I adore animals (cats in particular) and love to pass along helpful information so that animals around the world can be happy and healthy.
Contrary to popular belief, a warm fur coat does not keep you (nor a cat) warm all through the wintertime. While cats are normally independent, they do sometimes need our help to get them through the cold of winter.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know, including detailed information on building your own feeding station and cat shelter. So whether you have an outdoor cat that likes to stay that way or just want to provide some food and shelter for feral or stray cats, read on to find out how you can keep your favorite felines warm all through the cold winter months.
How Cold Is Too Cold for Cats?
It is very important to monitor the conditions your cats are living in. If they are left outside (or inside for that matter) in below-freezing temperatures, they become susceptible to serious medical conditions like hypothermia and frostbite—both of which can result in death.
Trying to pin down an exact temperature threshold for how cold is too cold for your cats is difficult, however, due to various factors, including age, length, body mass, fur thickness, and whether they're generally an indoor or outdoor cat. But this quick guide should help you get an idea of when your feline friend might need your help.
What temperatures can cats still survive outside?
- Indoor Cats: If your cat spends most of its time indoors and isn't acclimated to cold weather, it should probably not be left outside when the temperature drops below 45°F. Another good guideline to follow is that if your home feels too cold for you, your indoor cat probably feels the same. In which case, it's probably a good idea to turn up the thermostat or think about getting some space heaters.
- Outdoor Cats: If your cat spends most of its time outdoors though, then it can potentially be alright down to nearly freezing temperatures. Once the thermometer drops below 32°F, however, you should definitely think about either bringing it inside or setting it up with an insulated cat shelter.
- Kittens and Older Cats: Much like indoor cats—and whether or not they've spent most of their time outdoors—you should not leave older cats or young kittens outside when the weather drops below 45°F, especially at night.
Note: It's also crucial to keep in mind other weather elements besides just the temperature. Whiteouts and blizzards can trap and disorient cats, making it extremely difficult for them to find their way back home. This is especially important when it comes to: 1) older cats that may have vision problems like cataracts and may not be strong enough to weather aggressive storms, and 2) young kittens that are not yet familiar enough with their new homes and are more susceptible to getting lost, stuck, or stranded.
How to Help Outdoor Cats Make It Through a Cold Winter
Whether you're taking care of your own outdoor cats or just want to help some ferals or strays make it through a freezing winter season, these helpful tips will make all the difference:
- Build or buy a cat shelter.
- Set up heaters or warming pads.
- Provide cats with plenty of fresh food.
- Make sure the cats have fresh water every day.
1. Build or Buy a Cat Shelter
The best way to keep your outside cat warm in winter is to have a safe place for it to sleep. A cat needs shelter during the long, cold winter nights—just big enough for a cat (or a few), but not for a dog, raccoon, possum, skunk, or other outside creatures. Personally, I have a couple of different places set up for my outside cats.
In one spot, I have an outside "closet." (Actually, this is where I got my washer and dryer.) There's a small cat door for them to go in and out. The closet provides a good windbreak. Just cutting down the amount of wind (or completely eliminating it) makes a big difference in the temperature and comfort of the cats.
Your shelter doesn't have to be elaborate to be effective.
My other shelter is an "igloo" type of shelter. Alright, it's really called a "dogloo," but I'm a cat person . what can I say? Anyway, the igloo is not very large, but it's insulated (warmer in winter and cooler in summer) and has a small opening. I've also placed a sleeping bag inside. That way, the cats have a warm, soft something to snuggle into, plus the sleeping bag itself is insulated for winter weather.
Where you place the igloo is important. I've set mine up in our carport, which itself provides some windbreak. My carport has walls on all three sides. Even on the coldest of winter days, I've found it can be at least five degrees warmer just being in the carport. I haven't measured the temperature in my outside cat closet, but I'm sure the difference in temperatures is similar because it's enclosed on all four walls (with only one door for me and the cats to get in and out).
Even simple cat shelters—such as this one made out of an old, covered litter box and lined with Mylar—can be big in helping outdoor cats make it through winter.
How to Build Your Own Cat Shelter
Cat shelters can be made from a host of different kinds of materials, can come in a lot of different shapes and sizes, and boast a wide range of interior designs. Here are a few guidelines to help you get started though:
- You want to keep the size fairly small so that it can only fit one to five cats—depending on your need. Not only does this help trap the cats' body heat better, but it also helps reduce the chances of other animals trying to take over the shelter for themselves.
- A shelter about the size of 12″ x 18″ x 12″ should be big enough to house one cat, whereas one measuring about 24″ x 24″ x 18″ should be able to house three or four. If you think you might need to provide shelter for more than four or five cats, however, it's probably best to just make another shelter.
- Similarly, it's important to make the doorways only large enough for a single cat to fit through at a time to avoid larger predators from invading the shelter. About 5–7 inches should just about do it. (If they can get their head through the hole, then they can probably fit their whole body through.)
- You can also add a door flap to further help trap the heat inside.
- It's also important to make sure that the structure is weighed down enough to not blow away during a strong wind.
- Non-absorbent insulation is crucial as well. The most common choice for insulation and bedding is straw because it repels water and cats enjoy burrowing into it. But a lot of people also like to just go with Styrofoam for insulation, which is totally fine, as long as you make sure it's of the thicker and water-repellant variety.
- You can also further reinforce the interior walls with shiny, heat-reflecting materials such as Mylar blankets or Mylar bubblepack—which you can often find at pet stores (sometimes for free).
- If you decide to use an upcycled Styrofoam container for your base, be sure to line the walls with contact paper (or something similar) to prevent cats from accidentally clawing through it.
- Note: Do not use hay for insulation or bedding. It soaks up moisture, is susceptible to mold, and it is just generally uncomfortable for cats. Blankets or towels are also a bad idea for the same reasons, and they can quickly become more of a detriment than a benefit.
Placement and Maintenance
- Keep the shelter raised up off of the ground by at least a few inches. This helps conserve heat and also reduces the likelihood of insects crawling up into there or rain and snow ruining your shelter. Even something as simple as putting your shelter on top of a wood pallet will do.
- Make sure to place the shelter in a safe place, away from high areas of foot and car traffic.
- Ensure that the shelter is both level and sitting on stable ground. You don't want it wobbling around every time one of the cats moves a little inside.
- If you can, try to reduce the effect of wind by facing the entrance to the shelter toward a wall, fence, or other windbreak.
- You should routinely check in on your shelter to make sure it's still dry.
- If the cats don't seem to be very interested in the shelter, try luring them over with catnip, silver vine, or cat treats.
If you'd like some easy walkthroughs for building your own cat shelter—or maybe just want some visual inspiration to help you get started—check out Alley Cat Allies and NYC Feral Cat Initiative. Both have very informative pages that will help you either build your own cat shelter or direct you to where to buy an already made one.
2. Set Up Heaters or Warming Pads
Depending on your budget, another great way to help keep outdoor cats warm is by having one of those enclosed oil-filled radiator heaters in your cat "closet." Since they're fully enclosed, you don't run any risk of fires, and the cats enjoy the extra heat. They usually have a couple of buttons so that you can regulate the amount of heat generated. The units are normally set up to turn on and off when a particular set temperature is reached. They usually cost under $100 and last for many years. Most home improvement stores carry them.
Another similar idea you can go with is setting up some microwaveable heating pads in your shelters or carport. They only last for a handful of hours before they need to be reheated—usually a maximum of about 10 hours, depending on the brand and temperature outside. But they can be a cheaper option for those still looking to provide some additional heat to their cat shelters.
3. Provide Cats With Plenty of Fresh Food
Outside cats need regular feeding on a daily basis. This is necessary for two very important reasons. The first reason is that well-fed cats are better hunters. It sounds counter-productive, but in reality, a well-fed cat hunts better. A cat is only successful about 20–30% of the time that it goes out to hunt. (This is true whether you're talking about domestic cats or their larger cousins.) Cats need food on a daily basis so they can be strong enough to hunt.
Not all cats have a strong urge or desire to hunt though, let alone eat what they hunt and kill. Cats have different personalities, just like us humans do. Over the years, I've seen my own cats' differing personalities—some were great mousers, some were great bird hunters, and some didn't really care to do much more than looking outside the windows and being amused.
There are other factors you should keep in mind about daily feeding. Be aware of the fact that mice (and other rodents) can have diseases, parasites, worms, and other things that are not beneficial to cats and/or humans. This fact alone is a major reason why I do regular, daily feeding of my outside cats. I certainly don't want my cats getting sick because they ate a mouse with a disease or parasites!
Another reason a cat needs regular, daily feeding (and the extra calories the cat gets from the food) is because it takes more energy to keep warm and maintain their body temperature during those cold winter months. Keep in mind that it's easier to provide dry cat food for your feline friends because it doesn't dry out, doesn't freeze, and most of the time, cats will tolerate eating it. The upside of using wet food, however, is that it requires less work for their systems to digest, which in turn helps conserve energy.
How much food should I give a cat in the winter?
For a general guideline, you can expect an adult cat to eat about 200 calories a day, give or take 20–30 calories. This measures out to around 5.5 ounces of wet food with an additional ounce of dry food a day. Or if you're only using dry food, then it's about 4–6 ounces every day.
Naturally, you should adjust this allotment depending on how many cats you're feeding and how much is (or isn't) left over after they eat.
How to Build Your Own Cat Feeding Station
Rather than just putting out some bowls of food, setting up an actual feeding station can help entice your outdoor cats and feral ones to stop by for some tasty meals. The video below provides a super easy tutorial on making a simple but effective feeding station. And if you're looking for something a little different, take a look at Alley Cat Allies' cool little gallery of various feeding station designs.
Here are just a few tips to keep in mind once you get to work on making your own:
- If you situate your station on an incline, rainwater and melted snow will drain out of the front. Simply adding an additional board to the back can easily achieve this.
- Place your feeding station away from areas with lots of foot traffic and loud car noises.
- It's also important to avoid placing your feeding station too close to your cat shelter (if both are outside and not in your carport or garage). This might invite competition and lead to fights among cats over dominance and potentially leave less aggressive cats to fend for themselves.
- You should check in on your feeding station frequently so that you know how to adjust the amount of food you're putting out to avoid waste or empty bowls.
- Regularly cleaning your feeding station often is important to prevent diseases and insects, as well as to maintain a more enticing atmosphere for the cats.
For more information, check out Alley Cat Allies' super helpful page on Building a Feeding Station and NYC Feral Cat Initiative's page on Community Cat Feeding Station Tips.
4. Make Sure Cats Have Fresh Water Every Day
Put out fresh water every day, ideally twice a day. You need to be aware of how cold it's going to get overnight, however, because water does freeze! (I'm ashamed to say how many mornings I've found frozen water in the bowls. I'm getting better at remembering though.)
Here are a few tips to help avoid ending up with useless bowls of ice:
- Fill bowls with hot or warm water to help stave off freezing.
- Try to place the water where it won't freeze. Put the bowl somewhere it will be at least partly protected from wind and will get at least some sunlight. You can also position it next to heat sources like grates and pipes.
- Consider investing in a heated bowl. There are a number of great heated bowls out there, some of which plug into an electric power source, while others are solar powered.
- If for budgetary reasons, you can't see your way clear to buy a heated bowl, then you need to put out fresh, clean water in the same place and at the same time. The cats will learn your schedule and will come to drink the water at those times. Cats do like having routines.
- If you end up using a non-heated bowl, it's probably best to go for a thick, dark-colored one that is deep but has a small opening.
- Another option is to go with silicone camping bowls. That way, if the water in them does end up freezing, the ice can be easily popped out and replaced with fresh water.
How to Get Feral and Stray Cats to Use Your Shelter and Feeding Station
If you're having trouble getting feral and stray cats to use your shelter and eat at your feeding station, here are a few tips to help:
- Try putting out food and water at the same places and same times every day. Sticking to a routine not only helps them know when to come by, but it also increases their level of trust in you.
