Walking to the library last year in 11 degree weather with a windchill that was even colder, my friend looked at me truly distressed and asked, “How are all the animals staying warm? They must be so cold out there without a home!” In this post, we are going to address how to care for feral and stray cats in the winter!
Build a shelter.
Providing feral and stray cats with protection from rain, wind, and snow is the first step to helping these furry friends survive the cold winter months. Here are the supplies you will need:
- storage bin or old doghouse
- straw for bedding
- a discreet location away from foot traffic
- a wooden pallet or other structure to raise your shelter off of the ground
- styrofoam cooler
If you are using a storage bin, it is recommended that you cut out an opening that is no bigger than 6 to 8 inches wide in order to ensure that larger, predatory animals cannot get inside. Place a styrofoam cooler inside the bin and make a 6 to 8 inch whole in this, too. Once you have your entryway cut, go ahead and fill the shelter with straw. It is very important that you use straw (not hay) as it repels moisture and acts as the perfect insulator to reflect body heat. Blankets may seem warm and cozy, but they actually absorb heat and moisture which is counterproductive here. If you have a wooden pallet or other structure that could raise your shelter off of the ground, place it under the storage bin. This is just another way to ensure that your shelter is creating and maintaining as much heat as possible making all of your efforts worth it! Attaching a flap to the door is also an option to keep out rain, wind, and snow.
Set up a feeding station.
A feeding station is a designated area where cats will come for food. It is best to place this near the shelter if you can do so without attracting other animals which could be a red flag to your feral cats that the shelter is no longer a safe place. A good idea is to build a simple structure with a roof and three walls (you could even cut one side off of a storage bin if you would like). Lay some straw down along with a food and water bowl. Dry food is the easiest option since you won’t have to worry about it freezing. To ensure that your water stays in liquid form for as long as possible you can try a few of these tricks:
- make sure your water bowl is deep not wide
- if you are using plastic bowls, double them up – the air between the two bowls acts as insulation
- fill the bowls with warm water
- “Snuggle Safe” disks can be heated in the microwave and placed under the water bowl to keep it from freezing for a longer period of time
No matter which method you choose, be sure to check your water and food bowls in the morning and evening to ensure that your food station is running smoothly and that the cats you are providing for have water, not ice!
Get your friends and family together, and start building!
Building a few shelters for the furry friends in your area who don’t have a home to call their own is not only a great way to help animals, but it is also a great activity to do with your friends and family!
Feel free to post pictures of your shelter below~or comment with any success stories!