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Top Ten Tips: Caring For Ferals in Winter
Feral cat caretakers, here are some quick tips to help you and your colonies get through the cold winter months:
- Donated Digs
Ask your community to donate storage bins (like Rubbermaid). Line the bins with Styrofoam, cut out a doorway and voila! Instant shelter.
- Build it Better
Got handy staffers or volunteers? Neighborhood Cats offers detailed instructions on building the ultimate feral cat shelter, seen at right.
- In a Pinch, Raid the Trash
A cardboard shelter is better than no shelter. To keep it from getting wet, elevate off the ground, line with newspapers and cover the lid with plastic (a garbage bag will do).
- That's Heavy, Man
Use sheets of plywood to weigh down lightweight shelters made from plastic, cardboard, Styrofoam, etc.
- Cuddling Kitties
Cats rely on body heat to stay warm, so keep your shelters small for colonies with just a few cats. For more populated colonies, go with multiple shelters of a larger size.
- Warming Trends
Because it resists moisture, straw is the top choice for insulation and bedding in your feral cat shelters, says Alley Cat Allies. Avoid blankets, which absorb moisture like a sponge.
- Clean & Clear
Yes, cats can get snowed in, so it's important to remove snow from all entrances and exits to their shelters. Shovel regularly to stay ahead of the game.
- Not Worth Their Salt
Alley Cat Allies cautions against using salts and chemicals designed to melt snow near your colonies. They can be toxic when licked off paws or ingested from melting puddles, and can hurt a cat's paw pads.
- Fill 'Er Up
Note that extreme cold weather can increase a cat's energy and nutritional needs. Don't forget extra water to prevent dehydration.
- "Wet" Their Appetite
Per Alley Cat Allies, wet food in insulated containers is ideal for cold-weather feeding-because it takes less energy to digest, that's more energy for keeping warm.