If you’re among the population that lives somewhere where the temperature doesn’t dip below 50 or 60 degrees, you’re lucky. But for the rest of us, the cold weather is setting in and winter will arrive very shortly. And if recent trends continue and forecasts are correct, much of the country is in for a rough few months.

As temperatures plummet and snow begins to fall, it’s natural for our concerns to turn to the animals that must endure Mother Nature’s elements. While we’re warm and cozy in our homes, how are the animals faring? Of particular concern tend to be feral cat colonies – those cats that are not quite wild, but not completely domesticated. Feral cats are a unique category of animals, because although they are accustomed to living outside and relying on their own instincts for survival, they do greatly benefit from human intervention, especially during extreme weather conditions.

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If you know about or are currently caring for a feral cat colony in your area and are worried about them this coming winter, you can help their chances of faring well by taking a few extra measures to ensure their safety and well-being.

Provide the Right Shelter

Adequate shelter is an absolute necessity for feral cats during the winter months. You can help out your local ferals by constructing a few inexpensive and easy-to-make shelter boxes. These boxes will help to keep cats warm and dry even on the coldest and snowiest days. This video tutorial will walk you through the necessary steps. Alley Cat Allies, the nation’s leading feral cat advocacy group, says it’s important to elevate shelters off the ground, insulate them and keep them an appropriate size. Smaller shelters work best, as they help to recirculate cats’ own body heat.

Keep Food and Water Fresh

Food and water are, of course, essential to any cat’s survival, but in cold months, extra caloric intake is especially important to cats living outdoors. Provide feral colonies with a constant source of food and water and take the necessary measures to prevent freezing. Easier said than done – especially in harsh, wintry weather – but these tips from Alley Cat Allies provide some great suggestions for keeping food and water fresh and frost-free.

Ensure Accessibility

Once food stations and shelters are in place, it’s imperative to keep them clear of snow. They won’t do the ferals any good if they can’t get to them. Also be sure that cats don’t become snowed into their shelters by keeping doorways free of blowing snow and drifts.

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Other Considerations

TNR Programs in the Winter

Trap-Neuter-Release, or TNR, is an effective means to control feral cat populations, however, opinions are mixed on whether or not the practice should be continued throughout the winter months. While the TNR procedure will require a portion of a cat’s winter coat to be shaved and the trapping process may expose cats to the winter elements, wintertime TNR is advantageous in that the chances of trapping an already pregnant or lactating cat are much lower than during other times of the year. If TNR is attempted in the winter months, it’s necessary that adequate shelter be provided through each step of the trapping and recovery processes.

Check Your Car

Not surprisingly, cats will seek out warm spaces during cold months. Unfortunately, sometimes the warmest spaces available to them are underneath or inside your car. Before starting your car, tap the hood a few times and check tire wells for cats who may have sought respite from the elements.

Steer Clear of Chemicals

Chemicals and components that are frequently used during winter, including antifreeze, salt and ice melt can be toxic and even deadly to ferals, as well as to your own pets. Avoid using these products, if possible, but if you do choose to use them around your property, be sure they are properly and securely stored away from animals’ reach.

Green Monsters, are any of you prepping for winter feral care? Tell us what you’re doing!

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Image source: Charlotte Claeson/Flick

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