Winter can be the cruelest month, especially for feral cats who live in northern climates. While most humans who manage large feral colonies already know how to put together shelters and care for their cats, maybe you’ve just got a few wild kitty friends who hang out near your house. You get concerned about them when the temperature drops below freezing and it’s snowing out. You can make winter a little more bearable for them — building a shelter is not all that hard to do. The New York Renovator blog has a great post about how to make an inexpensive winter cat shelter. (Incidentally, my human, who has owned her share of “vintage” homes, likes the whole blog!) Alley Cat Allies also has a whole page devoted to cat shelters, from small and simple to big and complex (for humans who do care for whole colonies).
Just a couple more notes about caring for ferals during the cold months:
- Don’t leave canned food outside. It will freeze. A bowl of canned food can be placed in a shelter, where the cats’ body heat will slow down the freezing process. You might also consider switching over to kibble until things warm up.
- Never put water inside a shelter — it’s a real disaster if it spills, and you don’t want the cats getting wet in the winter. There are many different ways of keeping a bowl of water from freezing over. This page from neighborhoodcats.org has a bunch of great suggestions.
- If you can afford it, feed your feral kitties a higher quality food. They need better nutrition in the winter because of the toll it takes on their immune system.
Thank you for taking care of our feral feline friends! It’s a harsh life for a wild kitty, and even though they hate to admit it, they really need you.