Outdoor Cat Cold Weather Tips

By Becky Robinson, Alley Cat Allies | Posted: January 2, 2013, 12 p.m. EST

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Cold Weather Tips for Cats
Feral cats live outdoors, surviving harsh weather and finding their own food and shelter, but they can always use a helping hand during the cold winter months. You can help the cats in your community stay even warmer and safer this winter.
Q: I always worry about the outdoor cats I care for when winter weather rolls around. What are some things I can do to help them weather the winter?

A: Providing a specially-built shelter is a great way to keep feral cat colonies safe from the winter elements. Alley Cat Allies offers plans for easy and inexpensive cat shelters, but here are a few tips to get you started:
•    A good size for a shelter is 2'x3' and 18” high. Larger shelters are not necessarily better, since heat disperses quickly, leaving the inside as cold as the outside.
•    The door should be no bigger than six to eight inches wide to keep out predators and other animals. A flap on the door can also be used to protect against snow, rain, and wind.
•    Cats will huddle together inside for warmth, so if you're caring for a larger colony, make sure there's enough space for three to five cats.
•    Insulate the shelter with straw to keep the cats warm and dry. Avoid blankets and other materials, like hay, as they have a tendency to absorb moisture. (Read more about the difference between straw and hay.)
•    Make sure to elevate the shelter off the ground to conserve warmth, and place it in a quiet location away from foot traffic.

In addition to providing shelter, ensure that the cats in your neighborhood stay out of harm's way in the cold weather with these winter precautions:
•    Before starting your car, give the hood a tap and check between the tires. Cats will sometimes crawl into the engine or hide underneath the car for warmth.
•    Remember to shovel out cat shelters when you're shoveling your own driveway. Cats in shelters can get snowed in, so keep entrances clear, and shovel an exit for cats who may be taking refuge under bushes, porches, or other hiding spots.
•    Winter is also the time of year for antifreeze, which often tastes irresistible to cats and other animals, but is toxic and deadly. Keep it out of reach, and clean up any spills!
•    Don't use salt and chemical melting products. These products can be toxic to animals and harmful to their natural snowshoes — their paws!

Millions of people are already caring for the cats in their communities each day, but a little extra help during the winter months can go a long way to protect stray and feral cats! This is just a start – visit Alley Cat Allies site to learn more.
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Reader Comments

Lydia    Lawrenceville, GA

11/18/2014 12:08:46 PM

My heart is BREAKING..those little kittens are so cold..made a shelter out of boards and cardboards..put a heater outside..not enough..can't get my hands on straws nor hay..feel so powerless.. i can just imagen what these little cdritters feel like...GOD PLEASE HELP THEM!

CatChannel Editor    Irvine, CA

1/30/2013 3:30:27 PM

Many factors contribute to bird deaths. Cats account for a fraction. Here is more information on exactly what impact feral cats have on their surroundings: LINK

Jack    Cleveland, OH

1/29/2013 11:47:48 PM

Cats are responsible for half of the bird deaths every year. Keep your cat inside.

blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2013/01/feral-cat- s-kill-billions-of-small-critters-each-year/

Dea    Rochester, NY

1/15/2013 9:35:29 PM

I have over a dozen out cats. My porch has several shelves of plastic buckets and old doors.Cardboard boxes with plastic flaps over openings and straw inside.The door goes down to 1ft above the floor then plastic overlapping flaps to the bottom.2 cinderblocks go across them at night.Cats in and out.Most other critters out.Their choice to come up or not and when.they know there is food all day and up on the shelf after dark till 11pm.Heat from my kitchen leaks out to the porch.Its not always toasty but better than beyond the door.An A frame with flaps for dish of food till dark for those not wanting to come up on the porch.A big enclosed, insulated crate with narrow(cat sized) L bend openings and 4 boxes of straw for those not comfortable with the porch.My guys and girls learn about this stuff quick.All fixed.2 young( about 9 months) learned in 1 wk.Still wander off porch and out of yard but will learn that close to house, the yard and porch are much safer than wandering the area.Mozt are 5 yrs old and older.9 inside. 2 retired from outside.Age and health issues. 1 injured and scared to go out now.3 rescues from outside, one of whom gave me 3 girls. All inside. My furbabies.I care for them and they have given me reasons to carry on during my Mom passing in 2009, my husbands years of bad health and passing 2011 and my Dads sudden passing in 2012.So much in a short time.
I am VERY thankfull for them. Even if they can't realize how much.

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