Monday, December 30, 2013

Winter Weather Tips for Outside Cat Care

Credit: Alley Cat Allies

When temperatures get this cold, outside cats can use extra help to stay warm and healthy. If you are seeing or feeding ferals or strays, be sure to provide food, water, and shelter during severe and cold weather.
Feed larger portions than usual in colder weather. The cats can use the extra calories.
  • Feed the cats on a regular schedule. The cats will know when to come around, and both the food and the cats will spend less time exposed to the elements.
  • If you can keep it from freezing, feed wet food—it’s easier to digest, so cats save more energy for keeping warm. Consider warming canned food before putting it out.
  • Since wet food is quick to freeze, put out dry food too.
Outdoor cats need clean water daily. Here are tips to keep the water from freezing as quickly throughout the winter months:
  • Refill the bowls twice daily with hot or warm water.
  • Use heated water bowls if near an electrical outlet.
  • Use wider and deeper bowls.
  • Keep the water in the sun and use dark colored bowls that will absorb the sun’s heat.
  • Insulate the bowls. Use double-layered bowls that have an insulated air layer between the surface the water touches and the surface against the ground. Shield the water dish from wind by placing it inside a small styrofoam cooler or surround the top and sides of the feeding area with plexiglass to create a greenhouse environment for the water.
  • Use a microwaveable disk like a Snuggle Safe under the water bowl.

Even a box covered with plastic to stay dry and insulated with straw can help keep cats safe and warm. Use straw instead of blankets, because blankets absorb water and don't stay dry. Place shelters in discreet locations away from foot traffic so the cats are more likely to use them. Cats living in colonies will huddle together for warmth, so provide colonies with multiple shelters that fit three to five cats each. If you are caring for fewer cats, use smaller shelters so it takes less body heat to warm them up. Here is a gallery of shelter ideas to make or purchase:

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