It is cold outside this time of year, but we all know, or know of, some cats who can’t or won’t come inside. Some cats in this category may be neighborhood strays or feral cats who either refuse to come indoors or are not safe to bring into the house. Other cats, like Miss Misha pictured on the heated bed, are fiercely independent. Misha is an older barn cat who is in her teens and still absolutely refuses to stay inside at all. She doesn’t see why she needs to be trapped inside even on the coldest days.
Most anyone who has ever owned a cat knows that if they don’t want to do something, it’s very unlikely you’re going to convince them otherwise. Because of this it is important we have some strategies for adequately caring for these individuals even in rough weather. A cat like Misha is already ahead because she does live in a barn, so she is always guaranteed a dry place that is sheltered from wind and precipitation, but even so it can still become bitterly cold out there. For cats like her, the heating pad she’s pictured with is a great option. These heating pads are pressure sensitive and do not turn on unless there is weight on them. When she’s off looking for prey or otherwise having a walkabout, the heater will be off, minimizing unnecessary energy expenditure and fire risks, but as soon as she curls up in her bed the heater turns on to help keep her toasty warm even in the winter.
Another option that is more appropriate for strays or feral cats who won’t approach buildings that are frequented by humans is an insulated shelter box. There are many styles that can be purchased, but they can also be home made. Pictured is a technique for building a shelter box using a couple of plastic storage tubs and some insulation. These are simple and inexpensive to make, but they can be literally a life saver for a free living cat. Cats naturally seek out small spaces when it is cold to help conserve their body heat, so a box like this is something they will find and use if you leave it near the areas where you have seen them roaming. Make sure you have a few that are well spaced if there are several cats in the area in order to avoid cat fights over this resource.
Another consideration is food. Normally I’m not a proponent of dry kibbles for anyone, particularly cats, however in very cold weather a large amount of calories are required to maintain body temperature. In these cases kibbles can be very useful. They can be left out in large quantities in dry areas and provide a very concentrated source of calories. Grain free, meat based kibbles even get very close to a species appropriate diet while still providing an easy source of food. Obviously, owned cats can be fed more appropriate food on a meal schedule (like canned or raw food), but stray or feral cats may need a food source that will keep long after humans have left if they are very nervous about approaching.
Don’t forget about water! Water freezes when it’s cold, so providing water dishes in the insulated shelters, or making sure that water sources are replenished daily is important. With cats who live in buildings like barns, there are even heated water dishes available that will keep their water from freezing in the cold.
Of course, if you can, bringing cats inside when it’s very cold is ideal, but that isn’t always possible. Feel free to share this to help spread information about how to help free living cats, it could save a life!
Have questions? Email me! I love blogging, especially when I know it’s answering my tribe’s questions.
Liked reading this? Want more of the same? Subscribe to the newsletter and get a bonus video on your pet’s constitution as well!