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

Responses: 63


Care for Feral Cats in Winter Weather

I care for a feral cat colony of 7 cats. All have been spayed/neutered and vaccinated. I keep my love seat on my front porch all year round so that the ferals can sleep on it in the winter. I use three layers of self-heating cat blankets on the love seat. The cats have learned to bury themselves under the layers at night to keep warm. I do make certain that the blankets are clean and dry at all times and wash them frequently. I also keep dry food on the porch 24/7 and feed them wet food every morning at 5:30 a.m. They usually are all there at that time and if not, they know they have a constant source of dry food available when they do visit. Also, I purchased an electric water bowl for those extra frigid days. I have two cat shelters on the sunny side of my house and one on my porch. Hopefully, we don't have a severe winter like last year with all the snow we got.


If you are in the tri state area (Phila.Delaware, NJ), you may be in the area that this WONDERFUL organization serves. They will come out and trap your strays or ferals, spay or neuter them, deworm, deflea, vaccinate, test for aids/lukemia for $50. And in some cases bring the cat back to ya !! which they did for us. They catch feral cats all the time, and have a strict no-kill policy, which they only do in dire situations. This one woman in the past year has trapped 300 cats per month and had them all fixed. Any questions, please ask. All other places that I know of will put the cat down (just because they're feral). The humane society (or as I call, the inhumane society), even puts down kittens when they run out of room.

Cat shelter

I have a cat that has adopted my deck as its favorite hangout. He's very sweet but I cannot have him indoors due to family allergies. I found an idea on the web that for a insulated cat house that I adapted to the resources at hand. I used a large cooler that has a cat sized hole cut out of the front, then I cut a large food storage bin to fit over the door to act as a "lobby" and to hinder the cold wind from enteringthe interior. Then I cut a hole into the interior and fed through a rope light. The rope light is looped twice around the cieling of the interior and acts as a low energy heating element. Lastly, I loaded the interior with straw. So far the interior has not dropped below freezing despite outside temperatures in the low teens.
—Guest Carrie

Cold Winds

Well done everyone for your kind services to cats. I am sure you all deserve a lot more recognition than you get. I am living in the U.K. and find that because of the North Siberian winds it is best to place the dens south of a wind breaker, with the door also protected from these winds. In my search for guidance I have been informed that kitten, dry food is the best winter nutrition for cats as it has more protein and will not freeze. I do not see my 'extended family' but I always see cat foot prints and empty bowls. I hope that if one day they trust me enough to introduce themselves I may be able to temp them into the house. P.S. May I remind you all kindly of the importance of scanning for microchips if at all possible, as you could give the cat the greatest gift imaginable. A repatriation! Franny's note: Well said about scanning for microchips, which could be done at the time of neutering.
—Guest Willow's Mum

Thank u Everyone

Leigh Arratroon thank u so much.I'm a try ur idea. I started out feeding a stray I now call scrappers. I made a card board box into a house for her when it rains. I put tape all around it to make it water proof with blankets inside but started thinking what to do when it gets real cold and snows. I guess scrappers must of spread the word cause now I've got 4 others I feed Blackie, Smokey, Ghost and a kitten I c once in awhile don't have a name yet for it. I wanted to call shelter but if they are not adopted within 3 weeks they r killed. So I thought about it for awhile and if I could buy or make something let them live plus I can only pet Scrappers but the others ones r coming around they wait for me every morning under this tree I have its so cute. Thanks agian.
—Guest Cherell

stray cats

I was taking care of a feral community around 40. They are now gone found homes for all. But I have the father of all the cats have set up a cat carrier with a space blanket a crocheted blanket with a tarp over the carrier and he seems to be okay. I have had him one winter going on my second.
—Guest nice person


build enclosure, provide simple bedding with heating pad under an old blanket
—Guest Sue MacMillan

