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This winter season is proving to be one of the strangest ones yet. While most of California is experiencing unusual warm winter temperatures, much of the eastern United States is being slammed by snowstorms and freezing temperatures. In these cold weather conditions, you know not to leave your pets outdoors to play for extended periods of time or, more devastating, unattended and tethered helplessly to a tree while you go out for the day.

Exposure to dangerously low temperatures can lead to painful suffering or even the death of your pet. But, what about the other creatures you see roaming outside in the cold? If you are observant of your neighborhood, you may notice some seemingly domestic pet-like wild animals that live outside year round; they are feral cats and they can use your help making it through the winter alive. These cats are not socialized and will typically not be friendly to people, so it’s best to not try petting them. However, by providing an inexpensive outdoor shelter and a little food and water, you can still help them out without disturbing them. Check out some tips below on how to care for your outdoor feline friends this winter.

Outdoor Shelter

Outdoor Shelter

Choose an area near where neighborhood feral cats hang out to place your outdoor cat shelter. For safety, keep it away from busy areas like sidewalks and streets.

  • Start with a smaller plastic storage bin with a lid or a styrofoam cooler with a lid big enough to fit three to five cats, as they like to cuddle in groups to keep warm.
  • To keep the cold air out, cut a round opening in the front no larger than six to eight inches wide.
  • Remove lid and place inside a pillowcase stuffed with straw or shredded newspaper to act as insulation (no glossy paper). You can also put straw directly in the bin while allowing for moveable cat space. Put the lid on tightly.
  • Check the straw or shredded newspaper often and replace as needed. Clean the shelter if it gets dirty inside. Don’t do this if there are feral cats inside!
  • Make sure the shelter is lifted up a few inches to keep from conducting the cold or moisture from the ground. Use items like wooden pallets and bricks to elevate the shelter.

Food and Water

cat food

If it is not freezing during the day or night where you are, then place a small bowl of cat food and water close to the shelter, but not inside because the water can spill. On the other hand, if you get freezing temperatures in your area, consider dry food only and since the water can freeze, use a thick, deep and wide plastic bowl for water. Check the water bowl a couple times a day for refills or to replace frozen water.

Check Your Vehicle

snow covered cars

Before you start up your car, bang loudly on the hood to scare hiding cats out from under wheel wells and engine areas. It’s better to have a scared cat than a squished cat! Also, take a minute to look under the vehicle for cats seeking shelter.

Constructing a simple cat shelter, providing food and water, and checking for hiding feral cats under cars. You will feel great knowing you helped an animal in need!

Lead Image Source: Kathy Doucette/Flickr