The cold weather months are upon us and it is a great time to start thinking about the best way to care for community cats throughout the winter. Community cats are those who are feral, stray, and/or free-roaming without an indoor home.
When the cold winter months start approaching, caretakers from all over bundle up to brave the cold in order to care for these cats. The following tips will provide useful information to those who care for or come across community cats in need of a caretaker.
And don’t forget, community cats who have not been spayed or neutered can still be safely trapped throughout the winter months. This will aid in the prevention of homeless kittens being born come spring!
- Feed the cats on a regular schedule. The cats will know when to come around, and both the food and the cats will spend less time exposed to the weather.
- If you can keep it from freezing, feed wet food—it’s easier to digest, so cats save more energy for keeping warm. Consider warming canned food prior to feeding.
- On average, you can expect an adult cat to eat roughly 5.5 ounces of wet (canned) cat food and 2 ounces of dry food daily in temperate weather (add a half cup to that amount if only feeding dry food). In colder weather, make sure to feed larger portions than you usually do for an extra caloric boost.
- Since wet food is also quicker to freeze, make sure you put out dry food too, or if you think the food is very likely to freeze, you may want to feed only dry food.
- Change a water bowl twice daily to keep water from freezing. Use deep bowls rather than wide ones. Avoid filling bowls with hot or warm water, as the water will evaporate more quickly from the steam.
- Keep the water in the sun and use dark colored bowls that will absorb the sun’s heat.
- Use double-layered bowls—they have an insulated air layer between the surface the water touches and the surface against the ground.
- Shield the water dish from wind by placing it inside a small Styrofoam cooler or surround the top and sides of the feeding area with plexiglass to create a greenhouse environment for the water.
- Add a pinch of sugar to the water to keep it from freezing as quickly and to provide an energy boost for the cats.
Rubbermaid has a website with instructions & discounts for a quick and easy shelter: http://www.erubbermaid.com/roughneck-homes
(Note: Make sure to use straw, NOT hay when building a shelter as hay will absorb water and freeze. See below for further info on insulation.)
Another great list of options can be found at: http://www.alleycat.org/ShelterGallery
- Loose and dry insulating material works best for burrowing and will be the warmest!
- Straw is best, while shredded newspaper will also work.
- Avoid using blankets, towels or folded newspaper. The reason is because cats can only lie on top of these materials so they actually draw out body heat and defeat the purpose.
- Avoid hay, because it’s moist, can become moldy and some cats are reportedly allergic to hay and can develop nasal sores.
- Keep in mind, if you use insulating materials, you must be able to change them regularly in order to ensure they stay dry.
Winter Safety Tips
In addition to providing food, water, and shelter for cats in your neighborhood, observe these winter precautions to keep cats safe:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- Stay away from salt and chemical melting products. These products can be toxic to animals and harmful to their natural snowshoes—paws!
For information on our TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) program, please visit this link.
You can also e-mail Andrea Giorgio, Shelter Programs Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 440-338-4819 ext. 14 for more information.
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