ICY weather blasting the UK has prompted charity the RSPCA to issue advice for animal lovers.
With temperatures plummeting, the animal charity is offering advice on how best to protect pets and wildlife from the cold.
From wiping off a horse after exercise to reduce the risk of chills and providing a tray of grass for indoor rabbits to some simple things which wildlife lovers can do, the charity says small steps could make a big difference.
Every year, up to 2,000 wild animals are taken into RSPCA wildlife centres in December, January and February, suffering from dehydration, hunger and cold.
Lisa Richards, RSPCA companion animal scientist, said: “Taking action early really can make the difference to animals. We are mostly a nation of animal lovers, and many people will happily go that extra mile.”
Horses and ponies need extra care and attention during snowy weather.
Owners are advised to visit their horse as early as possible each day. This way, if there are any problems, assistance can be sought during daylight hours.
If rabbits or guinea pigs are usually housed outdoors, it is best to bring them indoors or into an unused garage or shed if it is snowing, but they will still need free access to a secure exercise area.
Their home should be placed in a sheltered position, facing away from the prevailing wind, snow and rain.
In the case of cats, the RSPCA suggests providing enough litter trays, filled with the cat’s preferred litter, indoors at all times of year. During the icy blast, the ground outside may freeze and cats who usually toilet outdoors may be put off from doing so, so it is very important they have suitable toilet facilities indoors.
Dog owners should dress them and their dogs in reflective coats when out on night-time walks, to help stay safe and seen.
RSPCA wildlife expert Nicola White said: “Sometimes it is the small things that can make all the difference.
“A little bit of extra food left out for a hungry robin or badger may be the help it needs to last through a spate of frosty weather, and just melting a small hole in your garden pond can make all the difference.
“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.”