Animals, People, & the Earth

Outdoor Cats in the Winter – How to Help

Keeping Outdoor Cats Safe in Winter

Just about every neighborhood has at least one outdoor cat who roams around like he owns the place, surveying his kingdom, and living wild and free. It can be a big help when a community cat works to control the mouse population, but what happens to these feral cats when the temperature sdrop? These cats can’t or won’t come inside our homes to live as housecats, so hat can we do? In honor of National Cat Lovers’ Month, we want to talk about how to help, or at least not harm, outdoor cats during the winter months.

How to Help

If a community cat seems to frequent your yard, consider providing a welcoming shelter for him. You can purchase a small house for cats or make one out of a plastic storage container by cutting an opening into one of the sides (make sure the lid is sealed on to keep out rain and snow). Place something inside the shelter that will help the cat stay warm, such as old blankets or straw, and try to keep the shelter elevated so that the cold from the ground won’t seep into the shelter and reduce its warmth(

In addition to providing a shelter, consider leaving out some food and fresh water for the cat. Food and clean sources of water will be in shorter supply in winter, so this is particularly important to helping the cat survive these colder months.

Do No Harm

If you can’t provide food or shelter for these cats, be sure not to harm them by keeping an eye out for potential problems. First, if you park your car outside of an enclosed garage, remember to check the wheel wells and bang on the hood of your car before starting it up. An outdoor cat may be seeking refuge from the weather in a cozy hiding spot beneath your car nd you wouldn’t want to turn the car on before making sure he moves to safety first.

Second, consider using sand or animal-friendly ice melt to keep your driveway and walkways safe and ice-free. Regular formulations of ice melt are harmful to animals and have the potential to cause serious damage. Ice melt works by the exothermic reaction that happens between salt, water, and cold temperatures. This reaction creates heat that can be well over100 degrees Fahrenheit. When cats walk on or ingest the ice melt, they can get severely burned. Furthermore, if a curious or particularly hungry or thirsty cat ingests the ice melt, he can be poisoned by the high salt content(

Finally, keep an eye out for antifreeze that may have leaked or spilled out onto the ground. If you see any, clean it up right away. Antifreeze is not only bad for the environment (like most formulations of ice melt), it is toxic to animals. A cat who gets even a tiny sip will suffer poisoning and will need immediate intervention by a veterinarian.

Community cats can be a helpful addition to our neighborhoods. Let’s return the favor by keeping them safe and warm through the cold winter months.

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