Monday, November 28, 2011

Winter Shelter for Feral Cats – Thicket Dens

The feral cats that reside in the forest close to my home take shelter in the limestone crevices along the ridge wall and in thicket dens.  The branch thickets provide shelter from wind, snow and ice. 

 All of the branch cat dens have entrances to the main chamber of the thicket and an exit at the back.  These entrances provide the feral cats with safety. 

Last summer I crawled into the opening of the largest branch thicket that is located on my neighbors property.  The feral cat that I call Lucy has her den in this thicket, she shares the den with three other feral cats.  I did not attempt to enter the thicket while cats were present as they would think of me as a predator and show aggression.  

To enter the den I had to lie on my stomach and scoot into the first chamber. I found that the opening was like a foyer; a covered entrance with many openings that led to the feral cats living areas.   I used my flashlight to look at one the passages and could see a large pile of leaves.  The bed of leaves would keep the feral cats warm in winter and the opening was blocked from the thickets main entrance, thus there would be no cold wind.   

I was still curious and I attempted to put my head in the passage opening to get a better look at the leaf bedding area, I wanted to know if the cats laid on top of the leaves or if they dug a den into the earth.  

No sooner then I put my head into the small opening I discovered that I was not alone.  My presence in the thicket entrance was not appreciated as a feral cat from an upper passage snarled at me and it was enough for me to back out of the thicket.  My findings were conclusive and I was  was confident that the feral cats winter thicket den would provide them with a wind block and warmth from the leaves.

If the weather is severe; zero degrees, ice or snow, I will go to the thicket den and provide the cats with a plastic tarp.  My husband and I will tie it down to prevent a build up of ice or snow on top of the thicket.  This plastic tarp will prevent the snow when it melts from flooding the interior of the den and it will provide the thicket with additional insulation by blocking the wind.

I will also provide the forest cats with a thick layer of straw at the entrance of the thicket den.  This straw will allow the cats to lie outside without feeling the cold of the snow or ice.

When snow is too deep we will clear a path so the cats can come out of the thicket and go to the feeding station.  

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