Sunday, October 31, 2010

How to Keep Feral Cats Warm in Winter




Cats that live outside during the winter need shelter from the cold, snow and ice.  Many people believe that the cat’s winter coat will provide adequate warmth.  

The cat's fur will keep them warm, but if the temperatures dip below freezing the cat will be cold and if the cat is left outdoors, with no shelter or wind protection in extreme cold weather they will develop frost bite on paws, nose and ears.  

Feral and stray cats need an insulated shelter to stay warm and dry in winter. 
Winter is coming and I need to make sure my colony cats have a shelter to protect them from the cold and snowy winter.  The feral cats visit the feeding station that I monitor and occasionally they will come inside my shelter/shelter.  



Locating the Feral Cat Colony

Feral cats are terrified of humans and will go to the hallow trees and the thicket dens in the forest when the weather is bad.  My husband and I decided to fill the hallow trees and thicket dens with straw as it would provide more insulation.   

I decided to track the feral cat I call Bob in hopes to find the forest colony.  I followed each of my colony cats by walking 20 feet behind them into the forest.


 I found that the cats shelters, they were 107 feet south of my home; a hallow tree, a groundhog burrow, thicket den, shallow crevice in the limestone rock.  

The stray cats lived closer, they had leaf shelters that were located under my neighbors low to the ground deck. 

 I noted the cat’s shelters and returned to the areas the following day when the cats weren't there.  I brought insulation material; straw for their shelters.  I set a thick pile of straw inside the hallow tree, burrow and thicket den.

I spoke to my neighbor and informed him that the cat was using his deck for a shelter and asked if I could insulate it for the winter.   

Insulating a deck is a little tricky because you never know what is living under it.  I crawled under the deck and my husband handed me cardboard to set on the ground.  I then piled a thick layer of leaves on top of the cardboard and topped the leaves with straw.  

The top of the deck was covered with a plastic tarp that was secured tie downs. The tarp would provide a wind break and it would also prevent the water from getting the cats bellow wet.  The home owner had no problem with the tarp on the deck because during the winter months it was seldom used.  

About Sgolis, Feral Cat Colony Caregiver

When the temperature dips into the teens I will provide shelter for the feral or stray cats  by allowing  them entrance to my shed or garage. I  Installed a kitty door at the entrance.  The door allows entrance to cats only and does not allow raccoon, dog or fox. 

Inside the shelter I hang heavy blankets or insulated drapes over the windows and walls.  For added warmth I cover the cement floor with cardboard or old carpet.  

For cat bedding;  I filled dish boxes with straw and gave the cats a fleece blankets I also provide the cats with self heating cat beds, mats and igloo and other insulated plastic cat houses.
Insulated cat bedding inside shed:  Image by Susan Golis

Here is a video that will show you how to get your feral and stray cat shelters ready for winter:


Tips 
  1. Keep cats warm by fueling their bodies with high protein food. The protein will give the cats the energy they need to keep them active during the winter months.  
  2. Feed the cats daily and provide them with fresh water.  
  3. To avoid freezing put cat's water in a heated bowl
  4.  In winter season I feed outdoor cats dry food as the canned food will freeze.  If cats are in the heated shed/shelter I will leave canned food for them.   
  5. As long as an outdoor cat is in an area that is dry, with some insulation, straw and a wind block the cat will adapt to living outside during winter.  The cats will sleep together and their bodies will keep them warm.
     






Saturday, October 16, 2010

National Feral Cat Day

National Feral Cat Day, an annual feral cat awareness day.  A day to educate and to make others aware of Alley Cat Allies and their pledge to help control feral cat population by the trap neuter and release program.  For me it is a time for me to reflect on the year and the work that I have accomplished by being a feral cat caregiver.

The volunteer service  that my husband and I do for the feral, stray and abandoned cats in our neighborhood is done out of love for the cats.  

We oversee the colony of cats along with two neighbors and we work together to provide the cats with medical care, nourishment and shelter.  We pay for their needs out of our pocket and I design gifts at zazzle.com from my photographs to raise money for the cats.
Kitten at doorway of our shed/shelter

Feral cat at thicket den
We provided woods cats with straw to walk on when snow too deep
Rescued 4 week old kitten for medical care
Cleared a path so cats in woods could come to feeding station
After blizzard cleared the sewer so cats could get out
Rescued wounded cat and kittens and took in for medical care
Hiked through 2 feet of show to feed cats in thicket dens
Provide warm beds for feral cats in winter
Care for cats at the shelter
Feral Cat Recuperating after Spay
Lost Cats at Shelter
Caring for Forest cats / 2 kittens and queen by den entrance


In the last year, we trapped many paid for their sterilization and vaccinations as well as preventative vaccines.  We also saved a feral queen cats life along with her three five week old  kittens.  

The queen cat fought off a wild animal that attacked her kittens, the orange tabby kitten need medical care.  I trapped her and her kittens and they all received medical care, however they needed to stay in the animal clinic for 21 days due to a serious infection.

Out of the 16 cats that we trapped, we were able to socialize and adopt five cats into forever homes, seven of the adult feral cats returned to the colony and the remaining four cats live with my husband and I.

I believe in the Alley Cat Allies cause and will continue to protect and improve the lives of feral cats in my neighborhood.  Any feral or stay cat that I come in contact with will be given a bowl a food, fresh water and if I am able to do so I will trap them for spay, neuter and for medical care.   

I will rescue and protect the feral cats from a life of hardship.  They will always find food and water and the door open at my shelter. My husband and I and the two civic minded neighbors will always care for the feral cats in our neighborhood.

Feral Cat Print print
View this video to learn more about Alley Cat Allies.