Winter brings with it as many celebrations as it does reasons to stay warm indoors. For stray animals, however, the season offers little comfort.
Countless animals freeze to death or die of malnutrition each winter, mostly cats, as shelters are often more responsive to stray dogs. While we can’t bring them all indoors, there are a number of ways to help them make it to spring.
1. Always Call Ahead
Safety first. If you want the best for stray animals, and for yourself, it’s important to call a local shelter or rescue organization and ask them if they have room.
If the animal is a lost pet, the shelter can help locate the owner, preferably by scanning the pet’s microchip. Otherwise, some facilities may already be tracking feral cat populations and could provide the proper next steps in helping the stray animal.
In some communities, Mother Nature Network reports, feral cats are left to handle urban rodent populations, and animal welfare groups apply trap, neuter, and release methods to keep their numbers under control.
2. Be Careful!
If you don’t know the animal, you don’t know how it might react to you. More than likely, the animal is scared and disoriented, and one wrong move could send it running into oncoming traffic.
The Humane Society of the United States recommends that you use extreme caution when approaching a stray animal.
After contacting your local shelter, speak in a calm tone to reassure the animal, lure it into your carrier with food, call for backup if you need help, and transport the animal to safety.
3. Making Room At Home
If you think you need to bring the animal home, you should first determine whether or not it will be comfortable there.
It’s unwise to let a frightened animal free in a home where there are other pets, but if you have the space, and there are no imminent threats to the animal, the HSUS recommends you also keep the following items on hand:
- Phone; phone numbers of local animal control, a shelter, and a 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic
- Cat carrier or cardboard box
- Collars and strong leashes for dogs
- Heavy blanket; water bowls and water
- Strong-smelling foods, such as canned tuna or dried liver
- An animal first-aid kit
4. Warm and Dry Shelter
There are several ways to build an animal shelter. Many choose brick and mortar, but if your target population is a little smaller, you can make do with a slightly modified plastic tote box.
Completing this cat cozy is as easy as adding styrofoam insulation to the inner walls of your box, placing a second smaller plastic tote in the larger box, adding straw or bedding to insulate the inner space, and cutting a hole through the front in both.
Watch the video below for more detailed instructions.
According to Little Things, the completed shelter will help stray cats stay warm and can be left outside all winter, so long as you shovel around it regularly.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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