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Readers Respond: Do you manage a feral cat colony? How do you protect them in wintertime?

Responses: 151


Outdoor cat bedding

I read a number of posts from readers who take care of feral or stray cats, which is simply wonderful. However, a lot of them talk about winter shelters and the materials they use for bedding. Please understand that cats, like humans, can lose body heat rapidly when they are wet. Because a dry bed is an absolute necessity, particularly in winter, old blankets or towels should NEVER be used. The one thing that will not retain moisture is STRAW. Not hay! And not any old clothing or sheets. If you want to make a relatively cheap and warm bed for kitty this winter, try the following. Get an 18 to 20 gallon plastic bin with a lid (like the ones Totes makes). Measure, cut and line the top, bottom and sides of the bin with rigid foam insulation, 1/2 to 1" (adhere w/ double-backed carpet tape). Line the bottom with a layer of Mylar. Fill generously with straw. Cut a 6" round "entrance." Put it somewhere the cat usually goes. Get 3 cinder blocks (4" thick), 2 for the bottom and 1 on top.

Feral Cat

I live in Florida and I am feeding a feral cat who is declawed. He stays in the woods along side of my house. I would like to what kind of shelter I can give him. There are raccoons and snakes etc. I hope you can help me. Thank You know what kind of shelter I can give him since there are raccoons and snakes. know what kind of shelter I can give him to keep him warm we are having very cool evenings, but I do not know what kind of shelter that will protect him because there are raccoons and snakes I would like to know what kind of shelter I can give him I hope you can help me Thank You.
—Guest Kathy

Use Mylar Emergency Blankets

ER Emergency Ready Thermal Mylar Blankets, Pack of 4 - sold by Amazon around $6.00 They are very generous in size - line anything and everything with them inside and out and they do work! The cat will not lay directly on it but if you manage to incorporate these mylar liners into your shelter you will gain significant warmth even if the shelter has holes. We live in Michigan, right now it is -34 (not kidding!). My feral is in her cooler box shelter with a heater pad and the mylar sheets and it is actually WARM inside. Obviously, try to shelter from direct wind and when you have extreme temperatures (Farenheit drops into negative), try to get them an electric heater pad. They run between $40-50 but they might save lives!
—Guest SKelly

Homemade outside cat shelter

what I do is push my patio chairs under the table on the patio and push it next to my house which is sheltered with a privacy fence. Next buy styrafoam insulation and cut it to the size of the table top. Then lay more insulation, the silver kind used to insulate your walls, no abestes please, and lay these sheets over the styrafoam and tape down. Now, put thick newspaper on one of the chairs and you can tape more insulation to the back of the chair, mine are wrought-iron. Put a heated-outdoor pad, from pet smart on the chair seat over the newspaper, and a very thin piece of fleece for comfort. Cover the entire table, chairs with a waterproof tarp, then I put over that my heavy duty table and chairs cover, making sure everthing is covered properly so the chair with the cat doesn't get wet. Secure the whole thing down with bungie cords and your table set is protected and your outside kitties are warm!! You can put their food dishes and water underneath as if it were a big tent!
—Guest beachlady

Heated Pet Pads

Go to AlleyCatsAllies and read about taking care of feral cats. They have great ideas to help in making shelters. Their suggestions certainly apply to socialized kitties too. I have been using heated pet pads in thick insulation cat boxes that my husband made for 2 years now. He also made small wooden insulated boxes and we put heated pet pads in them. The cats love the warmth from these pads. The weight of the cat causes the pad to heat to 102 degrees which is considered safe for them. You need an electric outlet close enough to run an extension cord to the shelters. Never use blankets, towels etc because if the cat is wet from rain or snow, the water just stays in the material and makes them colder. Pile lots of straw (not hay) deep in the shelter and use mylar under and around the straw. They will burrow deep in the straw and it wicks the wet away from them. Change it when it gets dirty or too wet. Kitties need a warm shelter and spayed or neutered!
—Guest Cathy

Feral cat

A female cat started living under my deck 9 years ago.....I noticed she was declawed so someone probably just dropped her off. She has lived under the deck in the cold Chicago winters by my furnace heat exhaust for 9 winters. in the winter I use a large dog feeder and fill it with dry food and use an electric heated water bowl. Sometimes she doesn't come our from under the deck for days but is always out on the first warm sunny day..the cold never seems to bother her. I made her a house with a heated bottom and she's in it during the fall and early winter. But the minute the freezing temperatures start, she goes under the deck.....I used to worry that she would die under there but it's what she is used to and never seems to have suffered even in the coldest of winters.
—Guest Sherry

extreme cat homes

I use coleman extreme 72 quart coolers cut a six inch round or square hole. easy to clean out from top
—Guest jimmy coppola

Keep them warm, keep them dry.

