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Seasonal advice for winter

A British winter can be tough on animals, but there are plenty of things you can do to help. Sometimes it's the smallest things that can make a big difference.

Ways to help wildlife this winter

RSPCA wildlife expert Nicola Cunningham said:

We can all struggle when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and our wildlife friends are often the most vulnerable to the extremes the elements take. They just need a bit of a helping hand sometimes.

  • Frozen ponds 
    If you have a pondcheck it every day for ice as toxic gases can build up in a frozen pond and may kill fish or frogs hibernating at the bottom. If a pond freezes over, carefully place a saucepan of hot water on the surface to melt a hole. Never tip boiling water onto or break ice with force, as this can harm fish.
  • Feeding birds
    Birds may have difficulty finding normal food in winter. Find out more about feeding garden birds.
  • Badgers
    Badgers don't hibernate, but they do sleep through most of the severe weather, and have a tough time finding their favourite food of earthworms when the ground is frozen. Nibbles such as lightly cooked meats, cheese, peanuts and fruit would be welcomed.   
  • Squirrels
    Squirrels ‘cache’ (store) food when it’s in good supply to eat when food is scarce. To help squirrels survive the coldest times of year offer nuts such as hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds, plus some chopped apple, beans, carrots or spinach.

Keeping pets safe in cold weather

  • Dogs
    You may not feel like going for a walk in winter, but the exercise will keep your pet happy and healthy. You and your dog should wear reflective clothing to ensure your both visible.

    Keep your dogs away from ponds and lakes that are iced over. Thin ice may break under a dog's weight. Also watch out for dogs' paws becoming impacted with snow, which can cause discomfort.
  • Horses and ponies
    If kept outside they'll need have access to shelter, constant fresh water and some may need a rug. Winter care advice for horses.
  • Small outdoor pets
    Keep an eye on outdoor pets. Provide extra bedding and be prepared to move them into a shed or unused garage for shelter. Rabbit winter care advice (pdf 428KB).

    Don't house animals, including birds, in greenhouses
    due to the temperature changes. Caution must be taken if they are housed in conservatories - it must be a suitable temperature.

Seasonal celebrations

  • Fireworks
    Domestic pets, farm animals and wildlife can all suffer as a result of the noise created by fireworks. Find out how you can help animals feel safe around fireworks.
  • Bonfires
    Disturb piles of garden rubbish before having a bonfire to check for animals, like hedgehogs