- Some cats feel threatened whenever they see humans nearby. So you might want to try putting out the food and water and walking away to help them feel safer to come over and eat. (And you can always watch from afar through a window to confirm that they're the ones consuming the food and water.)
- Regularly cleaning your feeding station and shelter might also help entice feral and stray cats to come over and visit.
- It's also worth trying to check in on your feeding station and shelter occasionally to make sure there are no larger predators or really aggressive cats that might be scaring away other, more timid felines.
Additional Tips to Keep in Mind During Winter
- Before you start up your car, it's a good idea to bang on the hood of your car and check underneath to make sure there aren't any cats hiding under there for warmth that could be hurt by you revving up your engine.
- Avoid using salt or chemicals to melt snow around your property. This can hurt cats' paw pads and can be lethally toxic if slurped up from puddles or licked off of their paws. Instead, use pet-friendly deicers that can be found at most pet stores.
- Be extra careful when using or transporting antifreeze. It can be enticing to cats, but it is extremely toxic to them. In fact, antifreeze poisoning is an unfortunately common cause for the death of many cats, often unbeknownst to the owners until it is too late. Be sure to clean up any traces of the substance you might see around your property.
If you're looking for some additional helpful information about how to care for outdoor cats during the winter, check out these other super useful PetHelpful articles:
- How to Improve a Feral Cat's Life
- Frugal and Homemade Winter House for Stray Cats
- Ways to Keep Outdoor Cats Safe in Winter. CatTime. Retrieved on 20 November 2018.
- Winter Cat Care: Baby, It's Cold Outside!. (2012, October 19). ASPCAPro. Retrieved on 20 November 2018.
- Winter Weather Tips. Alley Cat Allies. Retrieved on 20 November 2018.
- Winter Shelters for Community Cats. NYC Feral Cat Initiative. Retrieved on 20 November 2018.
- How Cold is Too Cold for Cats? Tips to Keep Your Feline Friend Safe. (2017, January 4). Retrieved on 21 November 2018.
Questions & Answers
Question: Projected windchill temps for Michigan can be as low as -50 degrees Fahrenheit. I have several self made shelters filled with straw, 2 K&H heated houses, and a straw filled shed with a cat-sized entrance hole. However, I still worry with these extreme temperatures, it won’t be enough to safely keep the cats warm. What more can I do?
Answer: After having done a bit more research, here's some ideas for you, to safely keep the cats warm on those extremely cold Michigan winter nights... First of all - make sure you don't have any of the shelters out in the open, like in the middle of a yard. Place them under or against something like a building, tree, porch, bush or something with an overhang. The ideal spot would be out of the wind, but exposed to the sun.
To prevent flooding, or if you have tons of snow (I'm sure you do in MI), then you should raise the shelters off the ground by using pallets or bricks. If you do this, then make sure the shelters are stable. You don't want any wobble or rocking from side-to-side. Cats are very particular about shelters that move around too much. Also, if your shelters are light weight, then make sure to weigh them down.
You can use Mylar blankets on the inside of your shelter. Line the interior walls, floor and ceiling with the Mylar blankets. Mylar is that thin, silvery "space type" blankets usually used for an emergencies in your car. The Mylar is a polyester material which traps body heat and reflect it back to its source.
Mylar blankets are very inexpensive, and can be cut to fit inside your shelter(s), and then attached with non-toxic glue. Some glue ideas are Weldbond Universal adhesive, or freezer tape. You can find these items on Amazon. Be sure to tuck in any loose material so your cats won't be tempted to chew it.
Also, you can use Solar pool covers to attract and retain heat. They don't have to be new (depending on your budget). Torn, but usable pool covers are great. New cover prices vary based on their construction and thickness. You can cut pool covers with scissors and drape them with the silver side down. Make sure you check on the temperature often until you are sure of the temperature generated - it may become too hot inside on milder days.
Hope this helps your cats keep warm. Thanks for your caring and concern in keeping your cats as warm as they can be on those extremely cold Michigan winter nights!
Question: I set up a crate for our feral cat with a heating pad and blankets before the rain. Two days later, I checked the crate, and it was full of ants. There was no food in the crate. I believe the ants were trying to find a dry place, out of the rain. I sprayed and killed them, but ants are still everywhere. What can I do?
Answer: I'm thrilled you took action and set up something for your feral cat so she/he can keep warm and dry. Ants are great survivors, and will attempt to keep dry in whatever way possible. While I'm not sure of the reason, or reasons the ants are there, but it sounds like you still have an ant challenge.
First, I suggest you take everything out of the area. Wash the blankets thoroughly, and clean the heating pad (if there's a cover, clean it as well). Then, you should put the blankets & heating pad back. Secondly, I suggest you try using a more natural remedy for repelling ants. Using natural remedies is better than using chemicals, especially around any animals (and better for you, too). There are several natural ways to encourage ants to go somewhere else. Some of those remedies include: sprinkling some Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth, or Cayenne Pepper and/or Black Pepper all around the area where the cat crate is located. There is also a great article on the website of the Farmers Almanac called "21 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ants" which is extremely informative.
Question: When I put a mylar blanket in the cat shelter I made, is the silver side up towards the cat?
Answer: The silver side of the blanket will go towards the cat, however there are some important points to keep in mind when using a mylar blanket. First of all, the mylar blanket should not go directly on the skin. Mylar blankets will only reflect radiated heat and putting the blanket right on the skin will transfer body heat through conductivity instead of radiation. This will conduct your cat's heat instead of reflecting the heat back to your cat. You need to have some air space between the cat and the mylar blanket. You can do this by putting a thin layer on top of the mylar blanket.
Another important fact to keep in mind is the reflective insulation (of the mylar blanket) will not do much good if the cat is lying directly on the ground. The ground absorbs body heat faster than air. You need to have an additional pad or some other solid insulation between the bottom of the mylar blanket and the ground.
Also, it's useful to know this advice is not only effective for keeping your cat warm, but for keeping dogs warm in the winter, as well as keeping humans warm.
Question: What if I don’t have straw for my cat shelter? What else can I do to keep my cat warm?
Answer: I would ask you to review my article. Towards the beginning of my article, there's a Heading of: "How To Build Your Own Shelter," and underneath that heading, is a sub-heading of "Interior Design." Re-reading and careful review of my whole article will help you, however, reviewing the "Interior Design" part of my article will directly answer your question. The short answer is: Styrofoam for insulation. This is fine as an alternative for straw, as long as you make sure it's of the thicker and water-repellant variety.
Why I recommend a review of my whole article is due to the fact there are plenty of details listed which 1.) will make things easier for you, and 2.) will help keep your cat warm and safe in the winter.
Question: I remember learning that warm water actually freezes quicker than cold water. Is this true?
Answer: Kudos to your memory! While the idea of warm water freezing quicker than cold water is counter-intuitive, it is correct. It is a fact that hot water freezes more quickly than cold water. This effect is called the "Mpemba effect" after a Tanzanian student who observed this phenomenon happening with ice cream.
Question: My feral cat had blood loss through their paw, what can I do about this situation?
Answer: First of all, please make sure if your cat has any injuries. This is critical, no matter what season of the year! If possible, please humanely trap and transport your cat to the vet, as soon as possible, so the vet can determine the extent of your cat's health and injuries.
If trapping and transportation is not possible, see if there is a vet who does "house visits," and make an appointment, as soon as possible. The health and well being of your cat is depending on your quick action.
Thank you for caring enough to ask for help and input about your cat and his/her health and well being.
Question: Can I put a heated mat on the top of a Mylar blanket and cover the mat with straw?
Answer: First of all, I would be very concerned about putting anything on top of a heated blanket, especially something like straw. I'd be worried about there being a fire danger. Also, there is a concern about too much heat generated by having both the Mylar blanket and the heating pad. The Mylar blanket is to reflect heat back, and with the heating pad, there may be excessive heat. This would be something you would absolutely need to monitor closely. Remember, a cat's temperature is well above ours, ranging from 99.5 to 102.5 degrees.
I would recommend you look at the answers to other questions on this Hubpage, as well as some of the comments & answers. Also, you might look at other alternatives to what's on my Hubpage, like Alley Cat Allies, FeralCatFocus.com or HomelessCat.org.
Question: Last year, I made a cat shelter for my two feral cats. They loved it and would always go in. I stored it for the summer, and have put it back out with a new body heating pad (just like the one they had last year, but now they will not go in the shelter). It is getting cold and I don't want them outside in the cold. Why are they not going in?
Answer: Cats are very sensitive to sounds and smell, and they can be very particular about how they want things arranged. Shelters, of course, are no exception. Is the new body heating pad the only thing you changed? There can be many reasons why the cats don't go into the shelter. There might be a single reason why, or there might be a combination of reasons why they don't use the shelter.
The new heating pad might be putting off a smell they don't like. The new pad, in combination with the rest of the shelter and its insulation is causing a smell or smells the cats don't like. Try taking the new pad out and using the old pad (if it's still usable) for a while and see what happens. Also, try not using a heating pad at all for a while. Basically, first try and eliminate the possibility of the new heating pad causing your problem of the cats not going into your shelter.
After trying these options, if it is the new heating pad, you can try different heating options. For example: a different brand of heating pad, or perhaps using a heating lamp (similar to the ones used for chicken coops and barns). There are several different ways to heat a shelter you can try. An excellent heating pad is "snuggle safe." Something else you can do is go to Alley Cat Allies. This is an excellent resource website with many useful ideas and articles.
Question: How do you train a cat to come when called?
Answer: It takes persistence and patience to train a cat to come when called. It's best to start training your cat when it's young, but it is possible to train an adult cat. First of all, find out what motivates your cat. The most common thing is the food. Does he/she like chicken, or perhaps tuna. Whatever you will be using must be tastier than his/her normal food (dry or wet). You can have more than one flavor or type of treat in order to keep things interesting, but save these treats only for when you are calling your cat.
Next, choose how you will call your cat. It can be specific words like "come here," or "here kitty, kitty". Keep it short and simple. Also, remember to only use this phrase when calling your cat. An alternative is to use a whistle or a clicker device for calling your cat.
Try to start your training when your cat is hungry. This will make the treat that much tastier for your cat. Start out calling your cat from a short distance away, for example, a couple of feet away from each other. After your cat comes to your call, feed him/her the treat. Do this 3 - 5 times. Each time rewarding your cat with his/her treat. This will be enough for one session. Once he/she comes to you reliably (after a few sessions at a close distance), then start to do this from further and further away. At each increased distance, make sure he/she is coming when called each time before increasing the distance.
Eventually, she will come when called, even if you can't see where she is. Remember, be patient and loving with her. Watch out for boredom in your training sessions. If this happens, try switching to another treat he/she loves. Coming to you when called should always be a pleasant experience for your cat.
Training your cat to come when called is so much more than a convenience to you, it's something that could save his/her life. Should there be an emergency, or he/she becomes lost, responding to your call could save his/her life. Training your cat is an investment in his/her care that reaps many benefits.
Question: I may be adopting a kitten. My parents won't let me keep it inside. What can I do to keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter without bringing it inside?
Answer: Good for you. Good that you respect your parents wishes of not bringing the kitten inside, as well as wanting to take care of the kitten properly. The kitten needs good food, clean water, shelter as well as lots of love and attention from you.
Make sure your shelter for the kitten provides good shade. This will help keep the kitten cooler in summer. Also, make sure you provide an insulated shelter for the cold winter months. It doesn't matter if you have one, or two shelters, just as long as it allows for good airflow for the hot temperatures and gives good insulation in the cold temperatures.
Make sure you are providing clean water at least once a day. Also, your kitten is growing, so make sure you feed him/her several times a day, preferably with food formulated for kittens.
Question: I have neighborhood cats near my home and it is getting cold. They don't really like to be near people. What should I do to keep my outdoor cats warm and healthy?
