I adore animals (cats in particular) and love to pass along helpful information so that animals around the world can be happy and healthy.
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 sometimes need our help to get them through the cold of winter.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know, including detailed information on building your own feeding station and cat shelter. So whether you have an outdoor cat that likes to stay that way or you just want to provide some food and shelter for feral or stray cats, read on to find out how you can keep your favorite felines warm all through the cold winter months.
How Cold Is Too Cold for Cats?
It is very important to monitor the conditions your cats are living in. If they are left outside (or inside for that matter) in below-freezing temperatures, they become susceptible to serious medical conditions like hypothermia and frostbite—both of which can result in death.
Trying to pin down an exact temperature threshold for how cold is too cold for your cats is difficult, however, due to various factors, including age, length, body mass, fur thickness, and whether they're generally an indoor or outdoor cat. But this quick guide should help you get an idea of when your feline friend might need your help.
What temperatures can cats still survive outside?
- Indoor Cats: If your cat spends most of its time indoors and isn't acclimated to cold weather, it should probably not be left outside when the temperature drops below 45°F. Another good guideline to follow is that if your home feels too cold for you, your indoor cat probably feels the same. In which case, it's probably a good idea to turn up the thermostat or think about getting some space heaters.
- Outdoor Cats: If your cat spends most of its time outdoors though, then it can potentially be alright down to nearly freezing temperatures. Once the thermometer drops below 32°F, however, you should definitely think about either bringing it inside or setting it up with an insulated cat shelter.
- Kittens and Older Cats: Much like indoor cats—and whether or not they've spent most of their time outdoors—you should not leave older cats or young kittens outside when the weather drops below 45°F, especially at night.
Note: It's also crucial to keep in mind other weather elements besides just the temperature. Whiteouts and blizzards can trap and disorient cats, making it extremely difficult for them to find their way back home. This is especially important when it comes to
- older cats that may have vision problems like cataracts and may not be strong enough to weather aggressive storms, and
- young kittens that are not yet familiar enough with their new homes and are more susceptible to getting lost, stuck, or stranded.
How to Help Outdoor Cats Make It Through a Cold Winter
Whether you're taking care of your own outdoor cats or just want to help some ferals or strays make it through a freezing winter season, these helpful tips will make all the difference:
- Build or buy a cat shelter.
- Set up heaters or warming pads.
- Provide cats with plenty of fresh food.
- Make sure the cats have fresh water every day.
1. Build or Buy a Cat Shelter
The best way to keep your outside cat warm in winter is to have a safe place for it to sleep. A cat needs shelter during the long, cold winter nights—just big enough for a cat (or a few), 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 got my washer and dryer.) There's a small cat door for them to go in and out. The closet provides a good windbreak. Just cutting down the amount of wind (or completely eliminating it) makes a big difference in the temperature and comfort of the cats.
Your shelter doesn't have to be elaborate to be effective.
My other shelter is an "igloo" type of shelter. Alright, it's really called a "dogloo," but I'm a cat person . . . what can I say? Anyway, the igloo is not very large, but it's insulated (warmer in winter and cooler in summer) and has a small opening. I've also 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, which itself provides some windbreak. My carport has walls on all three sides. Even on the coldest of winter days, I've found it can be at least five degrees warmer just being in the carport. I haven't measured the temperature in my outside cat closet, but I'm sure the difference in temperatures is similar because it's enclosed on all four walls (with only one door for me and the cats to get in and out).
Read More From Pethelpful
How to Build Your Own Cat Shelter
Cat shelters can be made from a host of different kinds of materials, can come in a lot of different shapes and sizes, and boast a wide range of interior designs. Here are a few guidelines to help you get started though:
- You want to keep the size fairly small so that it can only fit one to five cats—depending on your need. Not only does this help trap the cats' body heat better, but it also helps reduce the chances of other animals trying to take over the shelter for themselves.
- A shelter about the size of 12″ x 18″ x 12″ should be big enough to house one cat, whereas one measuring about 24″ x 24″ x 18″ should be able to house three or four. If you think you might need to provide shelter for more than four or five cats, however, it's probably best to just make another shelter.
- Similarly, it's important to make the doorways only large enough for a single cat to fit through at a time to avoid larger predators from invading the shelter. About 5–7 inches should just about do it. (If they can get their head through the hole, then they can probably fit their whole body through.)
- You can also add a door flap to further help trap the heat inside.
- It's also important to make sure that the structure is weighed down enough to not blow away during a strong wind.
- Non-absorbent insulation is crucial as well. The most common choice for insulation and bedding is straw because it repels water and cats enjoy burrowing into it. But a lot of people also like to just go with Styrofoam for insulation, which is totally fine, as long as you make sure it's of the thicker and water-repellent variety.
