A second week of wet and windy weather, including snow and ice in some parts of the country, is set to hit the UK this weekend prompting the animal welfare charity to issue advice for people to help look after their pets in cold weather.

Among more heavy rain and high winds across most of England and Wales, the Met Office has also warned of potential ‘blizzard conditions’ in Cumbria and Northumberland so the charity’s specialist rescue teams are on standby.

Jason Finch, RSPCA Inspector National Water Rescue Coordinator, said: “With Storm Dennis coming so closely after Storm Ciara, we are facing a high risk of flooding in many areas. This weekend, we will be seeing prolonged rainfall coming in on top of areas that are already saturated so we will have our rescue teams on alert this coming weekend. We will be there to help where we can but we urge people to get prepared and make sure they make plans for their pets and livestock in advance.

“If you live in an area at risk of flooding, make sure you have an escape plan so that you know how to get your animals out of danger. Flood water rises rapidly, so if there is a flood warning don’t hope for the best, act early. If disaster strikes, put your animal flood plan into action. Ensure you can be contacted in an emergency and keep phone numbers of people who can help move your animals.

“Don’t put your own or another life in danger to attempt an animal rescue. In case of flooding, the RSPCA has an experienced team of 80 inspectors - trained to work in water, to rescue both people and animals - to provide assistance to communities affected by flooding.”

Earlier this week (10 February) RSPCA officers were called to help a sheep who found herself stranded on a bank by a raging river engorged by floodwater in Storm Ciara. RSPCA inspector Fred Armstrong and chief inspector Leanne Hardy were called to Gwersyllt in Wrexham, after receiving a call from a member of the public who was concerned about a sheep who was hunkered down on a bank surrounded by raging river water. They worked as a team to capture the frightened sheep and take her back across the river to the mainland where they carried her to a local’s stable to dry off.

The RSPCA is advising animal owners to take steps to keep their animals safe as Storm Dennis moves in this weekend.


● Dog owners should plan walks so that the extreme weather can be avoided. Two or three shorter walks may be a better option to avoid being out in the wet weather for a long period of time.

● If you have an elderly or sickly dog, you can buy a special coat or jumper to keep them warm in wet, windy and cold weather.

● When walking your dog in the dark or if there’s a risk of being caught in a heavy downpour, wear reflective clothing and think about a reflective collar or light for their collar to keep you both safe.

● Consider teaching your dogs some new tricks or playing with their favourite toy to keep them occupied indoors if they are becoming restless.


● Cats should have constant access to the house, and outdoor cats to a warm, inside area such as an outbuilding or barn with appropriate heating.

● It might be necessary to keep cats inside if the winds become very extreme. Try to provide a quiet, safe and warm space for them to access freely.

● You should also ensure the cat’s bedding or sleeping area is warm, dry and away from any draughts.

● Be aware that antifreeze and rock salt can be poisonous to pets.

Small furries and poultry

● Provide outdoor pets such as rabbits with lots of extra bedding to snuggle, and make sure this is kept fresh and clean to maximise warmth and avoid soggy conditions

● Check water bottles rabbits’ and guinea pigs’ and water containers for chickens and ducks haven’t frozen and provide plenty of food

● Ensure chickens and ducks always have access to safe, dry and warm shelter

● For rabbits and guinea pigs housed in a hutch, a sloped roof is preferable to allow water to drain away. Homes should be raised off the ground by at least four inches and placed in a sheltered position, facing away from wind and rain. (Covers can be purchased to help insulate hutches in the winter months, but care must be taken to ensure there is adequate ventilation.)

● Make sure you have suitable carriers for small animals in case you have to move them to safety due to flooding or heavy snow

● If your rabbit or guinea pig gets wet, rub them dry with a towel and make sure they have plenty of warm bedding.

● If the temperature starts to reach freezing, you may wish to consider moving your rabbit home inside or into an outhouse, shed or unused garage. We recommend that guinea pigs are housed indoors when temperatures are below 15OC. If you do bring your rabbits or guinea pigs indoors, they still need plenty of time and room to exercise in a safe and secure environment. If you have to leave them outside, you must provide them with lots of extra bedding, such as dust-free hay, and make sure their home is protected from adverse weather.


● Check ponds are not freezing over

● Leave food and fresh water out for birds. You can buy suet and seed feeders to hang from branches and fences, or scatter grains, like oats and sunflower seeds in the garden.

● Keep bird baths free of ice, leave out bowls of clean water, and keep any feeders and water bowls clean.

● Keep an eye out for stranded or injured wildlife and call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 if you find a sick or injured wild animal.

Horses and livestock

● If needed, rug horses and ponies appropriately for their age and breed to protect from the cold and wet weather

● Ensure they have adequate shelter to escape adverse weather

● If needed, provide extra feed and good quality forage such as hay, as grass is often sparse.

● Check water troughs and buckets are clear of ice; these may need ice breaking several times a day.

● Carry out extra checks on horses’ hooves and legs in muddy conditions, for problems such as loose shoes and mud fever.

● Always provide access to a dry resting area, out of the mud.

● Always wear reflective clothing when riding on the roads, especially if the light is low, and always take care on wet or icy surfaces.

● Make arrangements with a reliable and experienced person to take care of your horse or livestock in case of an emergency, and consider leaving your details on field gates in case of flooding or other emergency.

The RSPCA is part of Defra’s National Flood Response Team and has about 100 officers trained and equipped to deal with flood-stricken animals and a fleet of 35 inflatable boats.

Never put your own life in danger to attempt an animal rescue - you can stay informed by calling floodline on 0845 988 1188. Remember - if you see an animal outside in the cold that looks like it is suffering, take a note of the location, the time and date and call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.

To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please visit our website or call our donation line on 0300 123 8181.