Keeping Feral Cats Warm in Winter

Feral cats like to be indoor cats... so if you can get them into your house you won't have to worry about keeping them warm. I have three of them living in my house right now and find them to be very undemanding--daily food and fresh water and a clean litter box just basic needs. One big plus with ferals is that they like other cats, so they integrate well with regular tame kitties. And, keeping them indoors means you don't have to worry about fleas, worms, and other parasites more feral cat colony managers have to fret over.

little bit

i use to have several outdoor cats. i would fix aarge space covered with plastic. then i would place a 100 watt light bulb to keep them warm.
—Guest kenneth smith

If it isn't a feral, get it to a shelter

I agree that it would be great to get this cat a home, but you will have to watch out what shelter you take it to, if you do so. Many, many cats are killed by shelters that have an overflow of cats. But you might be able to find a rescue that will allow you to keep the cat until they can find a home for it, if your allergies will not allow you to take it in. The situation concerning shelters and dogs is pretty bad, but cats have it even worse. By far they are the most euthanized animals in shelters. Make sure you contact a no-kill shelter and make sure it really is no-kill. Rescues are unlikely to kill the cats they take in, but they may have to stop intake if they are full up. Fostering the animal until they can find it a home is a sort of halfway measure.
—Guest Pam

Another Vote for Straw, Not Blankets

I do not manage a feral colony but I used to let my past cats out-of-doors all year long. They had a wooden dog house that had a double entry. The first entry was like a "foyer", about 10 inches in was a piece of wood that sent the cats to the opposite side of the front of the house from where the hole to enter was. That wood kept the cold air from getting into the warm back area of the house as easily as if it was just a "single entry" hole. I hope I've described that in a manner that you can understand the set up! The house was packed with straw. Blankets WILL get wet and not dry well, straw dries out better. If a garage or shed or enclosed porch or patio room is available and protected from elements, a sturdy cardboard box lined with styrofoam glued to sides, top and bottom, and then filled with hay can keep a cat warm also. With a cardboard box in an enclosed building of some sort, a heavy quilt/blanket thrown over the box will also help hold the cats body heat in the box.


I have been feeding and housing a colony of 5 cats for 3 years. I've lined the doghouse with plastic, styrofoam, another layer of plastic and straw. They love it. Their food is served under a "roof," and the ground is covered with styrofoam and plastic wrap. Their water is in a raised holder (filled with styrofoam), and I serve several times a day to make sure they eat everything before it freezes. They get wet food and dry food, and L-Lysine and Feline Immune Support in their dry food. Their shelter butts up against my house, and they look cozy. I talk to them and pet a couple of them. I am going to buy a winterized house for the mother, who won't sleep with the others. That will go on the other side of the shelter.
—Guest Leigh Arrathoon

Feral Cat Shelter

Here is a link giving information on how to constuct a great feral cat shelter. http://www.winnipeghumanesociety.ca/files/pdf_files/reds_shelter_outdoor_cats.pdf
—Guest Gayla

Protect Feral Cats in Winter

Go to a hardware store and buy two big styrofoam coolers place one inside the other. Attach one cover to this and duct tape the whole thing together. Turn it upside down and it now looks a bit like a pyramid. Cut a big enough hole in it and fill the bottom of house with straw. Place the house in an area around your home that is most sheltered from wind and rain and snow. Also place the last remaining styrofoam cover on the ground and secure the house on that so the floor doesn't get too cold. I have 3 ferals who visit me and they made it through our very cold Canadian Winter. It took me putting a bit of cat kibble in the styrofoam house for them to go into it and become familiar with it. Also on very windy days the house almost blew away. So I put something heavy on top to keep it from moving. The cats do not seem to use the house now in Spring. I will need to build a new one this coming winter because the styrofoam house took a beating from the winter storms. Good luck.
—Guest Vee

Blankets in Toy House

I have 3 outside cats. I keep them warm by putting them in my old toy house on the deck.I put 10 layers of blankets and two on the ground and 5 on top of them.
—Guest emily antle

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