- You can also further reinforce the interior walls with shiny, heat-reflecting materials such as Mylar blankets or Mylar bubble packs—which you can often find at pet stores (sometimes for free).
- If you decide to use an upcycled Styrofoam container for your base, be sure to line the walls with contact paper (or something similar) to prevent cats from accidentally clawing through it.
- Note: Do not use hay for insulation or bedding. It soaks up moisture, is susceptible to mold, and it is just generally uncomfortable for cats. Blankets or towels are also a bad idea for the same reasons, and they can quickly become more of a detriment than a benefit.
Placement and Maintenance
- Keep the shelter raised up off of the ground by at least a few inches. This helps conserve heat and also reduces the likelihood of insects crawling up into there or rain and snow ruining your shelter. Even something as simple as putting your shelter on top of a wood pallet will do.
- Make sure to place the shelter in a safe place, away from high areas of foot and car traffic.
- Ensure that the shelter is both level and sitting on stable ground. You don't want it wobbling around every time one of the cats moves a little inside.
- If you can, try to reduce the effect of wind by facing the entrance to the shelter toward a wall, fence, or another windbreak.
- You should routinely check in on your shelter to make sure it's still dry.
- If the cats don't seem to be very interested in the shelter, try luring them over with catnip, silver vine, or cat treats.
If you'd like some easy walkthroughs for building your own cat shelter—or maybe just want some visual inspiration to help you get started—check out Alley Cat Allies and NYC Feral Cat Initiative. Both have very informative pages that will help you either build your own cat shelter or direct you to where to buy an already made one.
2. Set Up Heaters or Warming Pads
Depending on your budget, another great way to help keep outdoor cats warm is by 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 that 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 carry them.
Another similar idea you can go with is setting up some microwaveable heating pads in your shelters or carport. They only last for a handful of hours before they need to be reheated—usually, a maximum of about 10 hours, depending on the brand and temperature outside. But they can be a cheaper option for those still looking to provide some additional heat to their cat shelters.
3. Provide Cats With Plenty of Fresh Food
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. It sounds counter-productive, but in reality, a well-fed cat hunts better. A cat is only successful about 20–30% of the time that it goes out to hunt. (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 though, 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 looking outside the windows and being 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 diseases, 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. Keep in mind that it's easier to provide dry cat food for your feline friends because it doesn't dry out, doesn't freeze, and most of the time, cats will tolerate eating it. The upside of using wet food, however, is that it requires less work for their systems to digest, which in turn helps conserve energy.
How much food should I give a cat in the winter?
For a general guideline, you can expect an adult cat to eat about 200 calories a day, give or take 20–30 calories. This measures out to around 5.5 ounces of wet food with an additional ounce of dry food a day. Or if you're only using dry food, then it's about 4–6 ounces every day.
Naturally, you should adjust this allotment depending on how many cats you're feeding and how much is (or isn't) left over after they eat.
How to Build Your Own Cat Feeding Station
Rather than just putting out some bowls of food, setting up an actual feeding station can help entice your outdoor cats and feral ones to stop by for some tasty meals. The video below provides a super easy tutorial on making a simple but effective feeding station. And if you're looking for something a little different, take a look at Alley Cat Allies' cool little gallery of various feeding station designs.
Here are just a few tips to keep in mind once you get to work on making your own:
- If you situate your station on an incline, rainwater and melted snow will drain out of the front. Simply adding an additional board to the back can easily achieve this.
- Place your feeding station away from areas with lots of foot traffic and loud car noises.
- It's also important to avoid placing your feeding station too close to your cat shelter (if both are outside and not in your carport or garage). This might invite competition and lead to fights among cats over dominance and potentially leave less aggressive cats to fend for themselves.
- You should check in on your feeding station frequently so that you know how to adjust the amount of food you're putting out to avoid waste or empty bowls.
- Regularly cleaning your feeding station often is important to prevent diseases and insects, as well as to maintain a more enticing atmosphere for the cats.
4. Make Sure Cats Have Fresh Water Every Day
Put out fresh water every day, ideally twice a day. You need to be aware of how cold it's going to get overnight, however, because water does freeze! (I'm ashamed to say how many mornings I've found frozen water in the bowls. I'm getting better at remembering though.)
Here are a few tips to help avoid ending up with useless bowls of ice:
- Fill bowls with hot or warm water to help stave off freezing.
- Try to place the water where it won't freeze. Put the bowl somewhere it will be at least partly protected from wind and will get at least some sunlight. You can also position it next to heat sources like grates and pipes.
- Consider investing in a heated bowl. There are a number of great heated bowls out there, some of which plug into an electric power source, while others are solar-powered.
