Cats rarely experience frostbite (cold injury caused by freezing of the tissue) when left outside in cold weather if they have been properly acclimatized, are adequately fed, and have access to shelter that prevents the fur from becoming wet and protects them from wind.
Short periods, however, can be dangerous for cats that have recently moved from a warm climate to a cold one.
Circulation in the ears, tail, and feet is slowed or stopped and ice crystals form in the tissues, causing major damage.
The affected area may first turn very pale, then, after thawing, become red and scaly.
Frostbite causes severe pain; therefore, handle an infected cat with extreme care.
First move the cat to a warm place. Submerge the affected area in warm water (102 to 104 degrees) if possible, otherwise use moist warm packs to bring the temperature of the affected area back to normal.
Successful treatment is indicated if there is a rapid return of sensation, pink color, and warmth to the skin.
Never rub the frozen area. This may cause damage or loss of tissue.
Apply an antiseptic such as eye ointment to the affected areas.
Wrap your pet (and a warm hot water bottle, if available) in a blanket, warm jacket, or other insulator to retain any remaining body warmth, and rush to the veterinary clinic for treatment.
It may take five to ten days before new tissue can be seen replacing the dead frozen tissue.