Caring for Outdoor Cats in Winter: Cold Weather Safety Tips

Cold winter weather can pose a threat to cats without homes. With this guide, you can learn how to look after outside cats during this time of the year.
Caring for Outdoor Cats in Winter

Outdoor cats have amazingly adapted to various types of weather. A simple sanctuary box and food can be what gets them through a challenging winter. On cold wintry days, outdoor cats can use our help. This blog is a guide on the things you need to know about cat care in the winter months.

How do community cats survive the cold winter months outdoors?

caring for cats in winter

Cats that spend their lives outdoors will grow a thick fur coats as winter arrives. They have ways to keep themselves cozy and dry--perhaps a secret nook, a good samaritan that constantly leaves food, or a good place for hunting rats.

Making it through the winter months outdoors is one thing; keeping themselves healthy through it is another. You can help community cats survive winter in better condition by creating a shelter, providing treats, and supplying unfrozen water.

What temperature can cats still endure outside?

Experts say that -32°F (0°C) threatens cats who cannot find shelter. When temperatures go below freezing, community cats are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia, among many other things, both of which are life-threatening.

An interior cat that goes outdoors periodically will not be able to deal with below-freezing temperatures for more than a few minutes. Cat owners should keep them inside when the temperature drops to -45°F (7°C) to be safe.

Wintertime Safety Tips for Cats

wintertime safety tips

Cold winter weather can pose a threat to cats without homes. With this guide, you can learn how to look after outside cats during this time of the year.

Bring Them Inside

The best way to protect cats from the cold is to bring them inside, where they can stay comfortable with access to food, water, and snuggles. For interior felines, this must not be a problem.

If you own an indoor/outdoor cat, try to keep them indoors during the night when temperatures are lowest. Be sure they can access a shed, barn, or feline shelter during the day.

If you care for an outside cat or support roaming or feral cats, providing sanctuary, unfrozen water, and dry food is a matter of life and death. Many small animals that outside cats hunt for, such as mice, are hunkered down in the winter months, so their food supply is limited in the frozen months.

Offer Cat Shelters

If bringing your cat indoors is not an option, you may build a simple shelter box to keep cats warm, safe, and dry during winter. Sanctuaries are likewise a way to supply a cozy retreat for roaming or feral pet cats in your community during winter.

You can entice the cats to enter by spraying catnip or putting treats outside the entrance.

If cats refuse to use your sanctuary box, find the area where they sleep, like under a deck or in a shed, and make that spot more comfortable by putting straw bed linens they can sleep on.

Size Matters with Cat Shelters

Unless you're using a heated shelter, the only source of heat in the shelter is the cat itself. If the sanctuary you build is too large, the cats' body heat might be unable to keep the room warm.

Should I Build or Buy a Shelter?

Using readily available online plans, you can build a long-term shelter out of wood, comparable to a tiny dog house. You can also get a ready-made or easy-to-assemble cat shelter from online sellers.

An outside cat looking for a warm place will not be too fussy about the kind of shelter you can offer. However, your neighbors might appreciate it if it is well-concealed or hidden in a woody or brushy location.

A cheap do-it-yourself cat sanctuary can be constructed from a plastic storage lug. Here is a blog we published a while back on how to DIY a cat shelter.

A second opening is ideal for when an intruder goes into the sanctuary. This way, your cat can make a run for it quickly.

What Insulation Should I Put?

Straw is the best material to keep heat in. Straw is a good insulator that keeps moisture away, and cats can burrow into it to stay warm. Remember that straw is different from hay.

What NOT to Put?

Don't use towels, blankets, or folded newspaper; they absorb body heat and cool the cats lying on them.

Give a Constant Supply of Warm Food as well as Water

Any food and water you leave out for your cat can freeze before it is eaten. You purchase heated bowls if you want fresh food and water outside.

How Much Food Should I give a cat In the Winter?

How Much Food Should I give a cat In the Winter

In the winter, cats use a lot more energy to keep themselves warm, so give them more food than you would in warmer weather. Cats who spend most of their time outdoors in winter require additional food. Remember that if the cat hunts for food, the animals they rely on as targets may hide in their burrows for the winter season and are also unavailable.

Canned cat food will freeze quickly out in the open. Consider giving dry kibble, lots of it! Your cat will thank you.

Where Should I Put the Food and Water?

Food and water need to be in places you know the cats spend time in. Because you will need to give food and water daily, pick an area that's practical for you, too. Pick a location where you won't have to walk in deep snow or mud. A protected feeding terminal is great for keeping rainfall and snow from falling onto the food.

How to Keep Food And Water from Freezing?

Warmed bowls can keep water and canned feline food from freezing. These warmed bowls link to an electrical outlet, so think about how you will set this up outdoors. You can keep the heated food and water bowls on your porch if you are comfortable with roaming cats near your home.

If you use unheated bowls, water will ice up quicker in stainless-steel bowls than in plastic bowls. You can twist some plastic bowls to remove ice when the water has entirely iced up.

To TNR or not to TNR?

tnr or not to tnr on winter

Only try TNR activities in the winter if you can return the felines to a warm shelter.

People may be worried about doing trap-neuter-return during winter because they worry about releasing females with their stomachs shaved from surgery. Winter trapping has its benefits because there are far fewer pregnant cats. Plus, you'll prevent the births of lots of kittens come springtime when most of them are born.

Before you begin winter months capturing, ensure that cats have shelter when you return them to their territory. They'll be in good shape if you've adhered to the instructions.

Last Words

Living outdoors and being subjected to the whims of nature can be challenging, also for the always-adaptable pet cat. You can aid exterior pet cats to efficiently endure cold weather by consistently supplying food, water, and shelter to keep them comfortable and well-fed.

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