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

Responses: 63


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.

cat shelter for winter

I have two spayed and neutered ferals that sleep in the shelter I made, one plastic storage bin inside another bigger one, styrofoam between two bin sides and bottoms straw inside and all around bins elevated off ground with two wood planks, 6 inch hole cut through both wedged up against house so no wind blows in. Covered with heavy plastic tarp, bin inside large heavy duty trash bag with straw stuffed all around bin inside bag. It is 15 degrees out now and they are toasty warm in shelter. One feral is 9 years old already. Every morning they line up at kitchen door for water, milk, canned and hard food. I give them canned first because it freezes, but it puts on weight for winter warmth. I put flea powder in shelter and flea drops on food. I also put liquid antibiotic drops on food if they get eye infections.

Great insulation

Go to your local PetSmart and ask them if they get their fish delivered in Styrofoam and/or insulated bags. If you can pick them up on the day they are delivered, they will give them to you FREE. The containers make great shelters - they're already insulated to some degree - and those bags are the same material that are inside the self-heating pads. I've used the insulation inside the large plastic containers with a hole cut in one end - I use waterproof duct tape to hold it in place. Several layers under the shelter protect it from the ground as well. Whenever I see a sale on lap throws ($3 at Christmas Tree Shops is the cheapest I've found), I stock up on them so I can rotate them through the shelters. (It's true that one bad smell on the bedding keeps everyone out!) I recently bought straw to add additional insulation under and around the shelters. I removed one pane of glass in my garage and installed a cat door, which I keep propped open. Anything warm and dry is great!
—Guest Carol

wee stray

im no cat expert but 100% animal lover and it breaks my heart to see the wee stray that lives in my garden out huddled up against the cold. I took him2vets to be checked before re-homed but he was found to b ferel to be safely placed in a home so i had no option but to take him back and keep feedin him as i am doing,feeding him warm fish and chicken to make sure he has a full warm belly for the cold night ahead. Iv also provided an old rabbit hutch with a cat box and blankets inside but he would rather sit at my front door with no shelter! what else can i do! He doesnt much like being touched and wont tolerate my indoor cat! Poor wee man :(

Keeping ferals warm.

I have a deck overhanging my back patio, so in the winter months I place my picnic table up against the back of my house, place thin indoor outdoor carpet on the floor, cover it with 2 large tarps, anchored down with my flower planters, I place thick towels on the seat benches of the picnic table which is where they lay, I also use a tempature controlled heater that I have set at 55 degrees, I place their food and water in there, and check it every day. I also place another very heavy table on the top of the picnic table to secure the tarps from the wind. I live in PA and it is sometimes below 0 here. It works and I have been doing this for 5 years!
—Guest guest5


I have 2 ferals in house, 1 living on back deck. She has rubbermaid box inside another rubbermaid box with insulation between and a heated kitty pad to protect her from midwest winter. I have 3 cats already, 2 of them feral (btw, I have already trapped and neutered my outside feral)
—Guest ann

Winter Tips in the South

I have a overhang patio in the back of my house. It is protected from the North wind and most of the time, rain. I placed a dog igloo on the patio for my feral colonies. I also, placed cardboard boxes big enough for two. Several of them are lined with outdoor rugs with rubber backing which keeps the cold from biting through the bottom. I go to Dollar stores and buy warm blankets and cut them up and place them in the boxes. I take larger cardboard boxes fold them flat and put them behind the boxes then I push my large ceremic flower pots next to the flattend boxes to shield the blanket boxes from the wind. We don't usually drop below 30 degrees here and since they stay dry, these ferals do great. They are the only ferals in the neighborhood whose stomachs drag the ground from food and TLC.
—Guest LoyEllen

Welcome home Chi-CHi

I decided to invite the cat into my home as an outdoor and indoor cat, and he is quite spoiled now as my roommate. My allegy is ok.
—Guest Lilly

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

This is not a feral cat, and it should not be forced to live outside like one. If it's friendly, get it to a shelter.
—Guest Amy


I have done it the past. I found a wealth of info on how to make outside house for cold weather at alley cat.com or do a search on feral cat housing. Lots of links. You exact measurements, and keeping it off the ground very important, also Styrofoam with straw will act as installation and will wick AWAY moisture, from fur. Good luck. And finally if the cat is friendly there is still time to stop from being a feral cat or semi-feral, which is one that had a home and got left. See if you can rescue him and either find him a home by putting an ad in the paper, or finding a shelter that will take him or perhaps keeping him yourself. It is such a shame to have a nice cat turn feral, I have rescued a semi-feral cat and kitten and last week one that was left, what a difference in them. It is too my Precious mom kitty will never that friendly again, SAVE IF YOU CAN, IF NOT SHELTER,WATER,AND FOOD. GOOD LUCK

Caring for ferals

I've made shelters for kitties here in Houston where its not so cold. But I want to point out that if a kitty up-chucks a meal in one they won't go in it again. You need to monitor your shelter frequently! Be sure the bedding is clean.
—Guest feral caregiver

Help Stray Cats Keep Warm in Winter

I have one permanent stray cat guest in my yard and others that come and go. I wrote in my blog about building a cat shelter for winter. I'm in Canada so you know it gets very cold here. Just two tips to add - if you can get some bales of straw, they make excellent insulation, stack them to make a shelter and pull some out and put into a box so they can snuggle inside it to preserve body heat. The other is the microwavable heating disc. Just stick it in the microwave, follow directions on package and then put it, covered, in the cat shelter. It gives off heat for up to 12 hours.
—Guest Felines

Caring for my Outside Babies

I have several cedar, insulated outdoor cat houses that are located several feet above ground. Inside each of them, I have a Booda Dome and inside each Booda is a self-heating cat pad. I also have a large heated cat house built off the side of my home that houses 7 cats comfortably. In addition, I use heated water bowls and dry food is left out for them during the day along with two wet feedings. A full belly and protection from extreme weather is a must for any kitty that lives outside.

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