MARQUETTE COUNTY — With the cooler temperatures we’ve been experiencing the past few weeks, everyone is preparing for the winter weather. However, it’s important to remember to take care of our furry friends during this time of the year as well.

Animals need shelter and warmth just like humans do in frigid temperatures. One good rule to follow is that if weather forecasters are recommending you stay indoors, keep your pets indoors as well.

At other times when it isn’t quite so bad, Doctor Julie Vezzetti of the Animal Medical Center of Marquette says you should have food, water, and shelter easily accessible for your outdoor pets.

“If you have a pet that might live in a barn or a cat that goes outside at night, make sure you have a garage door that’s open or a barn that has a shelter where they can stay warm,” said Doctor Vezzetti. “A lot of times people put hay or some other kind of bedding so they can tuck down and stay warm if it gets really cold. People also use water warmers, so you can buy water bowls that will stay heated so the water doesn’t freeze when you have it outside. But free access to food and water and some shelter with some possibility of heat suppliers is a great idea for those animals.”

If pets are left outdoors too long in cold weather, they can actually develop frostbite on their ears, paws, and noses. Sometimes pets even freeze to death if they aren’t given shelter from the cold. Doctor Vezzetti recommends checking the pads of your pet’s feet to check for signs of frostbite, such as red, irritated skin.

One other thing to look out for is animals sneaking into your car for warmth after you get out. Checking your car for any furry visitors before starting it will help you to avoid a bad situation for your own pet or for someone else’s.

“Even though it might not be your own animal, a lot of times cats or wildlife will go into your car after you turn it off in the wintertime because they seek the heat,” said Doctor Vezzetti. “So some nice tips that I’ve learned along the way are to knock on your hood or, if you want to be extra sure, to open your hood and make sure there’s nobody in there making themselves nice and warm before you start your engine and cause them some really grave injuries.”

If you own livestock, it is recommended that you check the amount and quality of the feed you’re giving your animals. Some animals will require a higher caloric intake because they burn more calories to keep themselves warm during the winter.