I've had a little, very young cat appearing for food, I moved her into an old chicken shed, which I cleaned out and am insulating, I picked up an old fabric cat house/bed dirt cheap (£1) from a charity shop, and have made a wooden platform off the ground, which I have lined ith polystrene and newspaper. I have filled the cat house half full with shredded newspaper and blankets, and am looking into purchasing a hot water bottle, to wrap in fleece and put in there at night. The poor little fellow is clearly freezing, but I feed her three times a day, and keep her watered, I just hope the sweetie is okay. Good luck, and thanks for giving the strays love, all you guys!
—Guest Kitty Helper.

My tips forkeeping ferals warm in winter

I bought a Kitty Tube for Peanut. She is the semi-feral "community" cat. I got her vaccinated and spayed in September 2013 with the help of Purrfect Cat rescue. She's turned out to be a very friendly cat and not so wild and ferally. And I didn't know what to do - chase her away after all that effort to keep her healthy? That didn't make much sense! So I bought a Kitty Tube on Amazon with the straw option. And I bought the heating pad. I wasn't sure if it would be cold enough to require a heating pad, since I live in California but it has been unseasonably cold for the last few days. The heating pad is a great addition! And Peanut LOVES her kitty tube! She uses it every night and day. It's easy to keep clean, lightweight and very air tight (no leaks)
—Guest MiltonandMolly

Heated Pet Beds

A novel solution to the heated cat bed problem: http://www.amazon.com/review/R1BBRNT6N1BACE?_encoding=UTF8&asin=B000ICKBCW&cdForum=Fx3T27GOVRYUPU2&cdMSG=addedToThread&cdPage=&cdThread=Tx1BS5OUZ80TGLF&newContentID=Mx2YYEGIO9PG3RN&newContentNum=5&store=pet-supplies#CustomerDiscussionsNRPB Be sure to read the comments for specifics.
—Guest Reba63

Heated Pet Bed Solution

Trying to find a way to heat a feral cat shelter proved quite a challenge. This reviewer on Amazon came up with a novel solution involving seed starting mats and a thermostat.

Decent fix for ferals in the cold

I bought an old lift top freezer for $20.00. Put in a half shelf and drilled 3 ea. 6 inch diameter holes...2 below the shelf at each end and 1 above the shelf. The insulation and heavy structure helps keep the wind, rain, cold, and hot out. You can lift the top to remove the bedding for cleaning etc. We trapped a few abandoned little kitty muffins, had them fixed, and brought them back to feed. No mice problems here.
—Guest Les

keep them warm

I find old coolers people have discarded cut a hole in each and and put a piece of old vinyl flooring with slots to make a flap on the door.I figure if you keep your beer cool in the summer it will keep your cat warm the winter
—Guest jim

Winter Cat house for abandoned kitty

I used a chihuahua house for shelter & put it on my porch. BEST HOUSE IS A WOODEN DOG HOUSE, if u have it. Insulate it with 2" insulation foam sheets from any hardware store. Mine cost $2.84 for a small sheet w/mylar backing. Mylar is a reflective that keeps the cat warm when their body lays on it. You can buy a mylar blanket cost $2 & attach it to the insulation. Cut insulation to fit the bottom & all sides of the inside of the house. Secure it with glue/tape but u don't have to. Styrofoam conforms. Cut it slightly bigger. Push it into the area u want & it will hold there just fine. This is what I did. ALWAYS USE STRAW for cat bedding. It is an excellent insulator. DO NOT use clothes or anything made of material. It will absorb water & make your cat cold & sick. $1 Store placemats cut to make a door flap work great. I then wrapped the house in tarp leaving the front open & elevated it off the ground 4 inches. Straw cost $8.50/bale. kitty stays warm & protected


Hi, I am volunteer in cat organization help street cats. We build kitty condo for street cats using plastic storage container, cover with Tarp and duct tape. Cut door for cat and put warm blanket and hay straws in it and put them under some shelter. That will provide warm shelter and protect cats from wind and snow. You can try that. But make sure its only used by that kitty and not by other animal.
—Guest Amy

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