Most cats can spend time outdoors most of the year. But when temperatures drop, they need us. Find out how you can protect your outdoor cat in winter.
Outdoor cats easily adapt to various climates. However, on frigid winter days, a food booth can be a big help. In this article, we will give you tips to protect your cat in winter.
You may be interested in taking a look at this post The Secrets to Winter Cat Care, here.
Can cats survive the winter outdoors?
Cats that spend all year outdoors start to grow a thick coat of hair as the cold weather approaches. I’m sure your outdoor cat knows how to stay warm and dry when he’s outdoors in winter: maybe he has a place to hide, knows a neighbor who leaves food outside, or maybe he has a hiding place to hunt rodents.
However, between surviving the winter outdoors and protecting your cat’s health, there is a big difference. You can make your furry friend’s winter easier with shelter, plenty of food, and unfrozen water.
What temperature can cats withstand?
Experts confirm that temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius can pose a danger to cats if they do not have a suitable place to shelter. With temperatures this low, they can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite, both of which can pose risks to your friend’s life.
On the other hand, an indoor cat that only leaves the house occasionally will not be able to withstand super-low temperatures for more than a few minutes. So for his well-being, he prevents them from leaving the house with temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius.
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Invite him into your home
The best way to take care of your cat in times of freezing temperatures is to invite him home so that he can enjoy the warmth, food, water, and your caress. For indoor cats, it will not be a problem.
Whether you have an indoor or outdoor cat, make sure they are home at night. In addition, you should have access to a shelter or shelter in which to take shelter during the day.
If you have an outdoor cat or help stray or feral cats, sheltering them is very important, as well as providing non-frozen water and dry food. Also, it should be mentioned that outdoor cats have hunting instincts, and many of the creatures they catch, such as mice and small animals, take refuge in winter, so the natural food chain of cats is limited during this season.
Offer you a warm and dry shelter in winter
If inviting him over isn’t an option, you can build a simple shelter to keep him warm, safe, and dry on cold days. In addition, shelters are also useful for giving feral or stray cats in your neighborhood a place to shelter in winter.
Buy or build a shed? What is better for outdoor cats?
You can build a wooden kennel, similar to a dog kennel, using plans available on the internet. Or you can also buy a ready-to-assemble cat house from various online stores.
An outdoor cat looking for a place to shelter from the cold will adapt to any shelter you offer. However, surely your neighbors will appreciate that it is beautiful and well camouflaged or hidden in an area with vegetation or wood.
On the other hand, you can also build a shed with plastic storage boxes. Cut the box with a cutter and make openings on the front and back between 15 and 20 cm2. They must be big enough for your cat to enter, but small enough so that the cold does not enter. Also, if you put a rubber flap on the doors, you will protect them even more from the cold. You just have to make sure that the hatch doesn’t prevent your furry friend from going in and out of the house with ease.
Why do you need a second opening at the rear of the shed? If an unwanted intruder, such as a wild animal, enters the shelter, your friend will be able to escape quickly.
Use electrical tape or silicone to fix the lid of the box firmly. Place the shelter on a pallet, board, or bricks to keep it from coming into contact with ground moisture. If you raise it a few inches, you will insulate it and prevent rain and snow from entering.
The size of the shelter is important
Unless you have in mind putting a heater in your cat house, it mustn’t be too large. The reason is that the only source of heat in the house is the cat itself.
In a small space, your friend’s body heat will warm up the house fast. However, if the house is too large, the kitten’s body heat will dissipate and your friend will be uncomfortable. You just have to make sure that the house is big enough for your cat to get up and turn around.
What can you put in your outdoor cat’s shelter?
The main function of the house is to protect your cat from the cold, rain, and snow. Do not put food inside, place it in a covered feeder. Why? Food could attract unwanted visitors to the shelter and can be dangerous.
The best material that you can put on the floor of the house is straw. It repels moisture and insulates well and your cat can curl up to stay warm. Remember that straw and hay are not the same: mold grows on hay and it doesn’t insulate as well. Change the straw periodically during the winter.
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Insulates the house from cold and humidity
Do not put towels or blankets inside the shelter. These fabrics will absorb your cat’s heat instead of insulating it. In addition, they also retain moisture, so a humid, cold, and unpleasant environment will be created.
Seal all joints and openings in the shed to keep out rain and snow. Use silicone or waterproof tape. If the lid of the box doesn’t close properly (or if the shelter is lightweight and can easily fly off or fall over), place bricks or rocks on top to secure it. And don’t forget to check the shed after a snowfall or heavy rain to make sure the inside is dry and free of moisture.
Give him hot food and water
In cold weather, food or water may freeze before your cat eats or drinks. Unless you want to leave fresh food and water several times a day, invest in a heated feeder.
How much food should I give my cat in winter?
Cats that spend most of their time outdoors in winter need more food. They spend more energy to stay warm, so you have to give them more food than on a hot day. Also, remember that if it hunts often, the creatures it feeds on are most likely hiding in its burrows during the winter.
