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

Responses: 151



We don't have a garage or laundry room. Our semi-feral cat lives on the roof of our rear addition. We ended up getting him a little house with a porch. Inside there's a bunny pad that covers about half the floor, which we plug in for cold weather. During heavy snow storms, hurricanes, etc. we let him in to the bathroom, which he doesn't particularly like.
—Guest Lee

My ferals sleep in my laundry room

I have a detached laundry room where I rent a small cottage like house with a yard...and now several fixed ferals...I share my space heater with them since it has been very cold and several of them are getting colds...It cost $140 just to take one to the vet and can't afford all of them..is that bad?
—Guest Terri

To Sandra

Go to the local Humane Society and ask them for a humane trap-bait it,and catch him. Take him to the vet.Then if you have a small bathroom or laundry room,you can keep him in it in a dog kennel with food and water dishes. Many ferals WILL use a litter box if you provide it,and it doesnt small like other cats.Use a shallow cardboard box, lined with a plastic bag and filled with litter, or you can buy disposable litter boxes. approach him cautiously, and let him decide to "come to you.You may also be able to board him at a vet until hes well enough to be ok set free,thats safest with a really wild feral.Call local vet hospitals and find one that will board him.The most important thing is getting him to the vet and the humane trap will allow you to catch him without harm to you or him.Housing for ferals is easy-for small cats, styrofoam coolers with the lid tape on with duct tape and lined with straw provides an insulated cheap cubby;Cut a hole in the side for entry.
—Guest Phyllis

Keeping ferals warm in winter

We look after a colony of 12 cats who live in our large greenhouse, this offers some heat even winter on sunny days. On the benches in the greenhouse I made a number of large boxes and inside that there is a slightly smaller box with the space in between filled with straw. Inside the boxes we use the self heating pads and even here in Canada they all keep nice and snug. In the centre of the greenhouse I have a stand about 3ft high mounted on a steel pole cemented into the ground. This is where we leave food over night as being rural raccoons can get into the food but a raccoon can climb but cannot jump. We also have a second feeding station down in our bush, again on a pole for those cats that won't come into the greenhouse.this feeding station is enclosed .
—Guest Geoff


It sounds like your already doing a very good job as cats take a long time to adapt. One thing they don't like is change. Is there any way you could rebuild their shelter. Also does the county or area loan traps(cages to catch) them in? Also a cat can't resist play, something on a long string, preferably something with catnip on the end. Keep the length of string long enough to keep it a safe distance from you. When the cats forget about you and are hard at play draw in the string. Play this several times, over the course of a week until the ones you wish to catch are at your feet. Have some one else doing it while you grab. Continue playing. Have something secure to put kitty in. I hope I understood your need and could be of help.

My 17 Feral Cats

I got a big wooden box from work an engine came in it. I took the box cut the front of it and insulated it top bottom and the sides with underlying carpet. Then I took 5 heating pads and bought cat/dog carpets at Walmart for 5 dollars each. Put the down-filled duvet on top of heating pads / and then the cat carpets on top, it is toasty warm in there. Over top of the whole box I put very thick plastic I got from work holds out the cold / covered the whole thing and then cut thick strips in the front to get in and out. Every morning at 5:30 am they all come out from in there house and they are all very warm when they all surround me to get their hugs,.and then their food. I love my cats so much. I have my two favorite that I let in the house every morning while my dog sleeps and doesn't know there in the house. They have to go back outside at 6:30 am because Luke my dog wants to come out of the bedroom then. My cats have warmth, food and most important love lots of love
—Guest sherrill

feral cats

A few women and a married couple and I feed and tend to between 20-30 feral/abandoned cats. Two of the women catch, release and rehome when possible and some of us have adopted and rehomed. But people keep dumping kittens. We have a couple low shelters filled with staw and covered with roofing material. Then we have about 16 rubbermaid totes filled with straw and a small hole cut a few inches above ground so water wont get in. Also, TJ built wood coverings 8-10" openings above the openings to help keep rain and snow out. Worst thing is keeping water from freezing - we have no electric available. They are behind a large businesses parking lot next to woods and creek. I wish i had $ so i could get a piece of property fence it and build them a warm feral preserve.. where they would b safe. Most if them are afraid to b touched. The feral i adopted took 7-8 mths before she would even rub on my leg, now about 10-11 mths she's almost completely tame. Patience and love is the key.
—Guest weirton cat lover


I have a dog house the cats do not go in-keep hoping-where can I buy straw-I live in Orlando
—Guest Ronnie

Winter nights!

