Caring for ferals...
Tips for Making Winter Shelters
As caregivers for feral cat colonies, we need to provide shelter for all seasons. For winter - the cats need some place dry, out of the wind, with lots of bedding that they can curl up. Here are some tips for caring for ferals.
Large plastic storage tubs with lids, deck boxes, and modified dog houses make great shelters. Or, you can build shelters of your own to coordinate with your property. Some people provide a pet door into the garage or other outbuilding to provide shelter. However you chose to help them, be sure to provide adequate shelter for the upcoming cold weather. Your cats depend on you.
Supplement adult food with kitten food during the winter, or alternate kitten food with adult food starting in September, to help put weight on your feral cats for the cold winter ahead. Kitten food has about 1½ - 2 times the calories of adult food, so your feral cats will eat the same amount but gain weight. As the days grow shorter, your feral cats will be coming out earlier to wait for food. Unlike humans, whose lives revolve around a clock, theirs revolve around daylight hours. Dawn and dusk is when most ferals venture out to eat. Adjust your schedule accordingly, to ensure your cats are not waiting in the cold for you to arrive with their food.
Difference Between Straw and Hay
Straw is an excellent insulation material, the cats will burrow right in when cold weather arrives. Do not confuse straw with hay. Hay does not have the hollow core that straw does and can freeze. Straw, with its hollow shaft, is far more insulating and will keep the cats warmer and dryer.
Making a Winter Shelter from an Unused Camper Top (these are on our wish list)
The shell should be set on a raised platform and secured with screws. The outside edge between the shell and platform should be sealed with silicone caulk. The wood platform should be painted orsealed with wood sealer. After the shell and platform are set in place, you should add 6-8 inches of straw to the interior.
Two windows should be left open 5 inches. If you leave only one window open, one cat can control the entry/exit point. Place a screw in the window tract so the windows can’t be forced further open. Open windows should have a wind block provided, and never faced North.
This shelter will house 15-20 cats.
During periods of heavy snow, keep the pathway to the windows cleared.
Resources for winter shelters
Inside a FOF-made winter shelter for a cat colony
Truck topper shown here fastened securely to a base with the main entrance positioned away from the north. Inside has a 6" layer of straw for insulation. Two windows are opened only 5" - provides two entrances which is vital. Cats will often not use a shelter with only one entrance/escape route.