You can provide comfort and safety to community cats in the cold winter months without tapping out your budget. Here are four great tips to share with TNR groups, volunteers and your supporters.
1) Use a Simple Foam Cooler
A cooler that’s about two inches thick makes a quick and easy winter shelter because it’s both waterproof and insulated. You can find these coolers at restaurants and medical offices, where they’re used to ship perishable food and medical supplies and are often thrown away. Also check with other shelter, rescue and TNR groups—some of them stockpile foam boxes to give away to community cat caretakers.
2) Keep Them Out of Harm’s Way
Placement of shelters is important to keep cats safe from predators. If unleashed dogs are in the area, place your shelter behind a fence where the dogs can’t get in, or have the entrance facing a wall so that only the cats can get in and out, and be sure the shelter is weighted down and hard to move.
3) Think Small
Form a cat-sized doorway with a box cutter or kitchen knife, keeping it small to prevent larger predators from getting in. You can also make two doorways to provide an escape route, but as this means less protection from cold, be sure to put flaps over the doorways.
4) Rise Above
Raising the shelter off the cold ground makes it easier for cats to warm the inside with their body heat. To keep it even warmer, you can place straw underneath. Raising the shelter and cutting the doorway several inches above the bottom also keeps the weather out—rain won’t splash up and in from the ground, and snow is less likely to block the door.