- If for budgetary 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 and will come to drink the water at those times. Cats do like having routines.
- If you end up using a non-heated bowl, it's probably best to go for a thick, dark-colored one that is deep but has a small opening.
- Another option is to go with silicone camping bowls. That way, if the water in them does end up freezing, the ice can be easily popped out and replaced with fresh water.
How to Get Feral and Stray Cats to Use Your Shelter and Feeding Station
If you're having trouble getting feral and stray cats to use your shelter and eat at your feeding station, here are a few tips to help:
- Try putting out food and water at the same places and same times every day. Sticking to a routine not only helps them know when to come by, but it also increases their level of trust in you.
- Some cats feel threatened whenever they see humans nearby. So you might want to try putting out the food and water and walking away to help them feel safer to come over and eat. (And you can always watch from afar through a window to confirm that they're the ones consuming the food and water.)
- Regularly cleaning your feeding station and shelter might also help entice feral and stray cats to come over and visit.
- It's also worth trying to check in on your feeding station and shelter occasionally to make sure there are no larger predators or really aggressive cats that might be scaring away other, more timid felines.
Additional Tips to Keep in Mind During Winter
- Before you start up your car, it's a good idea to bang on the hood of your car and check underneath to make sure there aren't any cats hiding under there for warmth that could be hurt by you revving up your engine.
- Avoid using salt or chemicals to melt the snow around your property. This can hurt cats' paw pads and can be lethally toxic if slurped up from puddles or licked off of their paws. Instead, use pet-friendly deicers that can be found at most pet stores.
- Be extra careful when using or transporting antifreeze. It can be enticing to cats, but it is extremely toxic to them. In fact, antifreeze poisoning is an unfortunately common cause for the death of many cats, often unbeknownst to the owners until it is too late. Be sure to clean up any traces of the substance you might see around your property.
If you're looking for some additional helpful information about how to care for outdoor cats during the winter, check out these other super useful PetHelpful articles:
- Ways to Keep Outdoor Cats Safe in Winter. CatTime. Retrieved on 20 November 2018.
- Winter Cat Care: Baby, It's Cold Outside!. (2012, October 19). ASPCAPro. Retrieved on 20 November 2018.
- Winter Weather Tips. Alley Cat Allies. Retrieved on 20 November 2018.
- Winter Shelters for Community Cats. NYC Feral Cat Initiative. Retrieved on 20 November 2018.
- How Cold is Too Cold for Cats? Tips to Keep Your Feline Friend Safe. (2017, January 4). Retrieved on 21 November 2018.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: Projected windchill temps for Michigan can be as low as -50 degrees Fahrenheit. I have several self made shelters filled with straw, 2 K&H heated houses, and a straw filled shed with a cat-sized entrance hole. However, I still worry with these extreme temperatures, it won’t be enough to safely keep the cats warm. What more can I do?
Answer: After having done a bit more research, here's some ideas for you, to safely keep the cats warm on those extremely cold Michigan winter nights... First of all - make sure you don't have any of the shelters out in the open, like in the middle of a yard. Place them under or against something like a building, tree, porch, bush or something with an overhang. The ideal spot would be out of the wind, but exposed to the sun.
To prevent flooding, or if you have tons of snow (I'm sure you do in MI), then you should raise the shelters off the ground by using pallets or bricks. If you do this, then make sure the shelters are stable. You don't want any wobble or rocking from side-to-side. Cats are very particular about shelters that move around too much. Also, if your shelters are light weight, then make sure to weigh them down.
You can use Mylar blankets on the inside of your shelter. Line the interior walls, floor and ceiling with the Mylar blankets. Mylar is that thin, silvery "space type" blankets usually used for an emergencies in your car. The Mylar is a polyester material which traps body heat and reflect it back to its source.
Mylar blankets are very inexpensive, and can be cut to fit inside your shelter(s), and then attached with non-toxic glue. Some glue ideas are Weldbond Universal adhesive, or freezer tape. You can find these items on Amazon. Be sure to tuck in any loose material so your cats won't be tempted to chew it.
Also, you can use Solar pool covers to attract and retain heat. They don't have to be new (depending on your budget). Torn, but usable pool covers are great. New cover prices vary based on their construction and thickness. You can cut pool covers with scissors and drape them with the silver side down. Make sure you check on the temperature often until you are sure of the temperature generated - it may become too hot inside on milder days.
Hope this helps your cats keep warm. Thanks for your caring and concern in keeping your cats as warm as they can be on those extremely cold Michigan winter nights!
