• By Beth Oleson Woodford Humane Society Marketing

Keep feral cats warm this winter

There are plenty of feral (wild or untame) cats around in a rural town like ours, and when winter weather gets rough, they often suffer in the elements. Snow, ice and extreme temperatures can all put outdoor cats at risk. If you feed cats around your home or property, or have some stragglers that often come to call, you can do them a real kindness this winter by providing them with a little warmth. Setting up a shelter for outdoor cats can be as fancy or as simple as you want to make it. Igloo pet houses are designed to conserve body heat, so they make great cat houses; however, if those are a little too pricey, a Rubbermaid storage bin can be repurposed to house cats as well (a quick google search will turn up plenty of DIY tutorials). You can buy electric heating pads for your feline visitors or go a simpler route. Whatever container and materials you decide to use, size, placement and insulation are the three biggest factors in keeping cats warm in the winter. The size of shelter you will need depends entirely on how many cats frequent your area. Because the idea is to use the cats’ body heat to provide warmth, you don’t want to have a lot of extra air space in your cat shelter: one or two cats in a large shelter will not be nearly as warm as one cat in a small, cozy space. If you’re unsure how many cats to expect, opt for a few, smaller shelters instead of one big one. Where and how you place a cat shelter determines how much shelter it will actually provide. Place your shelter up off the ground to keep it warmer and prevent rainwater from splashing inside; a few 2x4s are enough to do the trick. Keep your entrance small and protected; you only need a hole about six inches in diameter, and turning your shelter so that the entrance faces a wall is an easy way to provide enough space for cats to come and go, but keep larger animals out. Consider wind exposure, too, when you’re deciding where to put your cat shelter. A location with some structure to serve as a windbreak on the northern side will help keep your shelter warm. Finally, use appropriate insulation to make your cat house cozy. If you go the Rubbermaid container route, lining the inside walls with styrofoam sheets can be helpful. Place dry straw inside and underneath the shelter, and avoid using things like blankets and towels; these get damp easily and can actually soak up the cats’ body heat instead of helping them warm up. No matter what you use, check your insulation periodically and make sure it’s not dirty or wet – and if it is, replace it with fresh. If you’d like more tips to help your feral feline friends have a more comfortable winter, drop us a line. You can reach Woodford Humane at 859-873-5491 or manager@woodfordhumane.org.

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