When it’s really cold, canned cat food is quickly frozen outdoors. Give him all the dry feed that is necessary. Your cat will thank you.
Where to put food and water
You should put food and water where your cat spends the most time outdoors. Since you have to do it daily, also choose a place that is suitable for you. You want to avoid having to fight your way through snow or mud. A covered feeder is a good option. In this way, you will be able to prevent rain or snow from smearing the food and you will make mealtime much more pleasant for your cat friend.
How to prevent cat food and water from freezing
Heated feeders can prevent water and canned food from freezing. They connect to a conventional socket, so for safety, you have to see how you will use them outdoors. You may be able to place the heated feeder and waterer on the porch, as long as you don’t mind a wild animal visiting.
If you use conventional drinkers, keep in mind that water usually freezes faster in stainless steel drinkers than in plastic ones. Some plastic drinkers are flexible, so you can squeeze them out of the ice if the water freezes.
Track your friend’s winter adventures with a cat GPS tracker
Another essential tool for taking care of your cat in winter is a GPS cat tracker. Thanks to this device, you can keep track of your friend’s adventures, know where he is, and control how much time he spends away from home and how far he goes. Your cat friend will enjoy the outdoors and you will have peace of mind knowing that you can always find him, anywhere and at any time.
This is what Rickard told us about his experience with the Tractive GPS tracker:
“Louie was starting to be given the go-ahead to leave the house on his own. He was wearing the Tractive cat tracker because we wanted to be calm. We followed his steps daily and saw that every day he was getting further and further away from home.
He used to come back before dark, but sometimes we had to check the pager to go looking for him. One night we started to worry because we saw on the app that he hadn’t moved from the same place in hours. As it was getting dark, we went looking for him. The locator took us to a place about a kilometer away. We looked for him in the area, but we were not able to find him. We continue to look for the locator in the bushes and also widen the search area to find it.
We finally found it up a tree, in the exact place that the locator had indicated. He was stuck in a 20-25 foot tree and was too scared to move. Talking to the owners of the house, we found out that Louie had been seen that day and that his German Shepherd had chased him. They lent us a ladder and after a risky climb, we were able to rescue him and bring him safely home. The locator has saved your life once and could do it again .”
What distinguishes stray cats from feral cats and outdoor cats?
We usually see cats walking outdoors throughout the year. Also, some cat lovers help stray or feral cats with food, water, and shelter.
Regardless of whether they are strays, wild, or outdoors, they are all domesticated cats and belong to the same species: Felis cattus. It’s important to note that stray or feral cats can behave in different ways from humans, so don’t expect to interact with them. In addition, you should also be aware that your outdoor cat or indoor cat out exploring the neighborhood during the day may cross paths with feral or stray cats.
How are outdoor, stray, and feral cats different? Many outdoor cats are cared for by someone and often have contact with humans. For example, they may receive frequent meals, and veterinary care, or spend part of the day or night in a home. In short, these cats have a secure home as a base.
Stray cats lived in a home at some point in their lives and had frequent contact with people, but they left or were abandoned. They no longer have regular contact with humans. Since they have socialized in the past, they may approach people or houses during the day. They will most likely accept food and seek somewhere close to humans for shelter.
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Feral cats may have never had contact with humans, or if they did, it was minimal. They are often afraid of people and do not want to interact with them. On the other hand, they are only usually active at night. Feral cats are not usually neutered, so they are the target of trap, neuter, and return programs designed to improve their lives and prevent breeding.
Any of these cats could be attracted to things you place outside for your kitties, such as shelters, food, or water. Always remember that the cats you see on the street are different and not all socialize in the same way.
A few suggestions for winter cat care
If you want to help roaming cats get through the winter safely, write down these tips:
- Before getting in the car, tap firmly on the hood to make sure there are no jacks. Additionally, check the wheels because they are frequently used as hiding places.
- Check that your car does not leak antifreeze, since this substance can be toxic if cats suck it when they lick their paws. Keep antifreeze out of cats’ reach if you use it.
- Avoid using snow melt chemicals on your driveway or other paved surfaces. If a cat walks through the treated areas and then licks its paws, it can get poisoned.
How to get a stray or feral cat to use your shelter or feeder
Feral and stray cats may not come near your home or use the shelter you have built for them. Locate cat shelters some distance from your home, but not too far, so you can visit them daily. Place more than one house so that the kittens can choose the one they like best or have privacy if there are other cats inside.
Place catnip or treats at the entrance to let the cats into the shelter.
If the cats don’t use your house, find out where they sleep (in a shed, for example) and make the space as cozy as possible: lay out straw so they can sleep on it.
Follow these tips to take care of your cat in winter
Living outdoors, at the mercy of nature’s whims, can be challenging even for cats. You can help outdoor cats on frigid days by offering them food, water, and shelter to keep them comfortable and well-nourished.
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