Friday, August 19, 2011

Heat Wave Shelters for Feral Cats

Cat Den
During a heat wave forecast it is difficult to provide shelter for feral cats as they are creatures of habit and they are accustomed to hiding in run off ditches, sewers, hallow trees and branch thickets.  

If the feral cat is able to dig a den under a large pile of branches the cat may be able to keep cool, if they have access to a deck that has a large mass of leaves underneath it the cat can burrow into the leaves and the earth may provide protection from the scorching sun.  

Many feral cats will seek overgrown shrubs or gardens as a shelter.  The leaves and plant life will not provide them with protection from the intense sun and the cat will suffer. 

Cat lovers and colony caregivers must watch the cats closely and take extra steps to care for the cats.  In many cases you will need to provide the cats with shelter and plenty of water.

Outdoor Shelter For Cats

The best way to care for cats during a heat way is to provide shelter for the outdoor cats. Buy an igloo insulated cat houses and fill them with straw.  Or buy a wood insulated cat house and again fill it with straw.  The straw will provide the cat with a soft surface to lie on and it will not be hot because of the pet house insulation.  Set the insulated shelter in area that is shaded; under a shade tree, under shrubs.

I provided the feral, stray and other outdoor cats with an air conditioned shelter.  My old garage is used as a shed/shelter for the cats.  I have installed a cat door and added a window unit air conditioner.  I also covered windows with insulated drapes.  When the forecast calls for extreme heat I add a commercial fan.  I set the fan in front of the air conditioner and turned the dial to medium. The fan pulled the cool air from the air conditioner and blew the cool air into the shed thus keeping the room at a comfortable 86 degrees. The shed/shelter is open to cats from 6 am to 8 pm and then the door must be shut due to area wildlife.   

The shed/shelter has insulated igloo cat houses that have straw bedding and there are 3 to 4 bowls of fresh water for the cats so they can keep hydrated and there are kitty litter pans. Provide the outdoor cats with shelter from the extreme heat by opening up your garage for them.  If you do not have a kitty door you can open your electronic door.  

My neighbor opened his garage door one foot to allow two feral cats an escape from the heat on a day when the heat index reached 104.  He told me that the cats hid under his car and drank some water.  The feral cats caused no disturbance and exited the garage when the sun set.  If you choose to allow the feral and stray cats shelter from the heat in your garage then leave the cats alone.  If you enter the area where cats are there they will run away because they are afraid of you or they will climb the walls to try to get away from you.   It is best to leave the door open wide enough so cat can come and go. Consider installing a cat door.

Do not attempt to touch the feral or stray cats and keep children and other pets away from them. Remember that they are wild animals and they are afraid of humans, if they are put in an uncomfortable situation they will react by scratching because they are terrified of humans.  

It is best to respect the feral cats and provide them with a shelter, a bowl of food and water. Leave the garage door open at a foot so cats can enter or exit. Close your garage at night to prevent wildlife; raccoons, possums or skunks from entering.


Keep outdoor cats hydrated by setting up water stations under shade trees, under awnings and close to dense shrubs.  Check the water bowls several times during the day.  Add fresh water to the bowls so that the water stay s cool and does not become hot from the intense heat. Check outdoor bird baths and fountains to make sure they are at the correct water levels.  

Set up a soaking hose in your shade garden and allow it to drip slowly during the late afternoon.  A feral cat will lick the water from the hose to keep hydrated.  They will also lie in the garden that is being water as it is a way to keep cool.

Colony Cat Lucy
The feral cat I call Lucy has been a under my watchful eye since 2008.  She refused to enter the shed this year and tried to stay cool in the colony thicket.  She was in the habit of coming to my yard at 5:30 in the afternoon for a bite to eat and a drink of water. She should have stayed inside her thicket but she  ventured out in the heat of the day for food and water.

Lucy’s routine is to lie in my hosta garden. 

I set up a fan to provide a continuous garden breeze.  I also set up a soaking hose and watered this particular garden from 4 to 5 daily.  It was the only method that I knew of that would provide this feral cat with some relief.  I fed Lucy canned food mixed with 1/4 cup water.  I did this to make sure that she had fluid.  There were many days during the heat wave that I thought that Lucy would not make it.  But she proved me wrong and survived the unbearable heat in the central states.

The best way to take care of an outdoor cat during a heat wave is to provide them with insulated shelter that has air conditioning or a fan.  Indoor outdoor cats should be kept indoors during the peak heat, they will need to learn to use a litter box and they may go out in the early morning or after the sun sets and the temperature drops.

Notes From Sgolis:
Feral and stray cats will go into the sewers during heat waves and extreme cold.  The sewer is not a safe haven for cats and colony caregivers should provide their cats with alternative shelters. 

Outdoor cats are accustomed to heat and thus your air conditioner should not be cold, set it at 86 and the cat will be comfortable. 

Here is a YouTube video that will show you how to make an insulated cat house.

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