Question: I set up a crate for our feral cat with a heating pad and blankets before the rain. Two days later, I checked the crate, and it was full of ants. There was no food in the crate. I believe the ants were trying to find a dry place, out of the rain. I sprayed and killed them, but ants are still everywhere. What can I do?
Answer: I'm thrilled you took action and set up something for your feral cat so she/he can keep warm and dry. Ants are great survivors, and will attempt to keep dry in whatever way possible. While I'm not sure of the reason, or reasons the ants are there, but it sounds like you still have an ant challenge.
First, I suggest you take everything out of the area. Wash the blankets thoroughly, and clean the heating pad (if there's a cover, clean it as well). Then, you should put the blankets & heating pad back. Secondly, I suggest you try using a more natural remedy for repelling ants. Using natural remedies is better than using chemicals, especially around any animals (and better for you, too). There are several natural ways to encourage ants to go somewhere else. Some of those remedies include: sprinkling some Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth, or Cayenne Pepper and/or Black Pepper all around the area where the cat crate is located. There is also a great article on the website of the Farmers Almanac called "21 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ants" which is extremely informative.
Question: When I put a mylar blanket in the cat shelter I made, is the silver side up towards the cat?
Answer: The silver side of the blanket will go towards the cat, however there are some important points to keep in mind when using a mylar blanket. First of all, the mylar blanket should not go directly on the skin. Mylar blankets will only reflect radiated heat and putting the blanket right on the skin will transfer body heat through conductivity instead of radiation. This will conduct your cat's heat instead of reflecting the heat back to your cat. You need to have some air space between the cat and the mylar blanket. You can do this by putting a thin layer on top of the mylar blanket.
Another important fact to keep in mind is the reflective insulation (of the mylar blanket) will not do much good if the cat is lying directly on the ground. The ground absorbs body heat faster than air. You need to have an additional pad or some other solid insulation between the bottom of the mylar blanket and the ground.
Also, it's useful to know this advice is not only effective for keeping your cat warm, but for keeping dogs warm in the winter, as well as keeping humans warm.
Question: What if I don’t have straw for my cat shelter? What else can I do to keep my cat warm?
Answer: I would ask you to review my article. Towards the beginning of my article, there's a Heading of: "How To Build Your Own Shelter," and underneath that heading, is a sub-heading of "Interior Design." Re-reading and careful review of my whole article will help you, however, reviewing the "Interior Design" part of my article will directly answer your question. The short answer is: Styrofoam for insulation. This is fine as an alternative for straw, as long as you make sure it's of the thicker and water-repellant variety.
Why I recommend a review of my whole article is due to the fact there are plenty of details listed which 1.) will make things easier for you, and 2.) will help keep your cat warm and safe in the winter.
Question: I remember learning that warm water actually freezes quicker than cold water. Is this true?
Answer: Kudos to your memory! While the idea of warm water freezing quicker than cold water is counter-intuitive, it is correct. It is a fact that hot water freezes more quickly than cold water. This effect is called the "Mpemba effect" after a Tanzanian student who observed this phenomenon happening with ice cream.
Question: My feral cat had blood loss through their paw, what can I do about this situation?
Answer: First of all, please make sure if your cat has any injuries. This is critical, no matter what season of the year! If possible, please humanely trap and transport your cat to the vet, as soon as possible, so the vet can determine the extent of your cat's health and injuries.
If trapping and transportation is not possible, see if there is a vet who does "house visits," and make an appointment, as soon as possible. The health and well being of your cat is depending on your quick action.
Thank you for caring enough to ask for help and input about your cat and his/her health and well being.
Question: Can I put a heated mat on the top of a Mylar blanket and cover the mat with straw?
Answer: First of all, I would be very concerned about putting anything on top of a heated blanket, especially something like straw. I'd be worried about there being a fire danger. Also, there is a concern about too much heat generated by having both the Mylar blanket and the heating pad. The Mylar blanket is to reflect heat back, and with the heating pad, there may be excessive heat. This would be something you would absolutely need to monitor closely. Remember, a cat's temperature is well above ours, ranging from 99.5 to 102.5 degrees.
I would recommend you look at the answers to other questions on this Hubpage, as well as some of the comments & answers. Also, you might look at other alternatives to what's on my Hubpage, like Alley Cat Allies, FeralCatFocus.com or HomelessCat.org.
Question: Last year, I made a cat shelter for my two feral cats. They loved it and would always go in. I stored it for the summer, and have put it back out with a new body heating pad (just like the one they had last year, but now they will not go in the shelter). It is getting cold and I don't want them outside in the cold. Why are they not going in?
Answer: Cats are very sensitive to sounds and smell, and they can be very particular about how they want things arranged. Shelters, of course, are no exception. Is the new body heating pad the only thing you changed? There can be many reasons why the cats don't go into the shelter. There might be a single reason why, or there might be a combination of reasons why they don't use the shelter.
