Autumn days mean plenty of fall fun—but they also mean that winter's frosty breath is just around the corner. While the end of summer’s heat is a welcome relief for many homeless pets, winter weather can spell death to feral cats during extreme weather conditions.
In our region of Texas we are lucky to have temperate winters (we won’t talk about the summers), but even here falling temperatures stress outdoor pets and really take a toll on homeless animals. We have a soft spot in our hearts for feral cats, thanks to our formerly feral Felix. We’d like to share some tips on easy, inexpensive things you can do to help feral cats in the coming cold weather months:
Many pet lovers repurpose old doghouses as cozy hideaways for feral cats during the winter months. Smaller shelters are often best, however, so the cat can take advantage of his own body heat. Plastic storage bins, weighted on top, can provide a winter shelter; line them with Styrofoam for the best insulation. Check Neighborhood Cats for some easy, inexpensive designs for creating feral cat shelters. Specially made commercial shelters, with more than one exit for safety, are available as well.
Regardless of the type of shelter you choose to provide, make it cozy with bedding that will stay dry. Forgo blankets in favor of straw, cedar shavings, or shredded newspaper.
Ensuring that water bowls don’t freeze is a struggle during the winter months. You can also look at specially-made solar bowls like those made by Solar Sippers, designed to use sunlight to prevent water bowls from freezing. Other techniques include a pinch of sugar added to the water to lower the freezing point and placing the water bowl where it will receive morning sun to thaw after a cold night. Never put the water bowl inside the shelter, where it can spill and chill the cats.
Additional energy that cats expend to warm themselves means an added need for food. Providing not just more food but a higher quality food provides them extra nutrition to survive cold temperatures. Canned cat foods can offer this nutritional boost and can also provide extra hydration in case usual water supplies are subject to freezing overnight. By adding extra water to the canned food, you know the cats will drink the water right away instead of waiting until it might be frozen hours later.
No one knows exactly how many feral cats call the streets their home. One thing we do all know, though, is that they can use our help in weathering the coming winter months.