I moved to an apartment building in NYC last year and started to look after a colony of strays. There are about 15 of them. I feed them daily and keep plenty of water around. In Dec I bought two kittytubes. They share the space. I also put made a tent with blankets and a down quilt for the few that didn't crawl into the tubes. It's the best I can do but I still feel awful that they are out in the cold at night. I notice now as we are into day 4 of the very low temps that they are eating and moving around less. I wish I could do more. Poor things!
—Guest Tessie

Solutions for keeping cats warm

This is a tip that I got from the feline fix in Denver, CO. They suggested large plastic storage bins with a whole cut into the end of it. I use an insulation foam DO NOT use the insulation that you have in your attic; the kind that rolls out. It has fiberglass and is not good for this application. I get the foam insulation at home depot, it's about $8 for a 4'X8' sheet and you can cut it into 3rds length wise and line 2 plastic bins it is bendable just curve it, and put it in. Then just add a blanket or towel to the inside; I cover mine with moving blankets that you can get at harbor freight for about $6. Total cost for 2 very warm shelters is about $30
—Guest Pam Phillips

Feral Care

I've been feeding 3 feral cats that were born in my yard for almost two years now. I couldn't get near them in the beginning with the mother protecting them. She left them after a few months. I built a shelter out of wood and insulated it with foam panels. Added a small window in front, shingle roof, and emergency exit door on the back. Put it up about 8 inches off the ground. Added straw inside. I trapped these girls when they were smaller and had them neutered and vaccinated. One is very friendly and will always run to me and let me pet her and rub under her chin. After the storm Sandy came and went, the next morning she came limping toward me with an injured paw which has healed since then. It was like something out of a movie. She loves the attention I give her and I'm sure I could bring her inside but I have two cats already plus a wife that doesn't like cats. I feed them dry and wet food, sometimes leftovers. I've gotten attached to these kitties. I used to have mice in my home d
—Guest jnocella

winter shelter

Hercules Huskee styrofoam cooler (available at Kmart) is plenty large ... I use it turned upside down so water doesn't leak down ( I also tape the lid edge all around to keep out rain and wind), and cut a hole in a short side. Place straw inside for extra comfort (if get wet) and warmth (but may not be absolutely necessary since so well insulated).
—Guest Howard


I have been taking care of a cat that showed up on our back door step, so skinny you could see his ribs through his fur, he will come in the house for food, only with the sliding door open, then leave. We built him a great shelter,but last week, did not know he was in there & opened it up to check on the straw, he took off, came back to eat 1 day later, but will not go back in the shelter,he climbs through snow banks and now this week the temperature will only be -19 at best, how do I get him to go back in the warm shelter by our door?Put lots more straw and catnip and even treats, but he won't stay there anymore. Have I screwed up his comfy outdoor home forever?- Nancy S

Looking after my 3 ferals

Due to a neighbour not allowing us to get involved with her find of a mummy cat that had just had 4 kittens, we now have 3 living outside. We were able to get them all fixed and 2 were caught early to get rehomed. The plan was to get all 4 rehomed and us keep mum, however only 2 were placed. We had them at the end of our garden but noticed they wanted to be near the house especially for food. We brought them a large dog house and insulated it and placed it right near our home for winter. They love it! They are warm and well fed, enjoying a nice bowl of warm milk after each meal to wash it down with. We would love to have them in however have an old spitfire of a cat that would not be keen. Also have a puppy that they like as well. We have named them, Puss, Badger and Foxy and they enjoy us as much as we do them. We have built their confidence up so they know that they are well fed and looked after, warm and more importantly safe with us. We love them

Very cold

It's very interesting reading other people's stories, awesome to know other people care enough about God's beautiful creatures to take action.Right now in New York it is about twenty five degrees and I'm so concerned for our outdoor stray cat Twix. Although we cannot touch her she allows us to sit and watch her. She is so cute. We feed her every morning on the deck. My fear is the cold winter and what to do. During about twelve to three in the day the sun shines on part of the yard and she goes their and is fine. But when it is morning and the worst night time I'm so scared for her but my mom assures me she'll be okay. Cats are smarter than us and will find shelter. Still we left for her a new wool blanket in the garage for her, the garage has a hole she goes in sometimes. Also I put out my sweater on the bench outside and caught her curling in it today which made me so happy. All we can keep doing is loving, feeding, and trying to help them stay warm anyway we can. Buying more blanket
—Guest Tray Tray

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