The new heating pad might be putting off a smell they don't like. The new pad, in combination with the rest of the shelter and its insulation is causing a smell or smells the cats don't like. Try taking the new pad out and using the old pad (if it's still usable) for a while and see what happens. Also, try not using a heating pad at all for a while. Basically, first try and eliminate the possibility of the new heating pad causing your problem of the cats not going into your shelter.
After trying these options, if it is the new heating pad, you can try different heating options. For example: a different brand of heating pad, or perhaps using a heating lamp (similar to the ones used for chicken coops and barns). There are several different ways to heat a shelter you can try. An excellent heating pad is "snuggle safe." Something else you can do is go to Alley Cat Allies. This is an excellent resource website with many useful ideas and articles.
Question: How do you train a cat to come when called?
Answer: It takes persistence and patience to train a cat to come when called. It's best to start training your cat when it's young, but it is possible to train an adult cat. First of all, find out what motivates your cat. The most common thing is the food. Does he/she like chicken, or perhaps tuna. Whatever you will be using must be tastier than his/her normal food (dry or wet). You can have more than one flavor or type of treat in order to keep things interesting, but save these treats only for when you are calling your cat.
Next, choose how you will call your cat. It can be specific words like "come here," or "here kitty, kitty". Keep it short and simple. Also, remember to only use this phrase when calling your cat. An alternative is to use a whistle or a clicker device for calling your cat.
Try to start your training when your cat is hungry. This will make the treat that much tastier for your cat. Start out calling your cat from a short distance away, for example, a couple of feet away from each other. After your cat comes to your call, feed him/her the treat. Do this 3 - 5 times. Each time rewarding your cat with his/her treat. This will be enough for one session. Once he/she comes to you reliably (after a few sessions at a close distance), then start to do this from further and further away. At each increased distance, make sure he/she is coming when called each time before increasing the distance.
Eventually, she will come when called, even if you can't see where she is. Remember, be patient and loving with her. Watch out for boredom in your training sessions. If this happens, try switching to another treat he/she loves. Coming to you when called should always be a pleasant experience for your cat.
Training your cat to come when called is so much more than a convenience to you, it's something that could save his/her life. Should there be an emergency, or he/she becomes lost, responding to your call could save his/her life. Training your cat is an investment in his/her care that reaps many benefits.
Question: I may be adopting a kitten. My parents won't let me keep it inside. What can I do to keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter without bringing it inside?
Answer: Good for you. Good that you respect your parents wishes of not bringing the kitten inside, as well as wanting to take care of the kitten properly. The kitten needs good food, clean water, shelter as well as lots of love and attention from you.
Make sure your shelter for the kitten provides good shade. This will help keep the kitten cooler in summer. Also, make sure you provide an insulated shelter for the cold winter months. It doesn't matter if you have one, or two shelters, just as long as it allows for good airflow for the hot temperatures and gives good insulation in the cold temperatures.
Make sure you are providing clean water at least once a day. Also, your kitten is growing, so make sure you feed him/her several times a day, preferably with food formulated for kittens.
Question: I have neighborhood cats near my home and it is getting cold. They don't really like to be near people. What should I do to keep my outdoor cats warm and healthy?
Answer: To keep them warm, I would recommend using shelters they can go into during the cold winter nights. You have several choices, depending on your budget. If you look towards the bottom of my HubPage, you'll see "Works Cited." These articles have some great, free resources for you to read up on & then choose the best solution for you and the cats. These cited articles are only a few of the many free articles you can read. They will help you gain a whole wealth of knowledge about how to specifically keep your outside cats warm and healthy. There are many options, with various price ranges. I've no doubt you'll choose the right solution, at the right price range for you, as well as the cats.
© 2008 Jean Keith
Jean Keith (author) from TX on November 16, 2019:
That's a great question you have. I appreciate you asking your question, mainly because you've introduced me to a new product. I've done a quick "look see" about this product, and it looks great.
As far as I can tell, it should work well. Closed-cell foam blend that retains and reflects heat back to you (or in this case, back to the cat), sounds like it would be excellent. It's something that doesn't need electricity, and it doesn't need to be re-heated (like Snuggle Safe products).
Sounds like you have a winner as far as I can tell. Please let me know how successful this is with keeping your cat warm this winter. If you post another comment telling me how well this product works on my Hubpage, then others can see your new comment and will have another resource to use in keeping their cats warm in winter!
