|Not Annie, but they got her colour right!|
Having already addressed the basics of Winterizing for Animals, I found myself having to test an alternative source of heat for pets. My mother was going away from her house for some time, and had someone to stop in and care for her cat, Annie, but she had to turn the heat down in her house while she was gone to meet her budget. Adding a timer to her furnace would be too expensive, so she asked me about what sort of warming device she could provide for Annie, instead.
We immediately agreed that keeping a space heater or electric blanket on -- even with a timer -- would be unsafe, both for risk of fire and risk of burns if Annie spent too much time close to it. There are a number of products that I have used in the course of working in veterinary hospitals, but they each had disadvantages in this case. Microwave and other short-term heating pads require repeated warming and monitoring, and -- while animals confined in cages have a hard time avoiding heated or body heat-reflective beds -- pets with more room can be finicky about what they consider an acceptable bed. Annie, an independent older cat who is used to roaming the house, would not settle for just anything, and disturbing her favourite cardboard boxes might just chase her away from them.
PetSafe Universal Pet Bed Warmer was recommended by a friend, looked safe based on online research, and was the most affordable. Bringing it back to my mother's house, we found that it provided a constant, low-level heat that could be hard to detect without holding our hands against it for several seconds. We also inspected it and found it to be water-resistant, sufficiently sturdy and well-made for an older cat not prone to chewing cords. This reassured us about safety, but we still wondered if Annie would find the pad too hot, too cold, or just distasteful.
We decided to place the heater on a spot on my mother's bed that Annie preferred, rather than in one of the cat's boxes or pillows where it might seem too much of a change. My mother plugged the pad in and placed it under a blanket, where it would emit heat when Annie sat on it, but would not be too crinkly or hot.
One more important step: my mother, who has taken to animal communication after learning about it from me, had a nice talk with Annie. She explained that she was going away, and their friend would visit Annie once or twice every day, but that it might be colder in the house. She conveyed to Annie that her spot on the bed would be extra warm, and she gently placed Annie on the bed where the warmer was to let her smell and feel it. Annie only gave a brief exploratory sniff before hopping down (she doesn't love being picked up,) but not long afterward my mother reported that Annie had returned to the room, gone straight to the warm spot and chose it over any other on the bed or in the house. When my mother returned from her trip, Annie still enjoyed the pet warmer and now uses it frequently.
PetSafe Universal Pet Bed Warmer appealed to us based on construction, size, level of warmth (not too high) and cost (it was the lowest priced model we found at the time.) Whereas it might not be warm or tough enough for other animals, like large dogs or reptiles, and would be unlikely to be sufficient for outdoor situations, it worked well as a small, safe indoor warmer for a finicky cat. There are a number of other brands and types of pet bed warmers, pet beds and houses on the market, but for our situation, this model worked excellently. Although I would always caution you to do your own research, observe your animals for several days with a product before leaving them alone with it for prolonged periods and make sure someone comes in each day to check on your pet and home, my mother, Annie and I would all recommend this pet bed warmer for those wanting to give their kitty or small dog a little extra warmth. I even plan to buy one for my elderly cat, Maurice. Even though New York City apartments can get overheated, when they get cold, a skinny old kitty could use a warm place to nap that's not too close to the radiator!