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Helping Homeless Cats in the Winter

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Providing Shelter

Cats don’t need a lot of space, just a space that is large enough for them to stand and move about and stay safe from the harshest outdoor elements. When the weather is at its coldest, the cats will be relying on each other for warmth, and will create their own tight spaces within their shelter. With that in mind, you can use whatever space and materials available to you to create a small haven.

Homemade shelters can be crafted out of nearly anything: from a sturdy cardboard box (think of the heavy cardboard used for packing television sets) to an anchored plastic garbage can to a few pieces of scrap wood that have been arranged as a buffer against the wind and snow and rain. The shelter should be large enough to accommodate several cats comfortably, but not too wide or tall. In fact, the smaller the size, the better the space will be equipped to retain the cats’ body heat.

When creating the entry opening into the shelter, keep in mind that the opening should only be large enough to allow a cat to enter, so that as much of the wind and snow stay outside of the shelter as possible and the interior of the shelter remains dry. If space allows, you can create an awning or plastic “curtain” to shield the entry. Plastic sheeting or heavy garbage bags are quick and inexpensive options for this. If it is not possible to cover the opening, you can try placing the shelter close to a wall, with the entry facing the wall.

If you are able to put a little more work and material into the shelter, try adding insulation to the interior roof and walls of the structure and line the seams of the shelter with caulk so that it is as draft free as possible. Also, elevate the shelter off of the ground to prevent ground moisture from seeping into the floor of the shelter. Of course, you do not want the shelter to be entirely sealed. Some amount of ventilation is necessary, perhaps as some small holes along the bottom of the structure. Bedding material can be added, but blankets and towels are not a practical idea, since they can get wet and moldy and can even freeze, making them unusable. Straw is an excellent material, since it does not hold onto excess moisture, and helps to retain heat.

Finally, be sure to locate the shelter in a safe, concealed spot where the cats feel securely hidden from predators and can watch their surroundings.

Next: Food and Water Access

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8:59AM PST on Feb 21, 2014

I´d take the homeless cat in and call our local shelter or the "Katzenhilfe Radolfzell", that´s a local organization which works with fosters and is financed from donations!

7:45AM PST on Nov 12, 2013

very helpful,thanks

12:34PM PDT on May 15, 2013

They have a house full of straw and heated water bowl.

12:24PM PDT on May 15, 2013


1:27PM PST on Feb 28, 2013


6:24AM PST on Feb 26, 2013

TY to all that help!!!

8:37AM PST on Feb 11, 2013

Love helping animals. Thanks for the information.

5:53AM PST on Jan 18, 2013

God bless the Kitty rescuers! My sister does this also. Wonderful!

8:44PM PST on Jan 17, 2013

For my feral cat I bought three snugglesafe microwave heatpads. They are placed in his really safe and comfortable home and they stay warm for up to ten hours. Because of the cold his water dish and food are in one section of his 3 foot plus home. Twice of day I change the heatpads so he's warm and the water doesn't freeze. His home is made of strong cardboard barrels one smaller one inside a larger one. There is insulation board around both and there are blankets and plastic and tarps over everything to keep it dry. It is raised off the ground to protect him from other animals. Had to do this because when I went to feed him one day, there was a possum thinking he was in heaven with the food and the warmth. He was evicted. The cat goes in and out daily. In to eat and sleep. I am going to eventually catch him and I know it will take a long time to build trust. He meows when I approach because he knows I love him but he can't give in just yet. This cat is lonely but has made friends with the ten plus squirrels that are fed daily. He sits and watches them and they come very close because he does not bother them. He also has a second house I made but prefers the larger one. Each home has warm cat beds in them with extra blankets. I'm an animal lover so no animal in my neighborhood goes hungry, not even the possum. No animal should go hungry.

10:24AM PST on Jan 17, 2013

Compassionate & Inspirational, I do this & I Foster for the RSPCA & they donate food & Medication when needed so I can take care of our Precious Moggies, Thanks for sharing this info ~ Namaste!

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