published Monday, October 10th, 2011

Chattapets: Protecting cold-blooded pets in cold-weather months


In observance of National Feral Cat Day on Sunday, Chattanooga city residents can take feral cats to McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center, 4500 N. Access Road, for spaying or neutering for $10. No appointment is necessary. Dropoff time is between 7 and 8 a.m.; pickup is between 5 and 6 p.m. Cats must be brought in a humane trap. They will be eartipped to easily identify them as sterilized once they are returned to their colony. For more information, email

Pet reptiles and amphibians don't face the same challenges during the winter as their wild cousins, but veterinarians say keeping them warm is a year-round concern.

Ectothermic, or "cold blooded," pets such as snakes, frogs and lizards can't regulate their body temperature and must move within their environment to achieve optimal levels, said Dr. Anthony Ashley, a veterinarian at Animal Clinic East on Gunbarrel Road.

At home, providing the right tools to get warm falls on owners' shoulders. Failing to offer these animals the proper heat source can impact their health, Ashley said.

"If an owner lets their ectothermic pet get too cold, the pet's immune system doesn't work properly," Ashley wrote in an emailed response. "This will predispose them to infections."

The proper temperature depends on the species. Iguanas' habitats need to be 85-100 degrees, for example, while species native to the Southern Appalachians, such as corn snakes, can be kept in a room-temperature cage with a heat light to bask in.

Although some cold-blooded pets can be safely kept outdoors during the summer, when winter arrives, they should be moved indoors. Even inside, regulating temperature is a priority, however, and cages shouldn't be positioned too closely to sources of intense cold (windows) or heat (air vents), Ashley said.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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