Winter Care Tips for Feral Cats

As we head into winter, it’s a good time to share some feral cat winter care tips, courtesy of a friend from Metro Ferals.

- Please put out food AND water. Outdoor cats tend to dehydrate more in the winter than in the summer, because ponds…and streams freeze. Using canned food helps because the water content in canned food is pretty high.

- If there is an electrical outlet available, consider buying a heated water bowl. You can usually find them in the dog section of pet stores or at feed stores like Southern States. Some websites that also carry them include Jeffers Pet, Revival Animal Health, and Valley Vet.

- To prevent water from freezing when there is no electrical outlet is available, check out this article: http://www.neighborhoodcats.org/HOW_TO_PREVENTING_WATER_FROM_FREEZING. Note that you can get styrofoam coolers for insulation from a vet’s office (e.g., vaccines are shipped in them) or from anyone who works in a lab.

A couple in Minnesota who caretake a feral colony came up with the idea of using spray foam insulation around the water bowl and setting a second bowl inside the insulated one. Note that this works best with rubber bowls, the type used for feeding farm animals (available at Southern States).

- Provide shelter from the elements. These websites have good ideas for those who have construction skills and those of us who don’t! Includes inexpensive options.

- http://www.alleycat.org/Page.aspx?pid=631

- http://www.neighborhoodcats.org/HOW_TO_FERAL_CAT_WINTER_SHELTER

- http://www.urbancatleague.org/SheltersMike.html

Shelters you can buy online (simple assembly required): www.feralvilla.com. Orders get backlogged this time of year, so order soon!

Whatever type of shelter you use, be sure to cut a small opening in the back so the cats have an escape route and can’t get cornered by a predator. The opening should be just large enough for a cat to go through.

Remember to use straw for bedding — not wool/cotton blankets or towels, as the latter will only freeze if they get wet, whereas straw dries out quickly.

- For added warmth, line the shelter with mylar blankets. They reflect body heat back to the cat. http://www.amazon.com/Emergency-Mylar-Blanket-Blankets-EB-10/dp/B000FETSDQ – $8.05 for a pkg of 10.

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