Imagine, the life of a feral cat. They live outside, in colonies. They are skittish if not totally afraid of humans. They deal with the bitter winter cold, and harsh summer heat. They must fend for themselves and their colony, for food, water and shelter.
But, we humans can help, and by doing a few simple things, help them make it through the winter.
Let’s start with four simple things we humans can do to help the ferals and even our neighbor’s free roaming cats.
- Before starting the car, tap the hood and check between the tires. Cat will look for a warm place will curl up in the engine or hide underneath the car.
- Clean up any antifreeze spills. Antifreeze is sweet and irresistible to cats and other animals, but it’s really toxic and deadly. Click here to read about common symptoms of antifreeze poisoning in cats. Better yet, consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. Visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for more information.
- Shovel out cat shelters when you’re clearing your driveway. Cats 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.
- Refrain from using salt and chemical melting products. These products can be toxic to animals and harmful to their paws.
Provide plenty of food and water
- Provide extra food and water during the winter. When temperatures drop, the colony will need extra calories to maintain energy levels. Consider mixing kitten food with the adult cat dry food for extra calories. Or if you can keep the wet food from freezing, use wet food which is easier to digest, allowing the cats to save more energy to keep warm.
- Feed the cats on a regular schedule. That way, the cats will know when to come around, and both food and cats will spend less time exposed to the weather. If the cats eat all the food in 15 minutes or less, put out a little more.
- Spray insulation foam into the underside of plastic feeding dishes to help keep wet food from freezing. Double-layered bowls have an insulated air layer between the surface the water touches and the surface against the ground and help prevent the food and water from freezing.
- Change water bowls twice daily to keep water from freezing. Use deep bowls rather than
wide ones, and refill them with hot or warm water. If the colony is close to an outlet, heated electric bowls will work as well.
- Keep the water in the sun and use dark-colored bowls that will absorb the sun’s heat.
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.
- If there is a water source like a spigot, run the water slightly, since it won’t freeze as quickly as still water.
- A simple, partially enclosed feeding station will shield cats from the elements and protect food from getting wet and spoiled during rain and snow. Keep feeding areas as clean as possible.
- Provide dry, warm shelters in the winter. For instructions on how to make one, visit www.alleycat.org/WinterWeather.
- Provide bedding inside the shelter(s). Straw is best for insulation, warmth and comfort. Avoid using blankets, towels and carpets as these will become wet and retain moisture.
- Add a door flap to the shelter to keep winter winds out. The inner space will be warmer and cats will still be able to get in and out easily.
What do you do to help the feral cats during winter? Do you check to see if there’s a kitty tucked into your car engine? Do you to use pet friendly products to keep the animals away from toxic chemicals? Do you set out food and water for the outside cats? Have you ever built an outside shelter for the ferals? Paws has a car port and a woodshed. Both help give shelter to the free roaming cats when the winds are whipping, and the temperatures plummeting. Please share your thoughts and comments and weigh in on this important discussion on helping the feral cats this winter.