As a pet owner you will always have some concern for your pet and their well-being wherever they are. If they are an indoor pet at least you can keep a watchful eye. However, with an outdoor pet there is always an extra worry, especially with the changing seasons.. If you are an outdoor cat owner and worry about them in Winter here are some tips about what to do.
Winter Care Tips for Outdoor Cats
Winters are harsh in the northern hemisphere. With centrally heated houses and other facilities, human lives are quite better than animals living in the wild. Those community animals are exposed to the freezing weather and they need your help. In this article, we are going to discuss how you can help community cats to survive through the winter and thrive.
Community cats exist around human colonies looking for resources, especially food. But that’s not the only thing how you can help them. Read on to know more about it.
How Can You Help In Community Cats in Winters
Community cats are either feral cats or stray cats. Feral cats are the ones who are afraid of humans or untamable because of their lack of social interaction with humans. On the other hand, stray cats can be abandoned cats, lost cats, or pet cats who are allowed to roam outdoors.
TNR programs, spreading awareness about community cats among people, providing food and water, donations, and volunteering are some ways you can always help community cats. However, during winters, you will have to go the extra mile to take care of them. And we will focus on that in this article.
Provide Outdoor Shelters for Community Cats
Surely community cats have the skills and strength to survive harsh weather conditions. But your help can go a long way. Senior cats, kittens, and sick cats are more susceptible to death due to extreme weather.
Building shelters will provide cats a dry, warm, and properly insulated space to survive and thrive. Also, building an outdoor shelter will not cost you a fortune. You can purchase a good outdoor shelter for about $100. Moreover, if you are a DIY soul, you can be more creative and it will help you save pretty much on it as well.
How to Build a Shelter for Community Cats
A small enclosure is all you need to build. However, it shouldn’t be too large because more space means more heat insulation problems. So, a heated outdoor cat house that allows 4-5 cats at a time will be sufficient. You can set up more such enclosures in your locality using the help of your neighbors to take care of all community cats.
For a DIY approach, you should ask for the help of your friends, neighbors, and volunteers who would be happy to help. This way, you will be able to put up more outdoor shelters easily. It will be a fun weekend activity for you and your friends.
What to Place Inside an Outdoor Cat Shelter
You should put in some bedding to make the space comfortable for resting for the cats. According to Alan Webster, Freelance Writer & Veterinary Technician at CatLovesBest, “You can either use straw or pillowcases stuffed with shredded newspaper or packing peanuts. You will have to keep their bedding tidy, however. Replace straw and stuffing inside the pillowcases when needed. And wash pillowcases on a regular basis as well.”
In case if it gets too cold outside and you can’t check the bedding doe your outdoor cats regularly. Try using ‘wallpaper’ on the shelter’s inner walls and Mylar on floors. This basically reflects heat inside the space rather than passing it outside the space. Cats can lie on it too comfortably so that won’t be a problem.
Avoid using blankets, folded newspapers, or towels because they absorb heat when cats lie on them leaving them even colder. Hay is also a bad choice because it may cause unfortunate allergic reactions in cats.
Provide Them With Water and Food
Water and food are essential for survival during winter in addition to an outdoor enclosure. In extreme weather conditions, water and food should be available to them at room temperature, or at least, not frozen. If you use catsitters, make sure you brief them carefully so they know when and how to feed the cats.
Canned food is tough to serve because the moisture content in it easily makes it frozen, whereas dried food can be a better option due to its palatability at lower temperatures. The same problem is with water. It gets frozen.
A good heated cat water bowl will be the best shot you can consider to keep water at a desirable temperature for your outdoor cat. The same is true for food too. Most heated cat bowls come into a set of two bowls at least so that you can use them for feeding as well.
You can go with alternatives like solar-heated bowls or use heated pads to put bowls upon. It’s not recommended to put water bowls inside the shelter as the bowls can easily be toppled. This will ruin the bedding and make a mini refrigerator inside a cat house.
Freshwater should always be available to community cats. On the other hand, I’d not recommend free-feeding them as the food present in their bowl can invite other wildlife creatures and predators. Scheduled-feeding works best. You can put a bowl filled with kibble or canned food inside the shelter if it’s a heated cat house or well-insulated.
Is It a Good Idea to Perform Trap-Neuter-Return Activities?
TNR programs seem unrealistic during winters. But let me tell you, it’s a good time to trap, neuter, and return them to their habitat. When the winter ends and the spring begins, there will be so many new born kittens around! Meaning, there will be more cats for you to neuter or spay in the spring.
However, TNR should be carried out only if you can return the altered cats to a shelter. With their shaved bellies, it will be tough for them to survive. In a nutshell, it will be inhumane to return them to the wild to fend for themselves after neutering.
A final word on outdoor cats
Try to do a little more to help community cats during the Winter season. I hope this article has helped you to understand the special needs of community cats, especially outdoor cats in the coldest months. Don’t forget, an outdoor heated cat house is always a good option but if you don’t have a heated one, you can always build or buy an insulated house. Once you set up a shelter, remember to take care of their food and water. Also, if you’re planning to do a TNR, go for it. Just ensure that all the returned cats are provided a shelter to stay. This will be all.
OTHER USEFUL REFERENCE FOR KEEPING CATS –