How to Keep Your Local Feral Cats Safe This Winter

 Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite, back in time for National Feral Cat Day. It was originally published on December 12, 2013. Enjoy!

Feral cats call the outdoors their home, all year round and in all weather conditions. While they are skilled at surviving harsh weather, and finding their own food and shelter, they can always use a helping hand during the winter months. As temperatures drop, there are plenty of simple ways you can help the cats in your community stay even warmer and safer this winter.

Give Me Shelter

One great way to help them through the winter is to provide an outdoor shelter. Specially-built shelters guarantee feral cats a warm spot to escape harsh winter storms. Alley Cat Allies’ list of feral cat shelter options is available here; they vary in shape, size, and level of assembly.

Any shelter for feral cats should follow these guidelines:

  • Elevate the shelter off the ground for warmth, and place it in a quiet area with minimal foot traffic.
  • Shoot for a shelter sized about two feet by three feet and 18 inches high, providing just enough space for three to five cats to huddle. If you’re sheltering smaller numbers of cats, make the shelter smaller—the smaller the shelter, the quicker it can be heated up with body heat.
  • The door should be between six and eight inches wide. Consider installing a flap on the door to keep out snow, rain, and wind.
  • Insulate the shelter with straw, but not blankets or other materials like hay that absorb moisture.

Feeding Tips

As the weather turns colder, feral cats will also need extra calories to maintain energy levels. Providing extra food and water, and keeping them from freezing, is an important step in helping outdoor cats this winter. Wet food in insulated containers is best, as it takes less energy for cats to digest than dry food. To keep water drinkable, use bowls that are deep rather than wide, and refill them with hot or warm water. Place the bowls in a sunny spot and add a pinch of sugar to keep the water from freezing as quickly.

Safety Tips

Take some extra steps in your everyday life to keep outdoor cats safe in your neighborhood. Remember to check under the car before starting it, as cats will sometimes crawl into the engine or hide underneath it for warmth. Winter is also the time of year for antifreeze, which often tastes irresistible to cats and other animals, but is toxic and deadly. Keep it out of reach, and clean up any spills.

Visit Alley Cat Allies’ website for more information about connecting to local resources, and for other tips on how to keep cats everywhere safe and well cared-for throughout every season.

This post was written by Becky Robinson, co-founder and president of Alley Cat Allies, the only national advocacy organization dedicated to protection and humane treatment of cats.


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 hours ago

Thank you for sharing.

Chris Ringgold
Chris Ringgold17 hours ago

These are some good tips from Alley Cat Allies President & Co-Founder Becky Robinson.

Cath B.
Cath B.2 days ago

I actually dont agree about keeping feral cats going. Yes they can and do look after their own food, but at the cost of our wildlife, which in turns effects out delicately balanced Eco System. We have too many endangered and extinct fauna due to these 'lovable ferals'. they are a danger and a means of spreading disease. Got ringworms from one when I was a kid I remember befriending. I remember it all too clearly as a 3.5 - 4 year old having all my hair shaved off in the winter and then my little sister got it too.

Joanne p.
Joanne p.3 days ago


Diane Pease
Diane Pease4 days ago

I do all that I can to help. It's sad to see them out in the cold. They are not feral and homeless by choice.

Philip Watling
Philip Watling4 days ago

We have enough on our hands with our kitten!

Wendi M.
Wendi M.4 days ago


Heather C.
Heather C.4 days ago

Modern Pet, Many T-N-R operations adopt or contain as many cats as possible. I have participated in projects in numerous communities (where feral sanctuaries were not available) and the adoption rate for our T-N-R clinics has been running ~50%, including 100% of the captured kittens (who were socialized in foster care). I agree that a goal of adoption to an indoor or contained environment is a worthy one. Often, especially in rural areas, communities are operating with few resources and are doing the best they can. Whichever model is available, spaying and neutering is essential for preventing the suffering of cats and wildlife alike.

John W.
John W.4 days ago

A feral cat killed all of the eight ducklings my "momma-duck" (muscovy) hatched out last fall, and did so in a single night. I'm afraid it's pretty hard for me to decided that feral cats should take precedence over my ducks.

If you want to support feral cats, take them into your home and keep them there. That I will support.

Ch Bradley
Ch Bradley4 days ago

Thanks for this. We need to care for feral cats. They are not the demons people try and paint them as. Use trap, neuter, and then return these cats to where they live - but let them live in comfort and with healthy food.