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

Responses: 63

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Double house

For my outside cat I put a foam indoor house inside a hard shell house and the cat loves it. It keeps her warm and sheltered from the weather.
—Guest Gail smith

winter protection

I have 6 feral cats born in a huge woodpile I have on my property, I have trapped and had them fixed and vaccinated, we have built a feeding shelter that is insulated. Top portion is divided with a straw filled insulated shelter in back half and a covered feeding shelter in front (like a porch, this is raised off the ground 4 feet and under the shelter is insulated with 2 inch thick insulation board like the top and have put 6 cat cozies there that they can go into. This shelter touches the woodpile they call home and it has a couple of openings that they can go in and out which they explore BUT they still prefer the wood pile. I have covered the woodpile with plastic to protect from rain and I even crawled in and filled the cavities that they sleep in with straw, I still worry about frigid weather. They actually come into the feeding area when I feed them and have sniffed my hand, I feed them twice a day.
—Jeraldean

Hay or Straw

You want to use straw for the bedding. Hay is feed for livestock. Wheat straw is the best. Oat and barley straw can be used but they are more prickly.
—Guest Liz

Straw versus Hay

You should use straw instead of hay for cat/dog shelters. The straw is dried and the hay has moisture which will not be warm and will cause mold. I asked at a horse feed supply store. They said that straw is warmer than material (blankets, towels, etc.) because the material holds moisture.
—Guest ts

Heating pads, remote outlets, pool cover

We have 5-7 cats that we take care of. 5 are were TNRd. We have several shelters for them. The main shelter where 4 of the sleep in the winter is on teh porch. Made out of wood and lines with straw. We put outdoor animal heeting pads on the bottom as we have an outlet on the porch. We also cover up the shelter with pieces of a thermal pool cover. (You can a big one cut it down to size or make several out of a big piece. Add grommets (get a kit) to secure it with rope or bungies. We have a large heated water bowl as well for below freezing days. Someone gave me a wireless digitial thermometer with and extrenal one that I can leave in teh shelter to monitor the temp from inside our house. Also, I can turn the heating pads on and off remotely. We got a set of 3 remote controlled outlet attachments that use one remote control. I have a heeting oad in our shed as well. I can use 1 and 2 for the heating pads and save number 3 for xmas lights.
—Guest Donna

Critterkeeper

I had a stray who lived in our yard for several years. It took almost 2 years to get him to come to me, but when he did, he loved being petted. He would not come in, though; he seemed to have old rib fractures - I'm sure he was abused as a kitten. Anyway, I bought a used small plastic double-walled dog house at a garage sale. I stuck it in the corner of our deck and house. I used my kid's old coats to make a nest for him. We live in Michigan and there were many below zero mornings, but he always came out to eat his warm food and milk warm and toasty himself. He eventually became ill, and my neighbor was able to get him to a vet - he had feline leaukemia and was put to sleep, but he lived a pretty decent life for the several years he was here. It took about 3 years for my neighbor and I to realize he would sleep here, eat breakfast, and then scoot right through the woods to her house where she would feed him more goodies!
—Guest Kathy

keeping cats warm in winter

i was looking for shelter suggestions to keep the outside cats warm in winter. i have a few on my back porch and in my house also. the porch cats i use old coats for bedding and old bed pillows. i keep all the bathroom rugs that eventually loose the foam backing and use these also. i figure anything that they like to snuggle in is fine with me and i dont throw away something that they could use. all of the above items go into cardboard boxes and an old rabbit hutch that i leave open for them to jump into, plus it has storage doors on the bottom of the hutch and i keep these stuffed with old bed pillows and coats also. i have a couple of old dog houses in the back yard ive kept for the yard cats but they dont seem to like them even tho a dog hasnt been in them in years. i have a tame himalayian cat that somebody dumped and is now friendly with me but i dont have any room inside for her. shes an older cat i believe and she looks like shes big but mostly fur. lovely animal
—Guest susan mcclure

