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Keeping Feral Cats Safe in the Brutal Winter Months

Wednesday, January 3, 2018
posted by Jim Murphy

We feed several outdoor cats that come up to our porch each day. When I open the patio door of our warm house and step outside to the bitter cold air, I worry that our outdoor furry friends are very cold. Outdoor feral cats can fair pretty well in winter but when the temperature falls into the teens and below, that’s another story. Our furry friends can suffer the brutal affects of Winter just like we can. If you have an indoor car that also goes outside, I would definitely keep him indoors if the temperature falls into the low twenties or below. To tell you the truth, I would keep him indoors for most of the winter months.

Here are some tips that are provided by to help our feral furry friends survive the brutal winter months.

Winter Weather Tips

From Arizona to Alaska, cats are resilient and able to live in all varieties of locations, weather conditions, and climates. There are still things you can do to help make life outdoors even more comfortable. Follow our winter weather tips to keep outdoor kitties safe and warm.

Food and Water

  • Cats need extra food during winter and fresh water twice a day. Wet food freezes, so put out dry food as well (or just feed dry food).
  • Warm up canned food and water before serving, or use a heated bowl. Check out some bowls tested by caregivers.
  • Spray insulation foam into the underside of plastic feeding dishes to keep wet food from freezing.
  • Use bowls that are deep rather than wide and place them in sunny areas to keep water from freezing.
  • Build a feeding station that will shield food, water, and the cats from the elements.
  • Put a microwavable heating pad disk, like a Snuggle Safe, under the bowls.
  • If there’s a water source like a spigot, run the water slightly—it won’t freeze as fast as still water.


  • Some cats find their own shelter, but you can also provide additional options. Check out our list of outdoor cat house ideas, or build one yourself! Don’t worry, they’re easy to build, cheap, and fun! Learn what to look for in a good cat house.
  • Bigger shelters aren’t always better because heat disperses quickly. Three to five cats per shelter is OK. If only a few cats use the house, make it smaller so it takes less body heat to warm up.
  • Clear snow away from house entrances and exits so the cats don’t get snowed in.
  • Insulate the shelter with straw to repel moisture. Do not use hay—it soaks up moisture like a sponge, and gets moldy. Learn the difference between straw and hay.
  • If the kitties aren’t using the shelter, try to make it more enticing by sprinkling catnip inside.
  • Provide more than just one type of shelter. Since certain cats might be more particular about where they like to stay, more than one option is always a good thing.
  • If cats still aren’t using the outdoor shelters, try to find where they are sleeping and then do what you can there to “upgrade” the spot, such as adding straw.

Safety Tips

  • Before starting your car, give a firm tap on the hood and check between the tires—sometimes kitties crawl into the engine or hide under the car for warmth.
  • Antifreeze is toxic and deadly. Keep it out of reach and clean up spills! Know the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning.
  • Don’t use salts or chemicals to melt snow. They can hurt cats’ paws and some are toxic.
  • If you’re conducting Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) in the winter, keep trapped cats covered and secured in a temperature-controlled vehicle or holding area. Use your best judgment when deciding if it’s too cold to trap.

Thank you to for providing this valuable information. Go to their website for lots of information on our feral friends!

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