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Seasonal Changes in Pets

Martha Stewart Living Television

Instinct prompts animals to address the approaching winter months by gathering food, migrating to warmer climates, or preparing to hibernate; many will also undergo visible changes in their fur, weight, and coloring. Some pet owners grow concerned when their pets exhibit these changes, but becoming informed about the seasonal -- and perfectly natural -- rituals of domestic animals should help assuage any fear of the unfamiliar.

You can expect your dog, cat, ferret, or rabbit to shed its summer coat and grow fur that is thicker and denser; a ferret's winter coat is also considerably lighter in color. Dog owners may notice that, as fall unfolds, the color of the dog's nose will lighten -- a trait breeders refer to as snow nose. You can also expect your pet to gain weight this time of year, as most domestic pets store extra fat during the winter to guard against the cold. Ferrets can gain more than a quarter of their body weight in preparation for winter -- weight they shed upon spring's return.

Birds, too, prepare for the change of season by shedding their feathers via a process called molting, which begins during the summer and ends at the brink of fall. Because molting takes a physical toll on birds, it's important to pay particular attention to their diet, making sure they get all the nutrients they need. You can also nurse your bird through the molting process by misting it daily with water, which keeps the feathers healthier and less prone to damage.