Answer: To keep them warm, I would recommend using shelters they can go into during the cold winter nights. You have several choices, depending on your budget. If you look towards the bottom of my HubPage, you'll see "Works Cited." These articles have some great, free resources for you to read up on & then choose the best solution for you and the cats. These cited articles are only a few of the many free articles you can read. They will help you gain a whole wealth of knowledge about how to specifically keep your outside cats warm and healthy. There are many options, with various price ranges. I've no doubt you'll choose the right solution, at the right price range for you, as well as the cats.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on November 16, 2019:
That's a great question you have. I appreciate you asking your question, mainly because you've introduced me to a new product. I've done a quick "look see" about this product, and it looks great.
As far as I can tell, it should work well. Closed-cell foam blend that retains and reflects heat back to you (or in this case, back to the cat), sounds like it would be excellent. It's something that doesn't need electricity, and it doesn't need to be re-heated (like Snuggle Safe products).
Sounds like you have a winner as far as I can tell. Please let me know how successful this is with keeping your cat warm this winter. If you post another comment telling me how well this product works on my Hubpage, then others can see your new comment and will have another resource to use in keeping their cats warm in winter!
Terrilee on November 16, 2019:
Can a heat a seat, like hunters use, be used for my outside cat shelter?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on November 16, 2019:
Your enclosed porch is better than no shelter at all, however here are some suggestions to help you further. Blankets are not as good as they might seem. Since cats have to walk & get up on them (where ever they are placed) and it rains & snows in the winter, then the cats get wet. This means the blankets get wet. The wet blankets freeze, and this means the freezing cold gets transferred to the cat. Not good!
One of the best solutions is to provide a shelter that's insulated with straw (NOT Hay). There are several shelter that are good, as well as inexpensive, depending on your budget needs. Some good shelters you can purchase (if you're DIY challenged), other shelters you can make yourself. Also, there's a good product called "Snuggle Safe" (which you can check out on Amazon) that's very good to keep cats warm throughout long winter nights.
Since I can't post other sites on my comments, I'll tell you some of the best resources for shelters are - alleycat(dot)org (resources/feral-cat-shelter-options), and feralcatfocus(dot)org.
Hope all this helps!
kim glass on November 11, 2019:
I have a stray that I have been keeping on my porch at night for about a month now.....its going to be really cold the next few days , 10 degrees or so but my question is, will my cat be ok on my enclosed porch with no heat? I do have a bed with some blankets for him and have ordered a furry tunnell he can lay in but it didnt come yet. Will my cat be ok out there in this cold?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on November 11, 2019:
Good question. I've researched this topic for several hours, and unfortunately, I haven't found any really good battery powered devices to keep outside cats warm in winter.
There are some options you might consider though. One option is using either the heated cat shelter, or the insulated cat shelter. An excellent heated shelter comes from Hammacher Schlemmer. This shelter uses a removable 20-watt heater beneath the floor of the shelter which generates radiant heat that warms the floor yet is not hot to human touch. Of course, you have to have a way to plug into an electrical source to have this work.
An excellent insulated shelter is "The Kitty Tube Gen. 3 –Feral option with straw" which can be purchased on Amazon. This shelter has some great features, and you can purchase additional insulation specifically made for this shelter. This additional insulation doubles the insulation existing in the main shelter, and does significantly keep the whole shelter much warmer in the winter.
Since I don't know your budget or the availability of electricity at your home, it would be best to take these suggestions and then look online to see what works best with your budget and your personal resources. Wishing you all the best. Thanks for your caring for the feral cats in your area!
Geri Hydock on November 10, 2019:
Is there any battery operated type of device to keep my feral cats outdoors during the cold winter warm?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on October 17, 2019:
Good question & comment, Sharon. I don't know why your litter box "freezes" during the winter time. I've never heard of a litter box freezing. This is because most litter boxes I am familiar with are some form of plastic, and it takes quite a bit to have them freeze.
Perhaps you're referring to the litter itself freezing on the walls of the litter box? I'd need a bit more info & details to really answer your question.
All of the above said, You might want to place a carpet remnant under the litter box. This might help reduce the cold from transferring from the floor to the litter box, itself. Also, depending upon the type of litter boxes you have, you might consider using some blankets or heavy cloth around the sides & top of the litter boxes to help prevent the freezing. You'd have to check regularly to see if the blankets/cloth is soiled & wash them, since cats like to have their litter boxes as clean as possible.
Hope this helps you.
Shannon Spears on October 16, 2019:
I have two cats both are boy we live in a camper in the summer but in the winter I move back in with my parents but since the boys have sprayed in the past they stay in the camper in the winter I come check on them every day to feed and water them and give them love they are inside cats so they use a liter box however it freezes in the winter which makes it impossible to clean they find other places to go to the bathroom if the liter box isn’t clean I would like to avoid that have any ideas
Jean Keith (author) from TX on October 13, 2019:
Thank you, Agnes for your comment, and of course, thank you for taking care of the outside cat! I really like the idea of using the thermal heat retaining blanket. Very clever on your part, and it's a wonderful way to make sure the cat keeps warm in winter.
Since I'm not sure why the cat came over to your property, and what's going on with the cat and his/her owner, I'm not going to comment. All I will say is cats know when to seek better environments, and you have certainly provided a much better place for the outside cat. As I see it, you've helped him/her survive quite well. Kudos!
Also, I think your idea of keeping something for seven years is great. If you need it within the seven years, awesome, but if not, then you can either give it to someone else, donate it, sell it or throw it away. No matter what happens, more good will come of it.
Keep up the good work.
agnes grozier on October 13, 2019:
a cat that's been fed by me for months . I just found out he has an owner living close by. when it started getting colder I put outside as I have an indoor cat who would not get on with an incomer. a quilted cat bed that I put inside a faux leather cube of sorts its so thick and heavy the wind wont blow it down I also on top of the quilting put a thermal heat retaining blanket and he loves it I'm glad I never threw the cube away what is it they say . keep a thing for seven years and it comes in handy he visits his owner now and again and seams quite happy
Jean Keith (author) from TX on September 05, 2019:
Yes, male cats do like to spray things! They can be quite territorial. It can be very frustrating.
One of the best suggestions I have to reduce any spraying is to spritz the object being sprayed with a citrus scent. Most cats do not like citrus anything. Get some citrus essential oil and mix it up in a small spray bottle. (I personally use lemon, but any citrus scent will do). Normally, I use water as a carrier liquid for the essential oil - using approx. 30-50 drops of essential oil to approx. 1 oz. of water, but use your personal preference for the amount of essential oil you use.
Don't worry about the deer using the water bowl. I've no doubt your outside cats use the water bowl - you just might not have timed things to where you could see them using the water bowl. Remember, cats normally don't like people watching them all the time. This applies especially to feral cats.
Hope this helps!
krazykat35 on September 04, 2019:
i made tote home, but those dam male cats keep spraying them... we also bought a plug in water bowl so water doesnt freeze, one day i went outside only to see deer drinking from it...
Jean Keith (author) from TX on July 17, 2019:
While I don't want to ignore you, I do not have a great answer for you. It's taken me most of today - I've thought and thought, and have done some research, but again, I don't have a brilliant idea.
Cats are territorial, by nature. I commend you for wanting to take care of both your tame cat, as well as the feral cats. What I can suggest is if you have enough space outside, you might try to separate the feral cats & your tame cat into 2 different areas - one where you have your tame cat's hut & feeding/watering area, and the other area for the feral cats.
Of course, being outside cats, they will go where they please. However, maybe by separating them physically, that might allow your tame cat some room to not be bullied by the feral cats.
I hope this helps you. Should I find anything else to assist you in this matter, I'll post more information.
Mary on July 16, 2019:
I have one tame cat and many feral cats, all outdoor. My problem is that the feral cats scare and mark my tame cat's hut. What should I do?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on July 12, 2019:
The short answer is, yes it's safe. The longer question and answer is, how well will this keep your cat warm during the winter?
Your deck is approximately 4 feet off the ground. This is a large opening, and allows air flow thru the underside of the deck. This is good for your deck and home, but not so good for your cat. In the winter, this of course, allows too much cold air around whatever is underneath your deck.
If you look at cat shelters, you will see most of them are just a bit bigger than the number of cats the shelter will hold. The size of the shelter will help keep the cat warm because the cold air is restricted from entering into the shelter. To get a better idea of what I mean, there are some great examples of cat shelters on this hub page, with some excellent links should you want to explore this concept more.
In order to keep a cat warm, one of the main components is having the best shelter your budget allows. While putting straw under your deck will be alright, going the next step would help keep your cat so much warmer during the long, cold winter months.
Thanks for your question, and my hope is this answer helps you keep your cat warm throughout the winter.
Melody on July 12, 2019:
I have a small 10x10 deck about 4 foot off the ground. Is it safe to put straw under it for a feral cat?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on February 21, 2019:
I don't have an answer for you. Unfortunately, I'm not a Vet (and even Vet's sometimes don't always hit things straight on). The best way to find out is to take the cat into the Vet, as they are the trained experts.
The next best way (if she's not settling down enough to take her), is to talk to your Vet without her & see if he/she has some ideas. Your cat might even be spayed already (if you are correct about her being "dumped").
I hope this helps you. Oh, and before I forget - thanks for taking care of the homeless cats, and making sure they are safe, warm, healthy and well fed.
[email protected] Ethel on February 20, 2019:
I leave kibble out for 4 homeless cats (feral) plus I put out tepid water for them in extreme cold in upstate NY this winter. I bought an electric outdoor heating pad & an older (clipped ear) has really enjoyed that, plus I put a kerosene heater on the covered awning porch. there have been 4 cats that snuggle together often, but usually 1 or 2 to snuggle with the older one. One female has become quite friendly. I think someone dumped her in the fall. I'd like to have her spayed but too cold now to turn her loose after outside. When might she come in heat you think?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 21, 2019:
Thank you, Agee8 for your kind comment.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on November 23, 2018:
Thank you for caring about keeping animals warm during the winter. You are taking very good, positive steps! Having something in the garage helps with wind reduction & the more severe winter elements (rain, snow, wind, etc). Also, the chicken coop heater is also good to have.
I would hesitate to put the chicken coop heater within the tote - it gets dangerous within a closed space. Those heaters need proper space, and inside a tote (even with the front cut out) might be too much, and over-heat the tote bag. These products are made, as you said, for a small chicken coop. Chicken coops have more ventilation than a tote bag with the front cut out.
You might want to look into a "Snuggle Safe" product. They are definitely something that can be used in your specific situation, and they heat up to 8-12 hours. My recommendation would be to buy at least 2 - that way you can have one warming things up in the tote, then switch out the pads when the first one loses it's heat.
Hope this helps out. Again, thanks for caring enough to investigate more options to keep cats & other animals warm during the cold, cold winter!
Member!Penny on November 22, 2018:
I have a medium sized tote that my hubby cut the front out and I placed a dog heating pad in it. I have this in my garage ...so it wont' get wet. I leave the garage door cracked so the cats can come and go. I seen where there is a 200 watt chicken coop heater that can be mounted against a wall. I was wondering if this would be good to put in the tote? The heating pad doesn't feel warm enough to me. I am worried...its really cold out tonight and I want to order this but am not sure its a good idea. They say its made for a small chicken coop. Any suggestions?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on March 15, 2018:
So sorry you had to experience an uncaring & insensitive human - moving away and NOT taking care of her animal companions in a positive way is horrible. Kudos to you & your friend for taking care of the cats!
I'm thrilled that my page has helped you, your friend, and most especially, the cats.
My hope is that through education & caring folks (like yourself & your friend)...that people will finally get the message and realize we are all connected, and discover that taking care of our animal companions is just as important as taking care of ourselves & our human relatives.
