How To Keep Outdoor Cats Warm In Winter
Contrary to popular belief, a warm fur coat does not keep you (nor a cat) warm all through the wintertime. While cats are normally independent, they do need our help to get them through the cold of winter.
Here's what to keep in mind so you can keep your favorite feline warm all thru the cold winter months --
Give Food Daily
Outside cats need regular feeding on a daily basis. This is necessary for two very important reasons. The first reason is that well-fed cats are better hunters. Yes, yes...it sounds counter-productive, but in reality, a well-fed cat hunts better. A cat is only successful 2-3 times per 10 times that it hunts. (This is true whether you're talking about domestic cats or their larger cousins.) Cats need food on a daily basis so they can be strong enough to hunt.
Not all cats have a strong urge or desire to hunt; let alone eat what they hunt and kill. Cats have different personalities, just like us humans do. Over the years, I've seen my own cats differing personalities - some were great mousers, some were great bird hunters, and some didn't really care to do much more than look outside the windows and be amused.
There are other factors you should keep in mind about daily feeding. Be aware of the fact that mice (and other rodents) can have: disease(s), parasites, worms and other things that are not beneficial to cats and/or humans. This fact alone is a major reason why I do regular, daily feeding of my outside cats. I certainly don't want my cats getting sick because they ate a mouse with a disease or parasites!
Another reason a cat needs regular, daily feeding (and the extra calories the cat gets from the food) is because it takes more energy to keep warm and maintain their body temperature during those cold winter months. Speaking of "warm" - keep in mind dry cat food doesn't freeze. It's easier to feed dry cat food because it doesn't dry out, doesn't freeze, and most of the time, most cats will tolerate eating it.
The next way to keep your outside cat warm in winter is to have a safe place for the cat to sleep. A cat needs shelter during the long, cold winter nights - just big enough for a cat (or two), but not for a dog, raccoon, possum, skunk, or other outside creatures. Personally, I have a couple of different places set up for my outside cats.
In one spot, I have an outside "closet." (Actually this is where I've got my washer & dryer.) There's a small cat door for them to go in and out. The "closet" provides a good wind-break. Just cutting down the amount of wind (or completely eliminating the wind) makes a big difference in temperature and comfort of the cats.
It Doesn't Have To Be A Palace
My other shelter is an "igloo" type of shelter. O.K., it's really called a "dogloo," but I'm a cat person...what can I say? Anyway, the igloo is not very large, it's insulated (warmer in winter & cooler in summer) and has a small opening. I've placed a sleeping bag inside. That way, the cats have a warm, soft something to snuggle into, plus the sleeping bag itself is insulated for winter weather.
Where you place the "igloo" is important. I've set mine up in our carport - the car port itself provides some wind break. My car port has walls on all three sides. Even on the coldest of winter days, I've found it can be at least 5 degrees warmer just being in the car port. I haven't measured the temperature in my outside cat "closet," but I'm sure the difference in temps are similar because it's enclosed on all 4 walls (with only one door for me & the cats to get in and out).
Also, remember to set the outside "igloo" or cat shelter up a bit, off of the ground. Or at least put the igloo on a wood pallet or some other material. Not only do cats prefer to be up off the ground, it you set the shelter off the ground, it won't leech the cold from the ground (or from the cement if you set things up in your car port or garage).
Don't Forget These
Another option (depending upon your budget) is having one of those enclosed oil-filled radiator heaters in your cat "closet." Since they're fully enclosed, you don't run any risk of fires, and the cats enjoy the extra heat. They usually have a couple of buttons so you can regulate the amount of heat generated. The units are normally set up to turn on and off when a particular set temperature is reached. They usually cost under $100, and last for many years. Most home improvement stores (like Lowe's) carry them.
Lastly, put out fresh water every day. However, you need to be aware of how cold it's going to get overnight because water does freeze! (I'm ashamed to say how many mornings I've found frozen water in the bowls...although, I'm getting better at remembering).
Try to place the water where it won't freeze, or invest in a heated bowl. If, for bugetary reasons, you can't see your way clear to buy a heated bowl, then you need to put out fresh, clean water in the same place and at the same time. The cats will learn your schedule an dwill come to drink the water at those times. Cats do like having routines.
All, or most of the above said and done, you should have a warm, comfy and happier cat during the winter.