Terrilee on November 16, 2019:
Can a heat a seat, like hunters use, be used for my outside cat shelter?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on November 16, 2019:
Your enclosed porch is better than no shelter at all, however here are some suggestions to help you further. Blankets are not as good as they might seem. Since cats have to walk & get up on them (where ever they are placed) and it rains & snows in the winter, then the cats get wet. This means the blankets get wet. The wet blankets freeze, and this means the freezing cold gets transferred to the cat. Not good!
One of the best solutions is to provide a shelter that's insulated with straw (NOT Hay). There are several shelter that are good, as well as inexpensive, depending on your budget needs. Some good shelters you can purchase (if you're DIY challenged), other shelters you can make yourself. Also, there's a good product called "Snuggle Safe" (which you can check out on Amazon) that's very good to keep cats warm throughout long winter nights.
Since I can't post other sites on my comments, I'll tell you some of the best resources for shelters are - alleycat(dot)org (resources/feral-cat-shelter-options), and feralcatfocus(dot)org.
Hope all this helps!
kim glass on November 11, 2019:
I have a stray that I have been keeping on my porch at night for about a month now.....its going to be really cold the next few days , 10 degrees or so but my question is, will my cat be ok on my enclosed porch with no heat? I do have a bed with some blankets for him and have ordered a furry tunnell he can lay in but it didnt come yet. Will my cat be ok out there in this cold?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on November 11, 2019:
Good question. I've researched this topic for several hours, and unfortunately, I haven't found any really good battery powered devices to keep outside cats warm in winter.
There are some options you might consider though. One option is using either the heated cat shelter, or the insulated cat shelter. An excellent heated shelter comes from Hammacher Schlemmer. This shelter uses a removable 20-watt heater beneath the floor of the shelter which generates radiant heat that warms the floor yet is not hot to human touch. Of course, you have to have a way to plug into an electrical source to have this work.
An excellent insulated shelter is "The Kitty Tube Gen. 3 –Feral option with straw" which can be purchased on Amazon. This shelter has some great features, and you can purchase additional insulation specifically made for this shelter. This additional insulation doubles the insulation existing in the main shelter, and does significantly keep the whole shelter much warmer in the winter.
Since I don't know your budget or the availability of electricity at your home, it would be best to take these suggestions and then look online to see what works best with your budget and your personal resources. Wishing you all the best. Thanks for your caring for the feral cats in your area!
Geri Hydock on November 10, 2019:
Is there any battery operated type of device to keep my feral cats outdoors during the cold winter warm?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on October 17, 2019:
Good question & comment, Sharon. I don't know why your litter box "freezes" during the winter time. I've never heard of a litter box freezing. This is because most litter boxes I am familiar with are some form of plastic, and it takes quite a bit to have them freeze.
Perhaps you're referring to the litter itself freezing on the walls of the litter box? I'd need a bit more info & details to really answer your question.
All of the above said, You might want to place a carpet remnant under the litter box. This might help reduce the cold from transferring from the floor to the litter box, itself. Also, depending upon the type of litter boxes you have, you might consider using some blankets or heavy cloth around the sides & top of the litter boxes to help prevent the freezing. You'd have to check regularly to see if the blankets/cloth is soiled & wash them, since cats like to have their litter boxes as clean as possible.
Hope this helps you.
Shannon Spears on October 16, 2019:
I have two cats both are boy we live in a camper in the summer but in the winter I move back in with my parents but since the boys have sprayed in the past they stay in the camper in the winter I come check on them every day to feed and water them and give them love they are inside cats so they use a liter box however it freezes in the winter which makes it impossible to clean they find other places to go to the bathroom if the liter box isn’t clean I would like to avoid that have any ideas
Jean Keith (author) from TX on October 13, 2019:
Thank you, Agnes for your comment, and of course, thank you for taking care of the outside cat! I really like the idea of using the thermal heat retaining blanket. Very clever on your part, and it's a wonderful way to make sure the cat keeps warm in winter.
Since I'm not sure why the cat came over to your property, and what's going on with the cat and his/her owner, I'm not going to comment. All I will say is cats know when to seek better environments, and you have certainly provided a much better place for the outside cat. As I see it, you've helped him/her survive quite well. Kudos!
Also, I think your idea of keeping something for seven years is great. If you need it within the seven years, awesome, but if not, then you can either give it to someone else, donate it, sell it or throw it away. No matter what happens, more good will come of it.
Keep up the good work.
agnes grozier on October 13, 2019:
a cat that's been fed by me for months . I just found out he has an owner living close by. when it started getting colder I put outside as I have an indoor cat who would not get on with an incomer. a quilted cat bed that I put inside a faux leather cube of sorts its so thick and heavy the wind wont blow it down I also on top of the quilting put a thermal heat retaining blanket and he loves it I'm glad I never threw the cube away what is it they say . keep a thing for seven years and it comes in handy he visits his owner now and again and seams quite happy
Jean Keith (author) from TX on September 05, 2019:
Yes, male cats do like to spray things! They can be quite territorial. It can be very frustrating.
