The cold weather finally has settled on Chicago. It will get colder, it always does. Right now we are hoovering around freezing, which is certainly cold enough but come January hitting freezing will feel warm. I figured this is as good a time as any to write a bit about winterizing tips, for anyone who recently discovered ferals or who wants to fix up their kitties winter digs. This will be the first of several posts on winterizing. Because all of us in the Midwest know just how long winter can be.
My two girls are difficult ladies. They don’t listen to most of the common knowledge about feral cats. I can occasionally pet Little Black and they refuse to use a standard shelter such as the one below.
So I had to get creative. When I first started caring for Momma and Little Black, and several other kitties, I tried the traditional cat shelter as well as a few other options. They were all refused. Someone urinated in the straw, so I had to throw it out. Since my two refused to use anything like this, I had to find alternative ways to shelter them. I learned quickly that Momma will not use anything that doesn’t have at least two exits. I can’t say I blame her. I tried taking a large 15 gallon storage container and cutting the side off, so they could at least warm their toes. They liked this for snuggling in but wouldn’t stay long. We finally made them a “tent” out of our lawn furniture and tarps. This year it looks like this.
The first winter we tried this I wedged a few storage containers under the table and the tarps so the cats had someplace dry and warm to sleep. I lined the containers with towels and a Snuggle Safe disc.
(Note, you should NOT use towels to line feral cat shelters. In winter the towels can freeze after getting wet, making it very unsafe for any cat who may be sleeping on it. Even a damp towel can cause problems for a cat in the cold weather. Additionally they can develop mildew and other gross things. The only reason I am able to use towels is because I am caring for only two cats who trust me enough to let me regularly change towels, which makes for some gross laundry! I check my towels daily when it rains or snows and am CONSTANTLY changing them. It is a real pain in the backside, but the best way to make my two happy and warm. If you are caring for a large colony, or for cats who don’t trust you enough to let you work with their shelters on a daily basis, straw is the only material to line shelters with. It repels water and retains heat, making it great to snuggle in!)
Last summer my dad was wonderful enough to build the cats a house out of plywood. It has two entrances, one in the front and one of the side. They can get in and out from either end, and when the house is covered by a tarp they can come and go without anyone knowing! It is elevated enough that they don’t get wet when their is rain or snow and the floor doesn’t get as cold. There is a hinge on the top where I can go in and change their linens etc. It is just what they needed.
There are so many housing options for feral cats. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t use a standard shelter. Visit Alley Cat Allies to learn about a lot of other shelters and winterizing tips. And share your favorite tips with me in the comments.