Lily on March 15, 2018:
There is this lady who moved out of the house on my street, she left 3 cats out in the cold snowy weather here in Ohio. Me and my friend have been feeding them and giving them water and also gave them a box with some blankets. One of the cats though, has not been seen in a few days while the other 2 are doing well. We have tried calling the city of Parma, and animal services, even the animal shelter and no one was able to help us. A few days later though the animal warden called us back and said if they are able to catch the cats they will take them to the shelter, but the cats are very nervous around humans including me and my friend. We are trying our very best to help them, feeding them everyday and giving them water everyday. I just feel so bad that there are stupid people out there and we can't stop them. We know the lady moved out because we saw her packing up stuff and now her house is empty. (We can see through the front window) Anyway this was helpful now I know how else I can help.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 13, 2018:
He's coming to your shack because he's seen you've given him shelter & food, but he's still being careful. Being outside, he has to be extra careful...his survival depends on it (yes, even if you know you don't want to harm him, he doesn't know that just yet).
Give him some more time to get to know you. If you can get somewhat close to him. Stop (before he runs off). Keep still. Let him decide to come to you or not. Being patient is hard, but it will pay off in time. After a while, he should start coming closer until he finally lets you pet him.
Good luck. And thanks for helping a cat stay warm, safe & fed this winter!
Kim on January 13, 2018:
Someone dropped a cat off at my work.. I have made it Astana house, and I feed him every day... the last two days I noticed he is coming to my shack. If I open the door, he takes off.. why is he coming up now, when if I try to get close he runs?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 05, 2018:
Thank you so much for your kind words, it's appreciated! I adore animals, cats in particular (of course). It's very important to me to pass along any information that's helpful, so animals the world around, can be happy & healthy.
Sending blessings back at ya!
Carrie on January 05, 2018:
Thank you for posting such an informative article. We need more people in the world like you. Bless you.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on December 03, 2017:
You can Google search for suitable cat houses, and/or look at DonnaMac's comments below yours on this Hubpage. She has a great way to keep cat warm in Canada (and that's a major victory on her part!).
"My Warm Pet" microwavable products are a great idea because they stay warm for hours (10-12), so you don't have to disturb the cat(s) too much. You might want to consider having a couple on hand - that way you can use one for the cat, and then, switch out a used one for a new heated one...rotating them so the cat stays warm all during the day AND night.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on December 03, 2017:
Love All Animals,
Thanks for commenting. I agree - using a heat lamp is a good idea, however for an outside cat, be careful using blankets. Blankets can get wet (example: raining/snowing), so check the blanket quite often so it doesn't freeze and get the cat cold in the process.
Love all Animals on December 03, 2017:
Hello, Use a Heat Lamp inside a Pet House with blankets for your pet to lay on. This is good for an inside Pet and especially an outdoor Pet. A closed in porch is a good place to put a Pet House. As Mr.Bob Barker always said, “Please Spay or Neuter your Pet and a Animal that comes up to eat at your House, stays a while and then goes back off some where. It is sad to see a homeless Cat or Dog!
Doris on November 01, 2017:
As far as the igloo dog house, don't you find the opening too large and more cold air gets in? I am trying to find something for 2 stray cats who have been around and I have been feeding. But I want something for the winter to keep them warm and dry. t
Donna Mac on January 29, 2017:
I live in Canada and have 3 strays that live in my backyard. I made beds from the large Tupperware containers, lined them with insulation, covered that with plastic and covered that with Mylar blankets. Then put a fleecy cat mat in each one. On very cold nights I use the My Warm Pet microwaveable heat pad & slip it under the fleecy bed. Lasts for 10-12 hours. They are warm on those freezing nights! Each bed cost about $20 to make. I don't know if the heaters are really necessary as the Mylar reflects the heat back to them...but I do it anyway.
warmheartedwinter on January 16, 2017:
I have never been an animal owner nor have I ever really been attached to animals in my adult life, as a child I would be heartbroken for any animal but as an adult I wasn't much into animals.. until I found this little cat outside my friends door, cold wet and hungry. he ran away from everyone who tried to pet him, something made me go outside and as soon as I did he ran straight for me and hugged my leg! he was all over me and I really broke down over him. I posted him everywhere hoping to find his home for him to be warm. but nobody came forward and my cat loving friend said he looks to be abandoned on purpose in this cold. he is so skinny. the most friendly sweet playful kitten. I live with my brother for now and he has a wife with three cats and a dog inside and they just refuse to let my kitten inside. grayz (what I named him) is in the garage, not heated but out of the wind and a bit warmer than outside. I put out blankets for him up on the fridge where he seems to be everytime I go to feed and see him. he doesn't touch the water much but scarfs down the food. I was wondering if there is something I need to be doing more, I feel like I'm letting him down.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 07, 2017:
Sorry, forgot to say one more thing - perhaps you could also ask a neighbor to put dry food out in-between your visits to the cats. Hope all this helps.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 07, 2017:
First of all - kudos to you for your outstanding achievement of helping so many feral cats over an extended time period! What you've done is challenging & you're to be commended for it. Many cats have survived & went on to live happy & healthy lives with loving families due to your efforts.
Now, the hard part - suggestions for your current situation. I'm assuming you can't change your moving date & as you've stated, momma cat has a new litter of kittens (and you don't know their location), plus momma cat is hostile. Unfortunately, I don't have any bright ideas. There are hard choices to be made here.
You have to move. OK, that's do-able. You can't find the new kittens - more than likely momma cat has hidden them very well. You're going to have to wait it out...until she either moves them where you can find them, and/or they get old enough for you to find & spay/neuter them. Hopefully, momma cat will get more friendly as time goes by so you can spay her too.
Now, as far as feeding the little ones - poultry is OK, but not by itself. Momma & older kittens can eat that, and momma cat can suckle the new kittens. I'd use dry food in addition to the poultry. The reason is this - since it's winter, they need as much nutrition as possible. Food helps keep cats warm in the winter time. But the poultry does NOT give the cats enough nutrition that they need. The dry food will add additional vitamins, minerals & things like taurine that are essential and critical for cats.
OK...please be aware (it might sound cruel, but it isn't) - it will be OK to feed the cats every other day (or worse case, every 2-3 days). Hopefully, you can do every other day. In the wild, cats do NOT necessarily eat every day. Cats (either large or small) are only successful in hunting approximately 30% of the time. This translates to eating every couple of days or so.
So, the bottom line is this - feel OK about your moving, and feel as good as you can about feeding the cats every chance you can, even if it's every 2-3 days. Put down as much water as possible (maybe getting a neighbor to change out the water for the cats). And put down some dry food. Cats don't over-eat nearly as much as dogs do, so they should be OK until you can get back to them.
I wish I had better news & suggestions for you. Life is not always easy, but know you've done your best, and will continue to do so. The cats (all of those you've helped in the past, and the current ones), me & the Divine Creator are grateful for what you've done and will continue to do.
Hope all goes well with the move, and Momma Cat and the kittens.
bettybb on January 07, 2017:
Please help. I urgently need some suggestions.
For many years, I've taken care of the ferals on my street, getting them spayed/neutered, giving them outside shelters, and feeding them. I've taken many in and currently have seven indoor cats. But this fall, a mother cat and her two kittens moved into the neighborhood, and I believe the mother recently had yet another litter. Her other two kittens are probably about six or seven months old now.
The problem: I'm moving next week, and I'm so worried about this mother cat and her kittens. I will only be able to get back every two to three days to bring them water and food. If I leave a lot of food out, they will eat it all quickly. If I leave water, it will freeze.
Do you have any suggestions?
I can't take them with me as they are way too vicious. The mother growls at me. I could take them to a local shelter, but, as I said, the mother cat likely has a recent litter somewhere out there. So I would have to wait until those kittens start making an appearance in order to nab them.
What kind of food could I put out that would have a lot of moisture and that they would possibly eat slower? I was thinking about poultry.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 06, 2017:
Thank you so much for your kind comments. I'm thrilled you are going to use some of the suggestions on this Hub to help you with the cats that come to your shop. You've done a great job taking care of the cats in your life. Having the cats neutered and making sure they've gotten good homes is awesome!
Dorothy on January 06, 2017:
Thank you so much for the great advice, I have a coffee shop where I have a few cats that show up, there is a couple that have each other!
But I have one that had kittens and my sis and I trapped mama and reused the kittens, I got mama kitty fitted and kept the babies until they were ready for homes!! But mama was not going to have it and would not stay with me! So I took her back to my shop and released her and she had been coming to see me twice a day for two years now, she was nine months when I trapped her!! I'm so in love wing her and of course for her so much in the cold winter!! She now talks to us, but will not let me get too close, closer then before, but the other two that come, have kept her from coming and hanging around like she use to..
I am going try your idea to keep her warm!!
Thank you so much for being such a loving and helpful person!!
Jean Keith (author) from TX on December 17, 2016:
You've done a great job with a limited budget. Sometimes, it takes a Mama cat a bit of time to find the best way to take care of her babies. I can't say for sure, but this might be her second litter, and she's still "learning the ropes"so to speak (she might be discovering how to best raise the little ones).
Anyway, here's an idea - you might want to use a SMALL bit of catnip within the shelter. Just rub a bit of catnip on the straw or wall of the shelter. Why I say use a SMALL bit is because the little ones are just that, they're very young, and you do NOT want to overdo the catnip. The catnip scent is mostly for Mama and the older kitten. If you can interest Mama & the older kitten, then it should just be a question of keeping them happy so they'll stay inside the shelter.
I can't think of anything else to really encourage Mama cat to use the shelter. It's mostly up to her - give her some space & some time -- she should realize the shelter is a good place to keep the little ones. To help ease a bit of your worries -- just be aware that Mama and the older kitten will snuggle up with the little ones no matter where they sleep on any given day/night. All of the cats together will help keep each of them warmer (so even having them use the older upholstered chair helps because 1.) it's somewhat insulated on the bottom & the back and 2.) they have the space to snuggle up together on the chair and 3.) it's off the floor (which would allow the cold to seep into any blanket you put just on the floor)...in other words, a chair seat elevates the insulation of the chair seat so it helps to keep the cats warmer than just the floor.
I hope all goes well & Mama cat and her kittens are warm, safe and healthy this winter. With all best wishes for all of you this Winter season!
MommainNCMO on December 16, 2016:
i have four outdoor cats one is 2 and is momma to the otehr s one is 9mo.s he's her big boy and protects her and the twins and the other two are 3-4 mo.s The babies verry protected by momma and bubba, today i made a warm kitty box useing a tote and Straw also scatter straw in nooks and crannies they like to get in in my grage My garage isnt heated and i'm on a limited budget Very limited but anyway i bought a bale of straw and have two sides and the top of the sheleter incased in it Straw on top straw in small Bundles against two sides the box is on four layers of cardboard to keep off the cement floor and i even maede it with a back door for escape problem they arent useing it and it is really cold to night we had a sleet storm today i cannot heat the garage not practical as it is old and the doro dosent close right leaving a three inch gap at the bottom kittys use to get in and out but it is a wind break for them tehy like curling up in my husbands work chair a old metal office chair with upholstered back seat and arm rests instead of the box how can i make the warm kitty box more appealing? I dont want my babies freezeing though they are feral and i can only touch the nine month old and one four month old and only a storke or two they are loved and well fed with room temp watter at least once a day I try for twice but their are times its not possible any advice on getting them to use the shelter ?
Jean on December 09, 2016:
There can be many reasons why your friendly stray cat now won't go near his new shelter. It could be another cat, or another animal (possum, raccoon, skunk, etc.) has gone and investigated his shelter & left their scent all over it. If this is the case, once their scent dissapates, he'll go in & re-scent the shelter & he'll reclaim the shelter as his.
There could be some "off-gassing" of whatever materials make up the rubbermaid house. Some plastics & other synthetic materials let go molecules as the material(s) which make up the shelter grow older/age. For example: when you purchase a new carpet for your home, some carpets let go of the formaldehyde within the carpet or the carpet padding. This should only last a short period of time.
