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

Responses: 60


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

Ferals Need Love, Too

I never really paid much attention to the feral cats here where I work until one adopted me. He wouldn't go near anyone else but for some reason he chose me and I am so happy with this little guy. Sadly, Florida's Fish and Wildlife Commission pushed through legislation that forbids feeding of stray or feral cats a few years back and it makes me furious to know that these poor creatures that just want to live out their lives must now be trapped and killed by the FWC. All of these comments that I have been reading really touch my heart and I just want to thank all of you for caring for these little guys. Ferals need love, too, but just in a different way than tamed cats do.
—Guest Rascal'sDad

Straw not blankets for cat shelters

It very disturbing for me to see all the responses about cat shelters saying they use blankets, towels or rugs to put in the outdoor cat shelters. You should never use anything other than straw inside a cat shelter. Anything that can absorb moisture even from the humid winter air will make the animal colder. ONLY use straw in any outdoor shelter.
—Guest Kimberly

water bowls

Whenever I left the ferals pet waterbowls they would be stolen, so I started cutting off the bottoms of milk jugs & found they work great. Nobody wanted them, they are rather un-noticeable & they cost nothing. Added pluses include that unlike a lot of other plastic containers, these hold their shape & don't crack - even if they freeze, you can pop out out the ice by smacking it against a hard surface & then refill. I keep extras in my car in case one blows away or is carried off by a dog. You can also weight them with a rock or two dropped in the bottom.

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