Do you ever wonder where stray cats lay their heads in the winter time? Do you worry about the neighborhood stray cats you see running around during the spring and summer who all of a sudden disappear in the fall and winter? Do they have adequate shelter for the sub-zero climate? Are they going to be able to feed themselves for the next few months?
There is some reason for concern for these cats’ well-being.
Even if feral cats have no problem fending for themselves most of the time, they will have a difficult time searching for a place to hunker down through the winter.
In this article, we will discuss the possible whereabouts and the alternative living situations these cats may find themselves in when it snows. I will also list down what you can do as a concerned animal lover, to help these homeless kitties out.
Where do stray cats go in the winter?
Maybe you’ve gotten accustomed to seeing the same cat walk across your lawn everyday during the spring and summer, but come the end of fall and beginning of winter, your furry friend is no longer making the usual rounds.
You do not have to expect the worst whenever this happens, the cat has probably found a hiding spot for the winter. It’s possible that cats have a specific place they go to each winter to wait out all of the snow. Cats also prefer shelters that are near sources of food and water. This is because they will need to eat more during the winter to help keep their body warm by burning calories and moving around.
Where do stray cats go to seek shelter when it snows?
Stray cats, just like any other house cat, want to be some place warm and dry when it is snowing outside. The places that they choose range from sensible to downright dangerous.
These are the most commonly sought out shelters by stray cats:
1. Doorways, Arches, or Tunnels
Cats will try to find a place where the snow has not yet been able to reach the ground. So, doorways that have a little roof that catches the snow will have a patch of ground that is relatively dry. The same with arches, their shape allows the ground underneath it to be free of snow. Tunnels, such as the ones in children’s playgrounds, are also popular amongst stray cats for the same reason.
2. Garden Sheds
A garden shed has four walls, a roof, and a door. That seems enticing enough for a cat looking to get away from the cold. Be sure to check your own garden shed for possible illegal settlers. Cats can get stuck trying to squeeze into whatever opening into your shed it can find. So, be wary of the presence of stray cats before locking up your garden shed for the winter months.
3. Trees and Bushes
Cats will want to avoid the cold wind and the wet snow as much as possible, and they will use any trees and foliage around them. To keep their paws dry, they may climb trees and stay on its branches, and to keep the cold breeze out they may climb into thick shrubbery.
4. Under cars and other vehicles
The undercarriage of a car is invitingly warm for a cat who wants out of the cold. So, be sure to check under your car, especially your wheels, for a cat or kitten cozying up in there. There are 5.4 million cat deaths due to vehicles every year in the U.S., so be sure to do your part and avoid ever making this mistake.
How do stray cats survive the cold weather?
Cats will survive the cold weather doing whatever they need to do. People tend to forget that cats are great survivalists and primarily have no problem looking after themselves. All they need is a spot that keeps them warm and dry through the night that is preferably close to a place with a lot of food, water and other things they need.
Any concerned animal lover can do their share by providing water, food, and shelter for the stray and feral cats in their neighborhood. It could also be a good way to befriend the cats.
There are an estimated 70 million stray cats in the U.S. alone. There is only so much that shelters and non-profit organizations can do for these cats. So, the sad reality is there will be cats with no access to any of their basic needs in the winter.
Cats with poor health, as well as senior cats, are the most at risk to the harsh effects of the cold weather. If you spot any cat that you feel may need to be caught to be brought into a shelter, do not hesitate to call your local animal control.
How do I keep a stray cat warm outside in the winter?
Doing whatever little thing you can do to help your local stray cats will be greatly appreciated by the cats themselves and animal lovers the world over.
You don’t have to spend that much money to help stray cats out. Here are a few simple suggestions on how to lend those kitties a hand:
Give them shelter
The most basic need a stray cat in the winter will need is a sturdy, dry and warm shelter. As long as whatever you can provide keeps the chilly wind out and gives the cats a cozy bed to spend the night, they will be eternally grateful. You will find them in the places we listed above, but they’d really love a cat-sized house. You can buy a pre-made one or make one yourself.
1. Unheated Outdoor Cat House
There are outdoor cat houses that are waterproof and made out of nylon. They can keep the cat dry and warm no problem. It is lightweight, easy to clean, and easy to store for when winter ends. This shelter is portable and easier to maintain.
2. Wooden Unheated Outdoor Cat House
Wooden outdoor cat houses are more expensive than ones made from plastic or nylon, but if looked after and stored properly, they can last for a long time. It comes with a cushion inside the house. You just need a few minutes to assemble it and it is ready to go.
3. Make your own shelter
If money is tight, you can MacGyver a cat shelter on your own with a few easy-to-find materials. It will not cost a pretty penny and the neighborhood cats will still be thanking you.
If you have pieces of styrofoam, plastic, or wood lying around your garage or garden shed, you can use those. Just piece them together to form a sturdy shelter. You can use anything that you are no longer using that is box-shaped and made of a strong material, such as old drawers or storage boxes.
4. Layer the bottom or floor of the shelter with bedding
You can use old blankets or old towels to act as a bedding for the cat’s shelter. But be wary that blankets and towels absorb water and moisture so they may become wet when the cat comes back home with wet paws or wet fur. Straw is a great alternative, because it doesn’t get wet like blankets, so the cat is kept warm and dry.
Keep the stray cats hydrated and fed
Be sure to leave out some food and water inside your cat shelter. Cats have a hard time finding prey in the winter because rodents and birds are also hiding out from the cold. Diving into trash bins for food also becomes difficult for cats in the winter because they are exposed to the cold and snow. Some people also lock their trash bins to keep cats from making a mess.
So, leave out food and water on a schedule so that they adapt it into their own routines and know where and when to go get food from you.
Do I give the stray cats dry or wet cat food?
Ideally, wet food is better for a cat who needs to bulk up for the winter, but it does tend to freeze when left out in the open. Dry cat food is thus logical choice. It doesn’t go bad as quickly as wet cat food while providing a good source of all the nutrients needed by a cat. You need not buy the expensive kind of cat food. There are a variety of affordable brands that will do the job just fine. They come in all kinds of flavors like fish, salmon, turkey and chicken.
Stray cats search for warm and dry places to ride out the winter season. They prefer places that will keep their paws dry and keep them protected from the cold winds at night when they sleep. They like to be near areas with a lot of sources for food and water. You can try to do your share and provide the cats with a shelter and daily meals so they will not have to explore in the snow as much. Make sure to keep their shelter dry and keep them nourished during the winter months.
Image: istockphoto.com / wichatsurin