One of the best suggestions I have to reduce any spraying is to spritz the object being sprayed with a citrus scent. Most cats do not like citrus anything. Get some citrus essential oil and mix it up in a small spray bottle. (I personally use lemon, but any citrus scent will do). Normally, I use water as a carrier liquid for the essential oil - using approx. 30-50 drops of essential oil to approx. 1 oz. of water, but use your personal preference for the amount of essential oil you use.
Don't worry about the deer using the water bowl. I've no doubt your outside cats use the water bowl - you just might not have timed things to where you could see them using the water bowl. Remember, cats normally don't like people watching them all the time. This applies especially to feral cats.
Hope this helps!
krazykat35 on September 04, 2019:
i made tote home, but those dam male cats keep spraying them... we also bought a plug in water bowl so water doesnt freeze, one day i went outside only to see deer drinking from it...
Jean Keith (author) from TX on July 17, 2019:
While I don't want to ignore you, I do not have a great answer for you. It's taken me most of today - I've thought and thought, and have done some research, but again, I don't have a brilliant idea.
Cats are territorial, by nature. I commend you for wanting to take care of both your tame cat, as well as the feral cats. What I can suggest is if you have enough space outside, you might try to separate the feral cats & your tame cat into 2 different areas - one where you have your tame cat's hut & feeding/watering area, and the other area for the feral cats.
Of course, being outside cats, they will go where they please. However, maybe by separating them physically, that might allow your tame cat some room to not be bullied by the feral cats.
I hope this helps you. Should I find anything else to assist you in this matter, I'll post more information.
Mary on July 16, 2019:
I have one tame cat and many feral cats, all outdoor. My problem is that the feral cats scare and mark my tame cat's hut. What should I do?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on July 12, 2019:
The short answer is, yes it's safe. The longer question and answer is, how well will this keep your cat warm during the winter?
Your deck is approximately 4 feet off the ground. This is a large opening, and allows air flow thru the underside of the deck. This is good for your deck and home, but not so good for your cat. In the winter, this of course, allows too much cold air around whatever is underneath your deck.
If you look at cat shelters, you will see most of them are just a bit bigger than the number of cats the shelter will hold. The size of the shelter will help keep the cat warm because the cold air is restricted from entering into the shelter. To get a better idea of what I mean, there are some great examples of cat shelters on this hub page, with some excellent links should you want to explore this concept more.
In order to keep a cat warm, one of the main components is having the best shelter your budget allows. While putting straw under your deck will be alright, going the next step would help keep your cat so much warmer during the long, cold winter months.
Thanks for your question, and my hope is this answer helps you keep your cat warm throughout the winter.
Melody on July 12, 2019:
I have a small 10x10 deck about 4 foot off the ground. Is it safe to put straw under it for a feral cat?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on February 21, 2019:
I don't have an answer for you. Unfortunately, I'm not a Vet (and even Vet's sometimes don't always hit things straight on). The best way to find out is to take the cat into the Vet, as they are the trained experts.
The next best way (if she's not settling down enough to take her), is to talk to your Vet without her & see if he/she has some ideas. Your cat might even be spayed already (if you are correct about her being "dumped").
I hope this helps you. Oh, and before I forget - thanks for taking care of the homeless cats, and making sure they are safe, warm, healthy and well fed.
Alphadog@Frontiernet.net Ethel on February 20, 2019:
I leave kibble out for 4 homeless cats (feral) plus I put out tepid water for them in extreme cold in upstate NY this winter. I bought an electric outdoor heating pad & an older (clipped ear) has really enjoyed that, plus I put a kerosene heater on the covered awning porch. there have been 4 cats that snuggle together often, but usually 1 or 2 to snuggle with the older one. One female has become quite friendly. I think someone dumped her in the fall. I'd like to have her spayed but too cold now to turn her loose after outside. When might she come in heat you think?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 21, 2019:
Thank you, Agee8 for your kind comment.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on November 23, 2018:
Thank you for caring about keeping animals warm during the winter. You are taking very good, positive steps! Having something in the garage helps with wind reduction & the more severe winter elements (rain, snow, wind, etc). Also, the chicken coop heater is also good to have.
I would hesitate to put the chicken coop heater within the tote - it gets dangerous within a closed space. Those heaters need proper space, and inside a tote (even with the front cut out) might be too much, and over-heat the tote bag. These products are made, as you said, for a small chicken coop. Chicken coops have more ventilation than a tote bag with the front cut out.
