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Keeping Stray Cats Warm in Winter
Winter seems to advance earlier than expected each year. People all over the United States ready themselves and scramble to the nearest department stores buying up heaters, generators, electric blankets, stocking up on extra food and water, candles and flashlights. But, what happens to the stray and feral cats left outside during severe weather? If you have stray cats on your property, how do you keep them warm? Here are some tips:
“Instead of using plastic containers, turn instead to Styrofoam coolers (the type you can buy at a 7-11) You can buy several and build a cat condo of warmth by cutting holes into the foam (after securing the tops of the coolers with duct tape). Stuff the inside with straw (wheat straw is best) hay should be avoided.Straw is dried and if a stray cat enters the enclosure wet, the straw will act as an insulator. Turn the foam coolers so the doorways are away from the wind. Mount them on several pallets to keep them off the chilly ground lay an old rug down underneath. Sprinkle dry cat food around the area. Weight the coolers down accordingly.”
“It depends upon how strict the budget is and where they live. I think it might be hard to get straw if it's an urban/suburban area? Because that's my best tip. We purchased two VERY cheap plastic containers from Wal-Mart (total about $17) - one that fits inside of another one. We bought a roll of R-19 insulation from Home Depot ($15). We cut the insulation to completely wrap around the length of the "inside" box, and cut strips to fit the sides. We placed the box down into the insulation, and squashed the lid down on top. Took a sharp knife and cut holes in either side, and used duct tape to "seal" the space between the two boxes, so no insulation was exposed. We stuff these insulated homes with straw, which is easy to replace because the top pops off, you can just lift the insulation to pop the other top.”
Stuff several pillowcases with the packing peanuts and stitch up the opening. Use these for cheap cat beds. Use the smaller packing peanuts- if there is a factory or mill nearby visit them and ask for all the old packing peanuts they have around. If they find out why you want them, they usually just hand them over at no charge.
Use pet only heating pads in a covered part of your porch or home. You can also run small propane or kerosene heaters on the coldest nights but this has to be done in an area that is open and air can get inside.
One caretaker took old tents that she had stored in the attic and strung them along the side of her garage to create a heating alley for her cats. She set up several cat condos, cat carriers, cardboard boxes and other containers and stuffed them with soft blankets or straw. Visiting the local thrift stores she brought back an armful of kid winter jackets and used those for beds. She constructed coon-proof feral feeders and provided her cats with a water dish with a heater in it. Part of how the cats stay warm during cold nights is by eating and drinking water that isn’t chilled.
“Use a solar furniture cover. Drape it over an old table, or even better an old desk. If you can elevate the desk on a table to get everything off the cold ground, that is even better. Using duct tape, secure the sides and leave a space for kitty to slip under. Weight the top down with several bricks or rocks.”
Invest in feral cat houses. www.felinefurniture.com makes an excellent one. It is made from wood and metal. The feral cat house is completely weather proof and water-proof and comes fully assembled. Best of all, it is economical and made in the United States. You can stuff the interior with hay. The house has two doors and entrance and an exit with a weatherproof door.
If your cat(s) can duck under a house, a deck or an outbuilding, they will be sheltered from the weather. You can add protection by using straw bales as wind blocks (for deck-duckers) warming beds for cats you hide under the house and remember to feed them several times a day and be sure they have access to water. When the weather gets really nasty, add a bit of meat broth to their dry kibble and microwave their meal a few seconds before serving. Nothing like a warm meal on a cold day.