Though cats grow a thicker coat in the winter, you can still help them stay warm by building a feral cat shelter where the cats can escape the wind, snow, and rain.
“Providing specially-built shelters guarantee the cats a warm spot to escape the harsh winter weather and deter them from places where they may not be wanted, like your neighbor’s shed,” said Becky Robinson, president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies.
There are endless variations for building or providing cat shelters. Find a variety of options at www.alleycat.org/WinterWeather.
Some tips for an ideal shelter: It should be elevated off the ground and located in a quiet area with minimal foot traffic. The shelter should provide a space just big enough for the cat—if there is only one—or for three to five cats to huddle (if there is a colony of cats), and the door should be no more than six to eight inches wide to keep out wildlife and bigger predators. Install a flap on the door to keep out inclement weather. And lastly, fill the shelter one-quarter to one-half full with straw for insulation and bedding; do not substitute hay or blankets as they absorb moisture.
It is also important to keep the cats’ food and water from freezing. Feeding the cats canned food in insulated containers is most ideal for winter, as it takes less energy for cats to digest than dry food—and cats can use the extra energy to keep warm.
Keep water drinkable by using bowls that are deep rather than wide, and placing them in a sunny spot. Refill the bowls with warm water or add a pinch of sugar in the water—both keep it from freezing as quickly. Alternatives include heated electric bowls found in many pet shops.
“We know that millions of people already care for the cats in their communities each day,” said Robinson. “A little extra help during the winter months can go a long way to help protect stray and feral cats and allow them to co-exist with neighbors in their communities.”
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About Alley Cat Allies: Alley Cat Allies is the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats. Founded in 1990, today Alley Cat Allies has more than half a million supporters and helps tens of thousands of individuals, communities, and organizations save and improve the lives of millions of cats and kittens nationwide. Their website is www.alleycat.org.