How to Keep Outdoor and Stray Cats Warm in the Winter

While many cats are snug and toasty indoors as winter falls, there are many that don’t have that luxury. They could be ferals, strays, or outdoor cats that just won’t become acclimated to life indoors. As temperatures dip, concern for these cats may go up for an animal lover. There are some things you can do, though, including putting together a safe, dry, and somewhat warm shelter.

Where to Place a Cat Shelter

Cat paw print in the snow
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / IRYKDELTA

Before you construct a shelter, you’ll need to pick an ideal location. Some things to keep in mind are avoiding moisture, wind, and possibly traffic, depending on how skittish the cat may be. Ideally, you’ll want to elevate the shelter with something like pallets or 2x4s to limit the risk of moisture getting inside. You’ll also want to have it face a wall or at least away from the wind. For ferals or strays that aren’t too happy about people, be sure you place the shelter in a low traffic area, as well. Bear in mind that if there’s enough snow, there could be the risk of the cats getting snowed in, so try to pick a spot where snow may be less likely to accumulate in large amounts, and be prepared to shovel around it if this is still at risk of happening.

What to Use to Construct the Shelter

Cat outside wooden homemade shelter
PHOTO: PIXABAY / LUTZ44

There are ready made shelters you can purchase if you have the spare money. There are also do-it-yourself options. Shelters can be made from wood, a foam cooler, or even plastic totes. Whichever you choose, you’ll need to create an entry hole that’s just large enough for cats to get through. Don’t make it much larger, due to the risk of predators getting inside. A small hole also helps keep the heat inside. A flap can be included, as well. The entry should also be elevated a bit from the ground to avoid possible flooding. The size, meanwhile, should be just big enough for the number of cats that will use it. This allows their body heat to warm the space.

What to Put Inside Your Shelter

Cat sitting on wooden boards or bench in snow
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / YURA2807

To keep the shelter warm, it’s important that you choose the right filler items. You should steer clear of hay, cloth blankets, and towels, which can hold moisture and absorb body heat. However, straw and shredded newspaper do not have this problem. You can fill pillowcases with those materials and replace them as needed, particularly if they get wet. Mylar blankets are an option for wall lining, too, because they reflect the cats’ body heat. Another important thing to avoid is keeping water bowls inside. If they spill, it can make it extra chilly.

Tips for Food and Water

Cat eating her food outside
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / KATERYNA KOVARZH

When it comes to water, you’ll need to take some steps to keep it from freezing. Thick plastic bowls that are deep and wide are better suited for this purpose than others, and you can also use solar heated bowls to prolong the amount of time before water freezes. Check these bowls multiple times a day to ensure they haven’t frozen over, and replace them as needed.

Wet food can also be kept in heated bowls or heated just before you place it outside, assuming you know it will be consumed quickly. The heat from that food can also warm the cat. Dry food, meanwhile, doesn’t run the same risk of freezing, so it can be utilized without too many special considerations. Food can also be kept in the shelter. One more pointer? Avoid metal bowls. Cats’ tongues can get stuck to them in the cold just like human tongues.

Helping Other Cats in Need Over the Winter

Two stray cats outside
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / ZHENG QIANG

The Animal Rescue Site is working closely with organizations whose mission is helping community cats. You can support efforts to make these outdoor cats comfortable through the winter by sending your love and support! Find out more about how to help these kitties here!

Help Rescue Animals

Provide food and vital supplies to shelter pets at The Animal Rescue Site for free!

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