I'm not able to say with any certainty which, if any, of the above is your correct answer. Could be one, several, or something else entirely - which is why your stray cat isn't going near the shelter.
Be patient. Give him some time. Hopefully, he'll decide to return to the shelter...as long as he deems it safe, he should return. Perhaps, in the meantime, you could provide him with an alternative shelter...that way, he'll have somewhere to go & keep warm right now. And then, in a little while - he'll have the choice as to which shelter he prefers to stay in.
Most cats do prefer to change where they sleep every now & again. This is a part of their nature. Once he lets you know his preference(s), the other shelter can provide an opportunity to keep another cat warm in winter.
Hope this helps.
jonelle kanouse on December 09, 2016:
I made a friendly stray cat a rubbermaid house and bought hem a bed to keep him warm for the winter, he went inside it for about 3 days and loved it, now he won't go near it. There is a bed in it and a bale of straw all around it. Anyone have any thoughts on this
Jean Keith (author) from TX on March 18, 2014:
It's understandable your feral cat doesn't like to be confined. In fact, he/she might not ever like confinement. That being said, you've done very well scenting the Kitty Tube with catnip. Most cats like catnip, so that's a great move on your part. I've only come across one or two cats in my 60 years that didn't like catnip much.
The only other tips I have for you would be patience, patience and more patience. If you try to force things, the cat WILL resist. The idea (as you have grasped) is to get the cat more familiar with the Kitty Tube so he'll use it.
When he's around the Kitty Tube, use a nice soft voice and praise him, talk to him - which should help get the cat used to & associate positive feelings around the Kitty Tube. Then it's just a waiting game on your part to see if he will use it or not. The nature of a cat is sometimes contrary.
Wish I could be of more assistance. Hope this helps.
VWSouza on March 18, 2014:
I have a feral cat and providing him with a nice, warm shelter is my #1 concern. I bought this - http://superblog.co/the-kitty-tube-outdoor-cat-hou... - recently and I'm quite happy with it. The design is top-notch, the top fits securely so there are no leaks when it's raining, and there is Styrofoam insulation all around the shell including a top baffle to keep the cat super warm inside. The top lid rotates to open or close a set of holes which act as vents. This outdoor cat house comes with a really plush bed that looks and feels soft and comfortable. It's made from lightweight plastic and is very easy to carry and move around. It's also non-obtrusive and doesn't stand out like a sore thumb so that's another plus as well.
My only issue with it is that the cat I'm trying to shelter is feral and doesn't really like to be confined - at least not yet anyway. I purchased two outdoor heating pads and placed one inside The Kitty Tube and the other one on top of a patio chair. So far the cat seems to like the chair better even as the temperatures have dropped in the low 20s the last few nights. I'm assuming it's because the cat is more familiar with the chair and has seen The Kitty Tube only for a few days. I tried enticing it with cat nip but so far he's only gone inside The Kitty Tube for about a minute or so at a time. If you have any tips on how I can make him use The Kitty Tube that would be super! Thanks in advance...
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 27, 2014:
Wow...that's a puzzler for sure. I can think of a few reasons, but I'd be hard pressed to say for certain, which of them (or perhaps something else) is the cause of her not going into her house. Obviously, there's a strong reason for her not to go into a warm house in the cold winter.
1. It could be that another animal has used the house & has it's scent all over it, and is causing her to not want to invade the take-over animals "territory." Could be another cat or another animal species.
2. Possibly, she's found another location/home that she prefers.
3. She could be coming to the house & you are not around at the time to notice. Could be she's had a litter of kittens and has them in another location & she's not ready to move them yet.
Could be any one, combination of, or another reason(s) entirely. While, I know this is little consolation for you, especially when it's bitter cold outside - know that she will go where-ever she's most comfortable & warm. She's NOT going to let herself suffer if she can possibly help it.
Marian on January 27, 2014:
I bought my outdoor cat a cedar insulated house that she has used for 2 years... I have a bed inside and keep it fresh and clean as much as I can... howevr this winter she has decided not to use it... it has been extremly cold in Pennsylvania and I am worried sick that she wll freeze... when the snow comes she leaves and I do not know where she goes... I two cat beds sitting on bathroom rugs that she sleeps on... but she will not go into the house... I ought a new bed and put it in today but she chooses to sleep in the open area... do you have any idea why she would all of sudden not go into her house? Bewildered...
Jean Keith (author) from TX on December 21, 2013:
Samjsp & Carole,
Cats will seek out comfort and their best interests if at all possible. Keeping an animal dry in the winter-time is crucial to their health and well being. Depending upon the humidity levels, a warmer should dry up a damp blanket, but will take a VERY long time if it's more than just damp. Hopefully, the cat will find the straw filled shelter to be more to his/her liking.
Putting a barrier between the floor & any bedding is important. Something like a trash bag, then styrofoam, then the bedding will help. Also, if you elevate the whole thing OFF the floor entirely, this helps tremendously. I'm not sure, Carole what you mean by "having a booder over him"...so if you mean a heat style lamp, yes, this would be very helpful in keeping him warm in the wintertime.
Carole on December 21, 2013:
I have my cat in the garage and i have a booder over him which is on a timmer..now i noticed that when i lifted his pillow there was moisture between the pillow and the blanket he was lying on it hasn;'t done throught to touch him but i am concerned it looks like condensation. Should i put a sheet of styrofoam under his cat bed?
let me know soon ok?
samjsp on November 14, 2013:
Thank you for the quick response.
Do you think the kitty will be OK with the mattress cover blanket if she chooses not to use the straw filled shelter? I was hoping the warm water bottles will dry up the blanket. Do you think so? Thanks again!
Jean Keith (author) from TX on November 14, 2013:
Thank you for your very kind comments. I'm thrilled you have gotten value out of my Hub (which is the reason why I wrote it in the first place). I adore animals, especially cats, and it does my heart good to know in some small way, I've helped cats and their human companions with this Hub.
My thanks to all the readers and writers of comments to my Hub. Your comments have taught me SO much, and have helped countless companion animals. Many blessing to all (human and animal).
samjsp on November 14, 2013:
Thank you so much for having this hub! Such great and helpful tips in keeping an outdoor kitty warm for the winter. Thanks again!
A cat has found our family about a week and a half ago. I'd like to bring her into our home until I find her owners, but haven't yet so I think she may be a common "drop-off". It's obvious that she was once someone's pet. After reading all of the comments left here, I've come up with a shelter for her. Before bed, I warm up her water and she has warmed up wet food, and gets a cup of dry food every morning. For the shelter, we took a dog crate made for a medium sized dog, took carpet remnants and covered up the air vents, then covered it with a towel and my son's sleeping bag. For the inside, there's a thick layer of straw, and a twin size mattress cover. At night, I heat up several 20 ounce pop bottles with hot water and line the bottom of the crate, underneath the straw and it seems to hold the heat a little better. There is a "lean-to" made of heavy plastic over the shelter to block more wind and the snow. It seems to help alot. Because I've read that having a blanket isn't a good idea, there's a smaller shelter with only straw in it. She doesn't use it and can tell because the straw hasn't been disturbed. I hope she doesn't develop any sickness from a damp blanket. But the option of straw is available to her.
It gets pretty cold here in New York, and I'm waiting to get her to trust us enough to be able to take her to the vet. We are going to try to bring her inside, and in the meantime, getting my 3 indoor jealous cats used to her at a distance. We bring her in for about half hour a couple times a day and hold her while she warms up and the other cats to at least get a glimpse of her and get familiar. Alot of growling and hissing going on the entire time. I am hoping that they all get used to each to other very soon! Breaks my heart that she's out in the cold all night. I've talked to the local animal shelter, but there is a 3 page waiting list for cats due to the overcrowding. Very sad situation, and I'm afraid to admit that it's like that at the majority Humane Societies.
A note to everyone who has posted the comments: Thank you so much for all of the great advice, and your amazing love for these homeless beautiful cats. Very much appreciated. And thank you Jean, for starting this hub so everyone can share ideas and not get off topic like most I've seen.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on November 08, 2013:
Dear Mom of 4,
Since you have limited space & resources, the best way to keep them warm would be to use straw. Straw is a great insulator & doesn't take up much space. You could get some straw from places like - farms, craft stores (used in Fall displays), friends/family with horses and/or cattle. Even a small amount used in the double house you have for them would greatly help with keeping them warmer during the cold winter nights.
Hope this helps you and your brood of 4 cats keep warm this winter. Also, I hope your situation improves so you all have a more stable place to spend your lives together.
mom of 4 on November 08, 2013:
I am leaving out of my car with my four cats ther have a double house/scraching post to stay warm in but on realy cold nights I am worry they will get sick can u help me make my car warmer for them
Connie, Mi on July 23, 2013:
I also put this at the corner of the house, where it`s protected on 2 side and also put a blanket over the pads so they can cuddle. Cost about 200 dollars but will last for years. In late spring I take it in the grage for the next year.
Connie, Mi on July 23, 2013:
I have 2 stray female cats that I had fixed as soon as possible. I purchased a very large, hard plastic dog carrier, took the door off. Wrapped it in foam rubber outside, taped down. Over that I put a 60 gal. garbage bag to keep out the cold and wind. Purchased a cat warmer pad that when they lay on it , it heats up. I put their food and water in it, water 3 times a day so it wont freeze. I put this house on a large pallet so it`s off the ground and put it on my deck in winter. I think they are very warm and happy during the cold winter up here.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 25, 2013:
Two very good ideas.! Many thanks for posting your comment with great directions on how exactly you kept the stray cat warm. I've no doubt she appreciates all your efforts to keep her warm in winter (and of course, you feeding her helps alot too).
Kudos to you!
L. Gibson on January 25, 2013:
I have a stray outdoor cat and we live in the North East. The poor thing has been so cold, but I cannot bring her in as I have another skitterish cat and I don't feel it is fair to do that to mine.
I feed her all day long so she is around a lot and it is hard to watch her begging to come in.
So we came up with two ideas....and both would work well.
I had an extra covered kittie litter box. Putting it outside, we covered it with a piece of plastic so the vent wouldn't get wet and two heavy blankets. Then I went to Home Depot and bought a cable that warms water pipes in the freezing temps so the pipes don't freeze. (6 Ft. for the small enclosed area.)
Lining the kittie litter box with heavy silver foil, I ran the cable around the bottom of the box and then put a soft towel on top of it. Please note that it is important to keep the thermostat near the opening because it only works when it detects the cold air. We taped it in place, while keeping it out of a direct line in case it rained. The cable for pipes is an indoor product.
We therefore cut a small hole to attach an outdoor extension cord through the box to the cable.
This morning instead of the cat being there for her food at 6 AM, she slept in! LOL!!! When she finally did come out at 8 A.M. for her breakfast, I felt the box inside and it was actually toasty warm. YEA!!!!
Another thought is to go to a grain and feed store. They have red lamps for brooding. It is a heat lamp and can be directed at a box without burning it...just adding warmth.
Not sure of what kind of box, so please check that out.
Hope this helped.....I am so grateful to have a happy cat now. She spent the whole 'freezing' day in her box..
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 15, 2013:
Good to hear that you check the rugs more than once a day. You can never be too careful. Again, kudos for taking such good care of your cats and dogs.
Msds12 on January 15, 2013:
I check rugs every time I go in, usually 3 to 5 times a day, I have it where no rain can get to the rugs, and I wash them on a regular basis, I also live in east texas so it never gets too too cold, I read thru all the comments and there ate lots f great suggestions. The heated cat beds are on top of the bath rugs just for extra insulation from the bottom, I keep dry ones on hand when they need to be changed out.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 14, 2013:
Thanks for doing what you can for your animals & strays that show up & need food and water. Kudos to you.
You might want to make sure any rugs, blankets, etc. that are in your enclosure during the winter months do NOT get wet. This could lead to some very unwanted & unpleasant results for your animals. It could potentially harm them (they could get sick or injured). You might want to look over some of the excellent comments left on this Hub. There are some great alternatives to blankets/rugs as insulation...for example, straw is a great insulator.
Again, thanks for taking care of animals during the cold, winter months, and thanks for your comments, they are appreciated.
Msds12 on January 14, 2013:
So many great suggestions on here. I have 4 cats as well as 2 dogs, all rescues, all spayed & neutered and all very well loved, I would have more but can't afford them. But feed any animal that shows up since I believe all animals need food and love.
We recently built an outdoor cattery, we keep our 4 cats inside and they all seem to enjoy their new home. I found a 5 foot x 10 foot dog kennel on clearance, had some concrete pavers so put them on the ground inside cage for floor also to protect them from digging out or anything digging in, wrapped the entire cage, sides and top in chicken wire so they would not get their heads stuck in the fencing, covered top and one long side plus half of back with plastic tarp to keep them dry and safe, bought a large 4 shelf plastic shelf, put beds on top 3 and food on the bottom, also put an old cabinet with doors which we cut an opening in the top right side an bottom left side for doors, I put cut up bathroom rugs on each of the 3 shelves which also have holes cut so they can go top to bottom when they want, this gives them a complete private place when there is a storm or loud noise or strangers about. We built a litterbox cover out of old pallets that serve as a litter box cover as well as a perch to lie on it is about 2ft wide by 3 feet long and 3 feet high. Also hung up a cardboard tube on one side that they love to play in as well as sleep in.they also have cedar posts for scratching posts. Had a fan mounted in one corner during the summer which seemed to keep them cool. When the cold weather got here we placed plastic tarps inside from top to bottom on the other 2 open sides as well as the door, we left a 2 x 4 open space for fresh air and light as well as them being able to see outside. I do raise the door flap when it is warm to let them see more. I also bought the pet safe heated pads which they all love and it seems to keep them warm, I feed them wet food every morning, dry food is available at all times, fresh water daily, cleaned litter box daily and lots of affection. We weren't sure the cats would like being in a cage but they seem to love being inside an enclosure safe from the dogs, kids and elements. I know of the dangers of outside kitties and wanted mine to be safe, they ave been in their new home since July 2012 and they are happy, feed, warm & safe. I can now make sure they are taken care of and not hurt or injered. I know this is not an option for everyone but it works great for us.
Thank you so much to all of the others who try their best to take care of our animal friends, without each of us doing what we can no matter on what scale there would be many unhappy animals. I wish one day everyone would be more kind to them.
PS my dogs are also treated well and know they are loved.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on November 18, 2012:
Glad you like this Blog. Here are some ideas that should help you keep Boo warm.
First of all, you might check out stores like "Family Dollar," "Dollar General" and any other "discount" type of store. They should carry inexpensive tables that are sturdy enough to hold the insulated box you made.
Secondly, just in case you are handy making things (or know someone who is)...here's a link to some outstanding winter shelters that are great in keeping cats warm, even in very cold temps & snowy winters.
Now, lastly - please be aware, the down fabric you are using will get wet should there be alot of snow. Boo will track snow as he comes & goes from the box. This is NOT what you want to have happen. If Boo has a damp/wet bed to sleep on, this will put him at rick for getting an upper respiratory infection or worse. The best insulating material to use in an outdoor shelter is STRAW.
Straw is an excellent insulating material, and does not get moldy (like hay does). Just something I thought you should be aware of.
Hope all this helps.
Kate on November 18, 2012:
I have been taking care of feral cats at my home for 5 years now and have successfully adopted 3 of them inside. I have gotten most of the ferals outside neutered and recently adopted another one who was very sick and was not able to save and had to have her put to sleep. I only had her for a month and it broke my heart. I have a large male tom cat who always seems to bring home another girlfriend to keep him company and I am always worried about him in the winter. He has be around for 6 years. This year he seems to want to come in but then gets skittish and goes back outside. In the past he has stayed in the garage but doesn't want to this year. My solution to keeping him warm this year has been a trial but I came up with this solution:
I bought the cheapest covered litter box I could find with the front flapping door. I then put some old down fabric on the floor (there is not much room, you have to make sure the cat can still get in and out of the door) and covered the the outside of the litter box first with some warm insulating fabric (whatever you choose and your budget allows) and then covered the whole thing with a waterproof tarp. I have it push up against the front of the garage door where there is a bit of a wind break and so far Boo just loves it. He is always in there sleeping, only coming out to lay in the sun or to eat his wet fishy food and Fancy Feast Kibble (better than the inside cats because I feed bad he has to be outside). I hope this helps someone else. You can use any kind of container as long as the cat can get in and out and it is warm.
My only problem is that with the snow coming, I don't know what to do. I don't have anywere to put this that it will be above the ground. Any suggestions? Thanks for this great blog.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 20, 2012:
Great going! You're a wonderful person for caring for those 3 cats and being responsible for their spay/neuter and immunizations. This is SO important, so thanks for stepping up and doing the best thing for all concerned.
Since the igloo is in the barn & up in the hay loft, you don't have to get an igloo which only just fits the cats. Heat does rise, so that's a positive factor in the keeping cats warm. I'd get an igloo which allows all 3 cats to be comfy inside, with maybe a bit of "wiggle" room, but not too much.
Barns (as I'm sure you well know) can still get quite cold in the winter. An igloo with just a little bit of room for the cats to move around a bit & re-settle in a different sleeping position is just about the right size.
Oh, and before I forget, please do NOT put towels or blankets in there. (I know you mentioned learning about this, but want to emphasize the importance of this.) Straw is the best. Cats can then snuggle up and burrow into the straw & keep warmer that way.
Hope this helps!
SueAnn on January 19, 2012:
There are 3 cats that I love at the barn where I board my horse. I have taken over their car, spay/neuter, immunizations. I thought I would purchase them an igloo this winter and I wondered what size I would need for 3 fairly good sized cats. They are fed dry and canned food and they are still the best mousers around, no mice in my barn. I would love to take them home but husband is allergic. I was going to put old towels or blankets in there, but not now, thanks for the info. Igloo is inside the barn up in ay loft
Jean Keith (author) from TX on December 28, 2011:
Great comment on an inexpensive way to keep cats warm during winter. (If you look thru all the comments and the links on this Hub, you'll find more inexpensive ways to do shelters.)
There certainly is more than one way to get and/or build an inexpensive shelter for your cat(s). Depending on your budget, there are some alternative ways to keep cats warm during the winter months (some ranging from "cheap" to pricey). It's all up to what you want to do, and how much "do it yourself" you want or can do.
Thanks so much for leaving us your thoughts & the very helpful way to help our cat companions!
Bridget on December 28, 2011:
I just wanted to share a really good, CHEAP shelter I learned about from an organization in Michigan that specializes in helping ferals.
If you go to PetSmart or one of those types of stores, they will give you a Styrofoam container that their fish shipments come in. Go to Lowe's, Home Depot, or some other home improvement store and buy a roll of mylar insulation (around $14). It looks like bubble wrap but it's silver. Cover the inside of the container with the mylar, put some straw on the bottom ($5-$7 at a feed store or nursery) and cut a hole in the container. Both the mylar and straw will cover multiple shelters. The mylar reflects that cat's heat to help keep the shelter warm and the straw allows the cat to "nest". If you have absolutely NO money, at least setting out one of the styrofoam containers will provide protection from moisture and wind. Just remember to weight it down since an empty styrofoam box will easily blow around.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on December 08, 2011:
You're certainly welcome! Glad to hear your cat is doing well & that your close friend has adopted a cat (who is also doing well it seems).
As I said above, just remember...patience and LOTS of love go a long way with feral and stray cats. Who knows what will transpire over time? After a while, your lovely "wild girl at heart" just might decide that outside is for younger cats and start wanting to come inside more and more. Just keep your options open.
With all Best Wishes for you & your cat, and for your close friend and her newly adopted cat as well.
lucydann on December 08, 2011:
Jean, thanks so much for your reply! My close friend just adopted her own cat (he was indoors for a short while with his first mom, but sadly, she passed away and he got loose in the complex)and we came up with using her outdoor chair cushions in the form of a "teepee" Buddy seems to take to it more every day. He's loving the outdoors at the moment, so this seems to be working out. As for my girl...The best place would probably be in the bushes in front of our units. She is VERY much an outdoor cat and the elements don't seem to faze her. I would love to make her an indoor kitty, but the look in her eyes says "wild girl at heart.."
Jean Keith (author) from TX on December 07, 2011:
Thanks for adopting a feral cat & putting up a warm shelter for him.
Feral cats are normally skittish - it's an excellent protective characteristic to have. With ferals and strays, you have to have LOTS of patience and love. After some time, your adopted feral will see that the warm shelter is still there for him, as well as food (and I hope water somewhere close to the shelter, too).
Once he sees that he has what he needs to better survive, he will use the shelter. Remember, cats are secretive...just 'cause you don't see him use the shelter, doesn't mean he doesn't use the shelter. Luckily for us (and cats), cats like their comfort and will seek to be as comfortable as they can be. I've no doubt this includes using the warm shelter you've provided.
Oh, and before I forget...you are most certainly welcome. Thanks for reading my Hub.
D. Cox on December 07, 2011:
I too have adopted a feral cat. I recently set up an warm outdoor kennel for him but he will not go inside. I"ve put bedding and food in there to lure him. He will eat but quickly leaves. Will he instintively go in and stay in when it gets cold?
Thank you for this thread!
Jean Keith (author) from TX on December 02, 2011:
Good for you LucyDann for adopting a stray/feral kitty & then going the extra mile and having her spayed. Kudos to you!
You might want to look at the comment I made just above your first comment here on my Hub. It's got two really good links to sites that show how to build shelters that are within most budgets & are reasonably priced.
Since I don't know all the details of your community & complex, it's a bit hard to tell you how to make a shelter inconspicuous as possible. You might want to make your shelter smaller, but still accessible so your adopted kitty doesn't feel trapped "inside."
Most ferals & strays do NOT like feeling trapped, so this would be a prime factor to take into consideration, no matter what type of shelter you might want to make or buy for her.
The only other suggestion I have is perhaps you might want to camouflage the shelter...perhaps doing it by placing some shrubs around it (example: pampas grass or other thick and/or tall shrubs).
Hope all this helps you. Hope you and your kitty have a long, happy and healthy life together. (Also...here's hoping with patience and lots of love, you can convince her to become an inside only kitty.)
lucydann on December 02, 2011:
Hello, Jean. I live down in South Florida and we have many stray and feral kitties in the complex where I live. I adopted one last year, she's since had her first (and only since we got her spayed)litter of kittens who have been successfully adopted as housekitties. She's still very much an outdoor cat and it gets cold down here too during the winter season, albeit not as cold as up north! How can I make as inconspicuous as possible shelter for my girl? The community I live in tolerates the feeding of stray/feral within reason. Thanks for your compassion!
Jean Keith (author) from TX on November 04, 2011:
Good for you wanting to help stray cats stay warm this winter! You can get a great overview of how you can help the cats by reading all the great comments in this Hub. There are some inexpensive ways to keep cats warm in winter.
Bobwired (see comment above) has some good & inexpensive ideas, and the following links are also good resources for keeping cats warm throughout a cold winter night -
This gives great ideas with details on how to build winter shelters inexpensively.
Also very good information on how to build winter shelters for cats, but also has great info on other alternatives for shelters, insulation, and what to do in extreme cold.
Also, Emily - you mention the cats run when they see you. Whether they're strays or ferals, they are scared of human contact (for whatever reasons). The main thing is to be as patient with them as possible. It's mostly a matter of time. You need to show them by your actions that you are a caring & loving human, that only has their best interests at heart.
After a passage of time, they should come to trust you more. This subject alone is a huge topic and I could go on for a long time. The bottom line is - love and patience are the major factors in whether or not you gain the cats trust.
