Winter weather is catching up with us once again! With temperatures dipping into dangerously low ranges, we need to be looking out for our furry friends and family members. Please keep all of your pets in doors as much as possible while the temperatures are this low! Don’t forget to help out our feral cat friends that live outside year round.
Ways to Help Feral Cats
Want to help the homeless and feral kitties in your neighborhood? They deserve a fair shot at surviving the winter. Three things are crucial to feral cats in the winter: availability food, fresh, unfrozen water, and appropriate shelter.
If you choose to provide food or water for feral cats during the winter, there are a few things you should know.
- Use thick, sturdy plastic feeding dishes in the winter rather than metal. Water will freeze faster in a metal dish. Another dangerous problem is that cats could get their tongues stuck on a frozen metal dish. The Neighborhood Cats have a great article about how to keep the water from freezing with ideas such as placing a microwave safe heating pad under the water dish.
- Cats require more food in the winter than in other seasons because of the energy it takes to stay warm. Be as generous as you can with your portions of food. The dishes will likely require frequent filling.
- Check food and water dishes frequently to make sure they stay fresh, filled, and unfrozen.
- If possible, place the food and water dishes in a covered area where they won’t be as exposed to the elements. You don’t want the dishes to fill up with snow if it is snowing!
Building A Shelter for Feral Cats
Giving the feral cats a place to warm up doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive. There are countless options depending on how much money you have, how creative you are, and how handy you happen to be. A simple shelter that would house 1 or 2 feral cats can be made with just an 18 or 36 gallon Rubbermaid (or whatever brand you like) storage container, some thick Styrofoam (like the styrofoam coolers used in the summer), a utility knife, straw (not hay), and 15 minutes of your time.
Here are the basic instructions (detailed instructions for making the shelter can be found on the Humane Society website):
- Line the inside of the storage container with the thick styrofoam. If you are using a styrofoam cooler, it may just fit inside the container without having to cut and paste very much. Make sure that there is a few inches of room between the top of the styrofoam and the top of the storage container.
- Cut two 6″X 6″ doors through the storage container (and matching doors in the styrofoam). These should start about 2-3″ inches off of the ground and probably be on different sides of the container.
- Put a layer of straw over the “floor” of the shelter and fill in any gaps between the styrofoam and the container with straw.
- Create a lid for the styrofoam part of your shelter and place it on the styrofoam part. Finish it off by adding the lid to the storage container.
A Few Last Feral Cat Shelter Tips
- Place food and water near, but not in the shelters. If water was to spill inside the shelter it could make the warm, cozy shelter cold and uncomfortable in no time.
- You can create a safe place for the food and water by placing 2 shelters face to face with a cover going between them.
- Straw is not the only insulator you could use; a pillowcase stuffed with loosely packed packing peanuts or shredded newspaper would work as well. Avoid using blankets, towels, folded newspapers or hay because these things absorb body heat rather than reflect it.
- Keep the shelters small enough to trap the cat’s body heat.
- Routinely check on the shelter and replace straw (or other insulating material) as needed.