You might want to look into a "Snuggle Safe" product. They are definitely something that can be used in your specific situation, and they heat up to 8-12 hours. My recommendation would be to buy at least 2 - that way you can have one warming things up in the tote, then switch out the pads when the first one loses it's heat.
Hope this helps out. Again, thanks for caring enough to investigate more options to keep cats & other animals warm during the cold, cold winter!
Member!Penny on November 22, 2018:
I have a medium sized tote that my hubby cut the front out and I placed a dog heating pad in it. I have this in my garage ...so it wont' get wet. I leave the garage door cracked so the cats can come and go. I seen where there is a 200 watt chicken coop heater that can be mounted against a wall. I was wondering if this would be good to put in the tote? The heating pad doesn't feel warm enough to me. I am worried...its really cold out tonight and I want to order this but am not sure its a good idea. They say its made for a small chicken coop. Any suggestions?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on March 15, 2018:
So sorry you had to experience an uncaring & insensitive human - moving away and NOT taking care of her animal companions in a positive way is horrible. Kudos to you & your friend for taking care of the cats!
I'm thrilled that my page has helped you, your friend, and most especially, the cats.
My hope is that through education & caring folks (like yourself & your friend)...that people will finally get the message and realize we are all connected, and discover that taking care of our animal companions is just as important as taking care of ourselves & our human relatives.
Lily on March 15, 2018:
There is this lady who moved out of the house on my street, she left 3 cats out in the cold snowy weather here in Ohio. Me and my friend have been feeding them and giving them water and also gave them a box with some blankets. One of the cats though, has not been seen in a few days while the other 2 are doing well. We have tried calling the city of Parma, and animal services, even the animal shelter and no one was able to help us. A few days later though the animal warden called us back and said if they are able to catch the cats they will take them to the shelter, but the cats are very nervous around humans including me and my friend. We are trying our very best to help them, feeding them everyday and giving them water everyday. I just feel so bad that there are stupid people out there and we can't stop them. We know the lady moved out because we saw her packing up stuff and now her house is empty. (We can see through the front window) Anyway this was helpful now I know how else I can help.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 13, 2018:
He's coming to your shack because he's seen you've given him shelter & food, but he's still being careful. Being outside, he has to be extra careful...his survival depends on it (yes, even if you know you don't want to harm him, he doesn't know that just yet).
Give him some more time to get to know you. If you can get somewhat close to him. Stop (before he runs off). Keep still. Let him decide to come to you or not. Being patient is hard, but it will pay off in time. After a while, he should start coming closer until he finally lets you pet him.
Good luck. And thanks for helping a cat stay warm, safe & fed this winter!
Kim on January 13, 2018:
Someone dropped a cat off at my work.. I have made it Astana house, and I feed him every day... the last two days I noticed he is coming to my shack. If I open the door, he takes off.. why is he coming up now, when if I try to get close he runs?
Jean Keith (author) from TX on January 05, 2018:
Thank you so much for your kind words, it's appreciated! I adore animals, cats in particular (of course). It's very important to me to pass along any information that's helpful, so animals the world around, can be happy & healthy.
Sending blessings back at ya!
Carrie on January 05, 2018:
Thank you for posting such an informative article. We need more people in the world like you. Bless you.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on December 03, 2017:
You can Google search for suitable cat houses, and/or look at DonnaMac's comments below yours on this Hubpage. She has a great way to keep cat warm in Canada (and that's a major victory on her part!).
"My Warm Pet" microwavable products are a great idea because they stay warm for hours (10-12), so you don't have to disturb the cat(s) too much. You might want to consider having a couple on hand - that way you can use one for the cat, and then, switch out a used one for a new heated one...rotating them so the cat stays warm all during the day AND night.
Jean Keith (author) from TX on December 03, 2017:
Love All Animals,
Thanks for commenting. I agree - using a heat lamp is a good idea, however for an outside cat, be careful using blankets. Blankets can get wet (example: raining/snowing), so check the blanket quite often so it doesn't freeze and get the cat cold in the process.
Love all Animals on December 03, 2017:
Hello, Use a Heat Lamp inside a Pet House with blankets for your pet to lay on. This is good for an inside Pet and especially an outdoor Pet. A closed in porch is a good place to put a Pet House. As Mr.Bob Barker always said, “Please Spay or Neuter your Pet and a Animal that comes up to eat at your House, stays a while and then goes back off some where. It is sad to see a homeless Cat or Dog!
Doris on November 01, 2017:
As far as the igloo dog house, don't you find the opening too large and more cold air gets in? I am trying to find something for 2 stray cats who have been around and I have been feeding. But I want something for the winter to keep them warm and dry. t
Donna Mac on January 29, 2017: