cat who jumped in a car to get out of the cold. Patty, who is between 9 months and a year old, is at MTAS on a seven-day hold, after which she will be available for adoption. COURTESY LIZ MORGAN


With the weather well below freezing, bundling up is in order. Food that “sticks to the ribs” feels right. That’s true for animals too. Liz Morgan, acting director at the Montclair Township Animal Shelter, told us, “If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for pets.”

Anti-tethering laws passed last year mean that dogs cannot be tethered outside for more than 30 minutes. Animals should only be out when the temperature is above freezing, and there are no high winds, rain, or snow. If you see an animal you think is in danger or that has been outside too long, call the police who will call animal control.

Here are some tips she shared with us about keeping pets and friendly wild creatures safe as the temperature dips. To adopt an animal or pick up a winterized feral cathouse, visit the animal shelter at 77 North Willow St.


1. Small dogs with short coats, like boxers, need to have coats on when they go out, and time limits set. “A quick potty and back in, no more than 10 minutes.”

2. Larger coat dogs, such as huskies, have more tolerance.

3. All dogs need to be protected from rock salt and other chemicals. At some point during the walk, the paws will get wet or have rock salt on them. Carry a hand towel to wipe paws off. When you’re back inside, rinse the paws with warm water, and wash with soap quickly. The dogs will be licking their paws, and you don’t want them to ingest chemicals.


An insulated cathouse helps feral cats brave the cold temperatures. COURTESY LIZ MORGAN

1. Indoor/outdoor cats should be kept completely inside. They are vulnerable to getting stuck out there. “If someone were walking a dog down the block and the cat got scared and ran up in a tree, the cat’s in trouble. The temperatures are low. These are life and death situations.”

2. Pay attention when you start your car in the morning. Check wheel wells before you start the car; cats go in for heat.

Morgan writes in an email that a woman reported: “A cat came out of nowhere and jumped right into the car with her. This Good Samaritan called the shelter right away. She could not bear to put the adolescent kitty back outside. Patty is safe, sound and warm with us and will be available for adoption if not reclaimed during the 7-day stray hold.”

3. Put out a cathouse for feral cats. The animal shelter is receiving 10 winterized feral cathouses on Sunday that are free for pickup. They are insulated, and provide shelter from the freezing temperatures. The cathouses are made by Cypress Rescue, and Jane Garrison is the donor paying for them.

Wild animals

1) If you put out water, remember that the water bowl will freeze, and change it a couple of times during the day

2) Raccoons and squirrels help themselves to feral cat food so continue to put food out for them. Groundhogs should be hibernating. Even mice are feeling the cold. In an email, Morgan writes: “It’s been amazing to watch the animals this winter. Mother Nature has really given critters survival tools..a week or so before the temperatures plunged residents were calling to report field mice in their homes. Residents reported they had no history of ever having mice. We have many older homes in town and these little guys were finding ways in. They seemed to know they needed to buckle down and seek better accommodations before the winter blast really hit.

3) Put out wet food: the wet food provides extra calories and hydration.

What if they’ve already been out?

Dry off the animal if it is wet. Offer it water and food. If it is not acting normal after 30 minutes, seek medical attention; it could be dehydrated.

Call local police to contact animal control if you are concerned about an animal left in the cold, even if you’re not sure. It could mean the difference between life and death of an animal.