Keeping my Ferals Warm

I also care for a colony of about 30 ferals which started in 2008. Last winter, I enclosed my covered patio with latice covered with heavy plastic, then tied tarps around the whole thing. I bought towels and blankets at Goodwill and bought pet beds on Craigslist. They loved to pile on top of each other on my patio swing. This year I will insulate the enclosure with some foam sheets and buy an electric dog water bowl to keep the water from freezing. I am also considering getting a kerosene heater to run out there. There is still fresh air circulating out there so there shouldn't be any danger. I love these precious kitties and want them to be warm and comfortable this coming winter. We have an organization in Oregon called the Feral Cat Coalition which helps with spaying/neutering, shots, etc. I am a registered caregiver with this organization.
—Guest msjaebea

Guest Sandra

My feral cat has had a very hard life. He looks as though he is partially blind and shows signs of infection in both his eyes. He trusts me to feed him and allows me to pet him. I am afraid, however if I attempt to catch him and take him to the vet he might run away and never come back. He so needs to go to the vet. Any thoughts on how to handle this situation
—Guest Kitty Blue

feral mom-cat and four kittens

We used a large box covered in plastic, two straw bales to block the wind, plenty of loose straw under a couple of thick washable blankets. Can't get close to them yet but hoping spring changes that so we can vax, spay/neuter, and return them to our porch/home!
—Guest chrissy-stl., mo

Feral who won't get in a shelter

I also have a feral who won't enter a shelter of any kind. She won't even lay on anything I've placed on the ground for her. She views it with suspicion. I've been caring for her for years but she won't let me approach any closer than about 3 feet. I put a hay bale out in the flower bed she hangs in and that forms a wind break for her. She gets under tables and other such things when it rains. It's the unusual bitter cold that we're experiencing now that concerns me. If I could snatch her up and bring her inside I would, but can't get my hands on her.
—Guest Kitty Beth Austin

cat lover

I have been feeding and housing around 4-5 cats since August, I have used forgotten cats to have all of them fixed, rabies shots and flea medicine. They live in the woods across from my house, I feed them two times a day wet/dry and fresh water twice a day. I have made them a hut so to speak, I have four styrofoam boxes they are about 3 inches thick on top bottom and sides, I cut a hole in them and completely insulated them in heavy plasic and duck tape. I have alot of cut up towels and blankets and even wool scarf's inside. I placed them on top of a wooden pallet, I nailed a rug to the top of the pallet, faced all the styro containers inward, I then put a big old wool blanket and then a sleeping bag on top of that, then I nailed a 3 yard piece of naughyde to the pallet and left room on the sides for natural light and to exit freely incase of danger. I only hope they will be safe in the woods. I am constantly thinking of ways to improve.
—Guest sue gabriel

using straw for shelter in houses

I am wondering what the best thing to put in the cat houses is. they are well protected on the porch but keep arguing with my uncle about using straw!!! will it keep them warmer than leaves? blankets get wet and carry diseases so was wondering if a $3 bale of hay would be best. I am sure it would be and it is cheap. their coats do not keep them that warm in minus 20 weather. we have a feral colony of about 15 cats. please give me your best advice!!!! Thank u and have a great day. Charleigh McConnell P.S. WE R FROM WINDSOR ONTARIO, CANADA Franny's note: I ordinarily don't allow questions in the User Answers. However, I'm going to allow this one. I don't personally know the difference between hay and straw, but perhaps an expert will chime in with the answer.
—Guest charleigh

Shelter!

I was feelin sorry for my little black stray that's been living in the neighborhood for about 4 years (she just started hanging out on my porch)... So I found an old tote in the basement, fastened the lid on real good, cut a little cat door in it and filled it with some blankets. She went in and made herself cozy right away :p
—Guest new-world-orphan

Feral Colony of 30

For over eight years I have used a trap/neuter/vaccinate/release system in a feral colony of approximately 30 cats. It's in a wooded area of about 3 acres+- My husband and I have built five covered protected feeding stations and there are 15 large "cat" houses filled with wheat straw where they can stay in rainy or cold weather. All kittens are socialized and adopted and any "friendly" potential cats are too. All sick or injured animals are taken to my vet for treatment and then either socialized/adopted or returned. Every cat has a name, a file, and is loved on according to comfort level. They are the love of my life and bring much joy every day. I commend anyone who opens their heart to these beautiful creatures! They just want to live their lives and not be in constant fear for their very survival.
—Guest NMBR1Cat

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