We have had our first extreme cold warning of the season and more will certainly be on the way, and that's why the Portage Animal Welfare Society wants to get the word out about animal safety. Judy Hughes and Elaine Verwey both serve as Cat Coordinators for PAWS and want to make sure you keep your cats from roaming free as it gets colder.

"We do promote cats being inside cats only, and that solves all the problems you can possibly have," says Hughes. "Some people do have, in the country, cats that do go out, and so, they need to have a shelter. They need to have a safe warm place to go with water in a heated dish, or something like that. Cats can have their ears and tails frozen very, very quickly. If you're cold, they're colder."

Verwey says outdoor shelters should contain straw, not blankets or hay, which will retain moisture and freeze. She adds there are great plans online for homemade shelters which can help.

There is always a discussion surrounding leaving dogs in vehicles, and Hughes says the same is correct for a cat. Many people will be travelling this holiday season, and Hughes says you want to make sure you have your cat in a carrier.

"Numerous times you've seen on Facebook, 'We just stopped to get gas, opened the door and the cat got out,'" says Hughes. "So, a carrier, for sure. The cat should never be riding freely in the car."

Hopefully, you are in the routine of plugging in your vehicle to ensure it starts in the morning. Verwey wants you to add another ritual to your routine to help cut down on the burn injuries a cat can face.

Judy Hughes, Elaine VerweyJudy Hughes, Elaine Verwey

"There are lots of hazards all-year round, but the added injuries that cold weather can produce, including from car troubles and warm engines," says Verwey. "You need to bang on your hood and honk your horn to make sure any outdoor cats or feral cats aren't within your engine warming up."

For all new cat adopters, PAWS provides some information called "The Fast Five Facts of Pet Ownership" which comes from the City of Portage website. The five facts are:
1. Licencing your pet
2. Keeping vaccinations updated
3. Keeping your pets from roaming off your property
4. Not exceeding the maximum amount of pets allowed (in Portage, it is four)
5. Spay/neuter your pet

In regards to their low-cost spay and neuter program, Hughes says they have had about 35 cats through so far, noting it's slow-going, but it's ongoing, and they don't plan to stop it any time soon. PAWS hopes to be in their new shelter before the end of the year.

You can read more on PAWS here.