How to care for your cat in winter: practical safety tips

How to maintain a safe environment in the winter for outdoor cats

Since the weather is starting to change into cooler temperatures, a lot of pet lovers become concerned about how to care for their cat in winter and the fate of their neighbourhood cats. These cats can be displaced cats who have left home and don’t know their way back, strays or pets that were left behind after their owners moved. Either way, these cats are going to need some support to survive in the colder weather (and more in places where it snows). With the suggestions below, you can help your furry friends without taking much time on your part.

Maintain a Warm Shelter for your Outdoor Cat in Winter

The possibilities are endless when it comes to using something for an outdoor cat’s shelter if it keeps the cat safe from harsh weather conditions.  Go online or visit your neighborhood pet store to find a plain shelter (or luxury one if you desire). When maintaining a shelter for outdoor cats, always strive to keep it properly insulated and dry. Here are some other pointers to consider when housing a shelter for outdoor cats:

  • Size really does matter in the case of a cat shelter. The smaller the better since that will allow for more heat to be retained from the cat’s own body.
  • Get a shelter that can hold up to at least three cats since they like to huddle together.
  • Make sure the shelter is in a dry and safe place and not in the path of cars and people traffic.
  • The opening to the shelter needs to be small so that only cats can get in. This keeps them safe from predatory animals like dogs, coyotes and other larger predators.
  • Most people use straw to keep the shelter dry. Non-absorbent insulation is ideal for assisting the straw in maintaining a dry environment.
  • A shelter made of Styrofoam (like a cooler) or one with Mylar wallpaper works great for shielding your cats from harsh weather conditions.

Feeding your Outdoor Cat in Winter Months

Most pets require more calories during the colder months, and cats are no exception. For strays, there is a struggle finding the required calories to make it to Spring. So, when creating a feeding schedule, you can elect to give them more to eat during each scheduled feeding or feed them more times a day. Keep these tips in mind when taking care of your outdoor cat’s nutritional needs:

  • The Humane Society recommends having two shelters that are placed a few feet apart with the doors facing each other. That way, you can make a canopy by having a board fastened to both roofs, so the food can be placed under it.
  • For a separate feeding station, make sure it’s elevated off the ground and has its own roof.
  • Although dry food does not freeze and seems to be the best option, wet food is better for cats because it’s easier for them to digest while also allowing them to save their energy.
  • Deep and dark coloured bowls with narrow openings or solar-heated bowls are perfect for keeping water from freezing.

Trap and Spay (or Neuter) Cats Before Spring

The best time to spay or neuter cats is during the winter season because it gives them time to recover before getting back out into the warmer weather.

Also, this eliminates the onslaught of kittens that overpopulate the shelters in the springtime. The ecosystem benefits from having feral cats, but a mother cat with a bunch of kittens can become a problem. For trapping cats:

  • Make sure the trap is in an insulated area to combat the cold weather.
  • Line the trap with magnetic vent covers, and use microwaveable heating pads to maintain smelly and warm bait.

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