Day by day, with good food, clean water, warm shelter, and being patient and loving, they should see you as someone they can get closer to.
Thanks for visiting my Hub. Hope this helps you.
Emily on November 04, 2011:
I too love cats! There are several stray kittens that run around my apartment unit and winter is finally here. I am worried about the poor things getting cold. I am a college student living off of loans so I cant afford to buy heated beds. What is the cheapest way to keep these kitties warm? Also, they run when they feel like I have came to close to them. How can I gain their trust?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on July 29, 2011:
First of all - my most sincere apologies for not replying to you sooner. All I can say is that it's been WAY too busy at work, so I am sorry it took me a long time to respond to you. (you can see above, that I usually reply very quickly to folks).
Anyway, GOOD FOR YOU for taking care of the cats in your backyard and basement! Spaying & neutering the cats is very important, so you've done a great thing in taking care of it quickly.
As far as finding a solution - you might want to see if anyone in your family or neighborhood would like to adopt the cats. You might also want to ask your Vet if she/he would allow you to put up a sign in their clinic to see if any of the other people who go to that Vet would like to adopt the cats.
Also, you might want to ask your Vet if they are aware of any "No Kill" shelters in your immediate area. That way, if there are no people who are willing to adopt the cats, then you can feel better about putting them in a shelter that won't kill the cats.
Hope this helps you.
allyssa on July 20, 2011:
theirs been cats in my backyard and in my basment my mom is allergic to them so my mom cant do laundry and cant wath tv , so i have to do laundry. also my room is in the basement my papillon goes wild and when im asleep they always pick on her and they sleep with me so my puppy cant sleep wit me anymore.i call the vet every month to spay and neuter them and also with my own allowents i buy them food and boels it costs me 100$ in 2 weeks i feed them every day and give them water every day. theirs 1 kitten i have to buy milk witch is 7 bucks could you help me find a soloution, i dont whant to send them to the spca.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on July 01, 2011:
Thanks for your kind words. Arizona cats are fortunate to not have extreme cold in the wintertime, but I'm sure it's a challenge to keep them cool in the summer. Just remember, cats DO need daily, fresh water - especially in the summer. This helps them stay cool. Also, that kitty closet will help provide some needed shade.
Flower girl on June 30, 2011:
Its like my state has own natural heater. Here in Arizona, its always hot for the current season, OH summer is miserable!!!!!!!! But 57 degrees in the winter! Still, my cats are freeezing on our cold tile floor! Thank you so much for the advice! I'll set up a kitty closet. I suppose there is one good thing about Arizona. My cats automaticly stay warm in the winter!:)
Shyloh Needs Canary Supplies on April 14, 2011:
Thank you for sharing this information and I'm sure my cat's will too. I just stocked up on canary supplies in case my heat shuts off again. I have a horrible house for the winter months!
Jean Keith (author) from TX on March 31, 2011:
First of all, please be aware that most feral (wild) cats are very shy & it's hard sometimes to catch even short glimpses of them, at all. That being said, it's now Springtime, and more than likely, the kittens are completely weaned from the Momma cat.
Most feral cats keep their kittens for a while after they're weaned. Mainly to teach them some more hunting & other survival skills. However, after this, most "teenagers" leave Momma & go out on their own.
Cats of any age, don't always fair well outside. The statistics say feral cats only live from 3-5 years, depending on several factors. While I personally dislike to be pessimistic, these are the facts of life outside.
Here's hoping that all the kittens found good humans to take them inside, neuter them & keep them inside, safe, well taken care of, and loved.
sammie on March 30, 2011:
ive had kittens in my backyard in the summer then the weather had changed to winter now its getting warmer and i havent saw the kittens at all ive seen the momma cat but not the kittens im afraid they didnt survive what do u think???
Jean Keith (author) from TX on March 03, 2011:
While there are horror stories about cats (and other animals) being used as lab experiments, I also know there are people who honestly care about animals. Since I don't know where you are getting your info about "no such thing as a no kill shelter" I can't really respond appropriately. All I can say at this point is I AM aware, personally, of shelters that ARE truly "no kill."
God bless you for taking in a "lab tested" cat and taking care of her. I've no doubt her last little bit on this physical, Earthly plane was made much better for your care. Also, kudos for taking care of the stray cat in your area. I'd suggest you put straw & NOT hay around the bench, since straw is the better insulator. (you might want to browse around all the comments on this Hub, there are some awesome suggestions for keeping cats warm).
Misty39 from Massachusetts USA on March 02, 2011:
I was told there is no such thing as a No Kill shelter;what they do is;their doors are always open to all or any animals but they are automatically put to sleep because of the over abundance of animals being brought into the shelters daily.If we could all share information nation wide & web wise,we can share the fact that doctors are telling millions of patients they are allergic to their pets,from there they are surrendered to the shelters and further on labs buy all these pets for the severity of lab tests then if they survive they are sent back into shelters to be adopted.I adopted a lab tested cat and she was some suffering sickly sweet little cat.She only lived for six weeks because her kidneys collapsed,all of her teeth were removed.
I also have a stray cat coming here,it won't come in the house at all so I made an awsome make shift house for him/her I nailed a board on my patio railing for the roof then put hay all around the surrounding park bench I have out there on the patio then in the seat it self I put loads of old towels,blankets then a cats half closed bed, lined with fleese then I put an old sewing machine out next to my park bench then put three tarps coving 80% of the park bench and made sure they were secured down in case of very strong winds,I used a lot of pavers,bolders etc. for securing the tarps,the cat stays in there very comfortably,the only thing he/she needs now is a night light.I always say;where there's a will there's a way. God bless........... :o)
Jean Keith (author) from TX on February 10, 2011:
Thanks for leaving a comment & for leaving great ideas for helping to keep cats warm during the wintertime. It certainly gets EXTREMELY cold in the Chicago area (did my Master's degree up in Evanston, so I know from experience); and what you've done is an outstanding & economical solution.
Your suggestions are fantastic! This will give the readers of this Hub even more ways to help their furry companions warm.
Bobwired on February 09, 2011:
I have provided care to many outside stray cats that have found me here in the Chicagoland suburban area during the past several years and I wish to share what I have found to be a good insulating material for lining the insides of outdoor cat shelters, whether they are cardboard boxes or storage containers (my favorite because they're waterproof) or other fabricated shelters. The sporting goods stores sell 2' x 2' exercise puzzle mats that are made of a high density foam, which can be purchased in a 6-piece package (24 total sq. feet). I buy the ones that are 3/4" thick at a local Sports Authority store. They are very easy to cut and shape with a pair of scissors and do not leave any styrofoam-like clinging particles. I lay several down on my backyard deck near my patio door, interlocked end-to-end, year-round and found that the cold of the winter and the sun's heat in the summer does not radiate through them. Snow will brush right off and they do not absorb rain water. I also assembled some of the mats on my (unheated) attached garage floor and I can walk on them in my stocking feet without feeling the winter cold coming through the concrete, and it is -4 F. outside right now. It makes for a more comfortable place for my current feral cat, who found me 10 months ago, to come in from the elements for his daily meal, although after he is done eating he still prefers to return outside and curl up on one of the mats out back.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 21, 2011:
Wow - both of your links are wonderful! Went to both of them and each one has outstanding suggestions. Excellent instructions & good pictures add to the value of both sites. The second website link mentions one of my favorite products - the SnuggleSafe. It's a disc you heat up in the microwave for a few mintues & it stays warm for several hours. I recommend having at least 2 - one in use for the night and then in the morning, you heat the other one up and use the newer, warm one for the daytime.
Purrsy on January 21, 2011:
Yes, I did visit your link. Here is another good one that gives you instructions on how to build them along with some great info: http://www.neighborhoodcats.org/HOW_TO_FERAL_CAT_W...
Another thing I have found that works great on those extremely cold night for those that don't have a lot of money to spend are hand warmers that you can buy at many different stores. I even have baked a potato and placed in the corner of a house with the straw hiding it. My dad used to tell us how he had to walk a long distance to school and how his mom would put baked potatoes in his coat pockets to keep his hands warm.
I have included this link because it also gives some good ideas for food shelters:
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 21, 2011:
Very good point! There are some great resources for cat shelters by Google-ing them. Have you visited the following link? It's got some outstanding ideas.
If you know of any other excellent links, please let me know. Also, I couldn't agree with you more - blankets can draw heat AWAY from a cat's body, especially when wet. Thanks for leaving this reminder for the readers of my Hub.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 21, 2011:
Thanks for leaving some great ideas for keeping cats warm during the winter. I really love the fact you make sure the light bulb is sheltered & protected from accidental shattering from cats shaking off the wet from their fur.
Also, I appreciate you pointing out that cats need good food sources so they can stay warm during wintertime. It takes extra calories to do this. And, of course - kudos for keeping a heated water bowl for them! Those Canadian winters can be brutal, but you seem to have all the bases covered for keeping our cat companions warm.
Purrsy on January 21, 2011:
If you google feral cat shelters there are many affordable ideas for shelters for cats. I have made a few with the 2 inch styrofoam. I also paint and glue a big piece of plywood onto the shelter to give them a "roof". I also have built a couple from the Rubbermaid storage containers, the only difference is I don't use the second storage bin. I find a sturdy cardboard box and glue(using low odor glue) the thinner sheets of stryofoam( I found them at Home Depot) all around the box then stick it into the bigger Rubbermaid container. I always use straw too. Blankets can actually draw a cats body heat away from them especially if it gets wet. You can also make windbreaks with the stryofoam sheets by making them longer on one side. Styrofoam is a good insulator. You can also glue the mylar (found this at Walmart in the camping department for 2 dollars) to the walls and ceiling of the shelters, this will not make noise and will reflect the cats body heat back to the cat.
David on January 21, 2011:
You can make a shelter from something like an old wooden cabinet that you can easily find in a dump or curbside. I converted one into a shelter for an outdoor cat and fitted it with an electrical socket so I could install an ordinary incandescent lightbulb. Depending on where you live the wattage will have to compete with the outdoor temperatures. For example here in Montreal in winter it gets really cold like today is -26 celsius and when you factor in the wind chill it's -38. Inside the shelter I have a 100 watt lightbulb to heat it. On average the light will keep the inside heated between +15/+23 celsius depending on the outdoor temperatures. It's important that you cover the bulb with a 3lb coffee can with holes poked in to allow heat to escape or use metal flashing around it like a lampshade (with punctured holes in flashing) to protect the cat from the heat source or from splattering their wet snow/rain coated coats onto the bulb glass which could easily shatter. Inside the shelter I divided it off into 3 sections for sleeping, entering and an area dedicated to just the light bulb to heat the shelter. I should mention that the shelter is located on my balcony that has an outdoor electrical socket that works the light that heats the shelter. I made a rubber coated dormer roof to allow the snow to slide off to cover the cabinet. It also can be lifted off to open the cabinet to change the lightbulb (usually lasts 4 weeks before needing to be changed again). I also added a small entrance hallway structure to the house to divert the wind from the cabinet's main entrance. The cat is healthy, happy and warm. I feed her daily high fat salmon/tuna/cat food mixed with a drop of milk and water. I purchased a heated outdoor water dish to keep water from freezing to ice. It's amazing what you can do to beat the elements and give a kitty a fighting chance. Many cities now provide low cost sterilization if you do an internet search. Many colleges and universities do such procedures as a teaching forum for veterinary students. Check it out.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 14, 2011:
Madeleine on January 13, 2011:
I will talk to my vet. Thank you!
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 13, 2011:
You're certainly welcome.
A few days shouldn't matter, especially if the cats are in good health to start with. (However, please be aware, I'm NOT a Vet, so I can't offer any professional advice here.) I'd recommend that if you've got any concerns with feline health problems, you seek proper medical/vet assistance like asking the Vet you normally go to.
Madeleine on January 13, 2011:
Thank you for your reply . I was not aware of the difference between straw and hay. I have been rescuing independently for 15 years but did not know about the problem it could create for these kitties. Would a few days have harmed the cats?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 12, 2011:
Good for you for taking care of stray cats. Making sure they have fresh food & water daily is very important, especially in the winter time.
FYI - You might want to look at the following link - it's got some great ideas for keeping cats warm in winter. All the designs are VERY affordable to do, even on a very limited budget!
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 12, 2011:
Are you sure it's straw and not hay? If it smells moldy more than likely it's not straw but hay. Please, if it smells moldy, replace it immediately.
FYI - straw is dried, golden colored, primarily hollow stems of grain mainly used for bedding for the animals, weaving baskets etc. Straw being hollow tends to be fluffy, better absorbing hence makes ideal bedding & great insulation. Hay is used to feed animals & is a mix of grasses, as opposed to Straw (which is grain like wheat or oats).
Hope this clarifies things.
jc on January 11, 2011:
It's beginning to get very cold in Austin, Texas. When I got back from work at 9:30 PM, I fed the stray cats some hearty canned food, dry food and provided them with fresh water. I then simply placed a cardboard box on its side and put a blanket and some towels in it. The two stray cats took to it right away, comfortably snuggling/sleeping. I can see them from my livingroom window!
Madeleine on January 11, 2011:
I am feeding two outside cats for which I made a shelter out of a Rubbermaid container I purchased and my son cut an opening for the cats to go inside. This year instead of using cat beds inside the shelter I used straw but I noticed it has a moldy smell . Will this hurt the cats?
Trap, Neuter/Spay, Release Programs Can Help
Every spring, shelters and rescues are swarmed with adorable baby kittens from these stray neighborhood cats who have not been spayed or neutered. Help end kitten season forever by getting stray cats neutered or spayed.
This is important because feral cats can serve a purpose in our neighborhoods, but a stray mama cat can give birth to 24 kittens in one year, and that’s a lot of cats roaming the neighborhood.
- Set up your trap in an enclosed area to protect the cat from the cold.
- If possible, trap as far away as you can from the shelter you’ve built. This helps maintain privacy and a sense of security for other cats in the colony.
- Use magnetic vent covers instead of newspapers to line the bottom of your trap. Newspapers can flap in the wind, scaring away feral cats.
- Microwaveable heating pads will help to keep bait warm and smelly.
By following these steps and being in tune with the needs of the cats in your area, you can help outdoor cats survive comfortably through the cold winter months.
Do you help outdoor cats where you live? How do you keep them safe in winter? Let us know in the comments below!
How to Keep a Stray Cat Warm Outside in the Winter
Anyone who lives in an area with stray cats will wonder what they can do to keep these sweet creatures warm outside during the winter.
While cats are resourceful, constant exposure to low temperatures can be very unhealthy.
It can put even the healthiest and strongest cat at risk of illness and even death.
Understanding how to keep stray cats warm when it’s cold outside will allow animal lovers to take care of these furry friends without scaring them by trying to bring them into the house.
Here are a few ways to keep a stray cat warm:
- Convert an old doghouse
- Add straw to a plastic tote
- Reuse a styrofoam cooler
- Plug in a heating pad
- Keep the cat off the ground
- Consider which bedding you use
Convert an Old Doghouse
Old doghouses are easy to find, making this an inexpensive and easy option for anyone who wants to take care of stray cats in their area.
Doghouses already have plenty of insulation in them, so most of the work is already done.
The key to using an old doghouse is to put up a board in the doorway, then cut a small hole in the board big enough for the cat.
Leaving the door completely open could put a cat at risk if they do decide to sleep there in the winter.
It will also deter them from even trying.
Adding straw to the inside of the doghouse can provide a nice place for the cat to sleep and is easy to clean out and replace.
Add Straw to a Plastic Tote
Most people have a plastic tote around their home that they are no longer using.
These are the perfect option for a stray cat to sleep in, but it may need modifying.
The first step is to cut a hole in the side or end of the tote but to make sure that it is small enough to keep out any predators.
Next, fill the tote with straw.
Unlike other options that are more insulated, it’s important to add straw to completely fill the tote.
A stray cat will be able to push their way inside, and having more straw in the tote will help to keep out the cold air.
Finally, make sure that the lid is on tight and secure so that it can’t be pulled off.
Reuse a Styrofoam Cooler
Styrofoam coolers are everywhere, but they’re not easy to dispose of since the material can’t be recycled.
Rather than throwing them in the trash, you can use them to make a great outdoor winter shelter for a feral cat.
They already have plenty of insulation built-in, which helps to keep cats warm without much effort.
Cutting a hole in the side of the cooler and adding a base of straw allows access and makes the shelter much more inviting.
Unlike the plastic tote, which needed to be filled with straw to keep cats warm, the cooler already has a lot of insulation.
Adding a layer of straw to the bottom gives cats a warm and comfortable place to sleep.
Plug in a Heating Pad
Even with proper shelter, it can be too cold for strays in some bad storms.
So it’s a good idea to go one step further to protect these cats.
Placing the winter shelter near an outdoor outlet will allow a homeowner to power a heating pad for the cat.
The thing to consider when using a heating pad in an outdoor stray cat shelter is that it needs to be one that will turn off after a set period of time.
This will ensure that the shelter is nice and warm, which will help the cat stay cozy during the night or the storm.
Since the heating pad will shut off, it prevents homeowners from having to worry about whether the heating pad is still on.
Keep Everything Off the Ground
One thing to remember when setting up outdoor winter shelter for a stray cat is that it must be above the ground.
The easiest way to do this is to set the shelter up on a wooden pallet.
Placing it on bricks or pavers can also keep it off the ground.
The reason why this is so important is that the ground can be cold and damp, making stray cats uncomfortable in the shelter.
Face the shelter so that the hole is facing a wall and not into the wind to ensure that any cats using the shelter will be as warm as possible.
Consider the Bedding
The bedding is one of the most important things to consider when setting up an outdoor shelter for a feral cat.
It can make a huge difference to whether cats will actually enter and use the shelter.
Many people assume that using blankets or a pet pillow is a good idea, but these are not the best options.
Hay is actually a great choice for bedding.
It is inexpensive, which is great for setting up more than one shelter.
It does a great job of keeping cats warm during cold nights and is replaceable.
Soiled blankets and pillows are much more difficult to clean or dispose of than old straw.
You can also compost the straw too.
Keeping stray cats warm when the temperature is near freezing can seem daunting at first.
It’s easy to do with the right items.
Once you’ve blocked the rain, snow, and cold air from getting to the cat, as well as how to provide warmth during the night, cat lovers can ensure that their favorite stray is warm all winter long.
If a cat isn’t using the shelter, but there are strays in the area, then adding a bit of catnip inside the shelter can help to entice them and make them feel much more comfortable about entering.
Once you’ve enticed the cat to the shelter do not use catnip again otherwise it may attract unwanted cats or predators.
Shaun Bird, Owner of Gazebo Jungle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. 2019 Gazebojungle.com. All rights reserved.
We’ve been passionate about Gazebos for a few years now and love to share what we know about them with you.
Gazebo Jungle is the top resource for all things gazebo and shelter related.
Automated page speed optimizations for fast site performance
Top Ten Tips: Caring For Feral Cats in Winter
Feral cat caretakers, here are some quick tips to help you and your colonies get through the cold winter months:
- Donated Digs
Ask your community to donate storage bins (like Rubbermaid). Line the bins with Styrofoam, cut out a doorway and voila! Instant shelter.
- Build it Better
Got handy staffers or volunteers? Neighborhood Cats offers detailed instructions on building the ultimate feral cat shelter, seen at right.
- In a Pinch, Raid the Trash
A cardboard shelter is better than no shelter. To keep it from getting wet, elevate off the ground, line with newspapers and cover the lid with plastic (a garbage bag will do).
- Keep it Steady
Use sheets of plywood to weigh down lightweight shelters made from plastic, cardboard, Styrofoam, etc.
- Tight Quarters
Cats rely on body heat to stay warm, so keep your shelters small for colonies with just a few cats. For more populated colonies, go with multiple shelters of a larger size.
- Warm and Dry
Because it resists moisture, straw is the top choice for insulation and bedding in your feral cat shelters, says Alley Cat Allies. Avoid blankets, which absorb moisture like a sponge.
- Shovel Out
Yes, cats can get snowed in, so it's important to remove snow from all entrances and exits to their shelters. Shovel regularly to stay ahead of the game.
- Skip the Salt
Alley Cat Allies cautions against using salts and chemicals designed to melt snow near your colonies. They can be toxic when licked off paws or ingested from melting puddles, and can hurt a cat's paw pads.
- Keep Watered
Note that extreme cold weather can increase a cat's energy and nutritional needs. Don't forget extra water to prevent dehydration.
- "Wet" Their Appetite
Per Alley Cat Allies, wet food in insulated containers is ideal for cold-weather feeding-because it takes less energy to digest, that's more energy for keeping warm.
The Secret Lives of Feral Cats
Do feral kitties live good lives? The Washington Post asked that question last week in a story that examined the practice of controlling feral cat populations by trapping cats, spaying or neutering them, and then releasing them back into their former home environments (it’s often called Trap-Neuter-Return or TNR).
The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA and other supporters say the nation’s estimated 50 million to 150 million feral felines often live healthy lives. They also say TNR has added benefits: After a cat colony is sterilized, nuisance behaviors such as fighting and yowling are reduced, and the feral population stabilizes. Feral cats can keep rats in check, too.
Skeptics, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and some veterinarians, argue the life of an alley cat is rarely pleasant. In many cases, they say it’s actually more humane to euthanize cats, rather than condemn them to a harsh life on the streets.
Some insight into the lives of both feral and owned kitties comes from a new study, published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, in which researchers set out to track free-roaming feral and owned cats by placing radio transmitters on 42 kitties in and around Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. Twenty-three of those transmitters also had tilt and vibration sensors that measured activity.
The scientists found that the feral cats had home ranges that stretched across large areas one male kitty’s range covered 1,351 acres (2.1 square miles). They roamed over a wide variety of habitats, most often in urban areas and grasslands, including a restored prairie. In winter, they preferred urban spots, forests and farmland, all places that would provide greater shelter from bad weather and help them keep warm. Cats that had owners, meanwhile, tended to stick close to home, with their range sizes averaging a mere 4.9 acres.
Feral kitties were also more active than cats that had homes. Unowned cats spent 14 percent of their time in what the scientists classified as “high activity” (running or hunting, for example), compared with only 3 percent for kitties with owners. “The unowned cats have to find food to survive, and their activity is significantly greater than the owned cats throughout the day and through the year, especially in winter,” says study co-author Jeff Horn of the University of Illinois.
In addition, the feral cats’ daily activity patterns—sleeping during the day and being active at night, which likely reflects the behavior of their prey, small mammals, as well as lets them better avoid humans—was very different from kitties with homes. Those animals were most active in the morning and evening, when their owners were likely home and awake.
Only one owned kitty died during the study, compared with six feral cats. Two of the feral cats were killed by coyotes, and the researchers believe that at least some of the others were killed by other cats, as the owned kitty was. Cats that live outdoors, even just part of the time, are at risk of death from other cats as well as diseases such as rabies, feline leukemia and parasites, the researchers note.
And of course there’s the fact that cats, owned and unowned, kill wildlife. “Owned cats may have less impact on other wildlife than unowned cats because of their localized ranging behavior, or conversely, they may have a very high impact withing their smaller home ranges,” the scientists write. “Free-roaming cats do kill wildlife and pose a disease risk cat owners should keep pets indoors.”
But there’s nothing in this study that convinces me that feral cats are living such harsh lives that death would be better, as PETA and other TNR skeptics have contended. Feral cats do have harder and shorter lives than our pets. They have to find their own food and water and shelter, and this isn’t easy. But that’s what any wild creature has to do, and to imply that their lives are worthless because they are hard is, frankly, ridiculous.