Feral cats aren’t always called such. They might also be called street cats, wild cats, homeless cats, and even alley cats. Such free-ranging felines have many names, but they usually care for themselves pretty well. They hunt and scavenge for meals, but they also enjoy the kindness of cat lovers. However, they could always use a helping hand when the weather gets cold.
What Is a Feral Cat?
At first, you might wonder why you’d even actually help out wild cats in your neighborhood. The truth is, they probably help you and you don’t even know it. When a community supports its feral cat population through a program of neutering and release, then the local rodent population is going to be minimized.
That eliminates any need for hurtful poisons or chemicals and spares your community damage and disease that rodents might bring. So, supporting your feral cats in winter helps keep a pragmatic and even ‘green’ solution to rodent issues.
Feral Cat Shelter
So, what can you do? The first thing feral cats need is shelter. They don’t need a ton of space, but they could use a space just big enough for them to stand up and move around a little while having protection from the worst winter elements mother nature can throw at them.
Cats rely on one another for warmth when it’s really cold, and they’ll cozy up in tight spaces. You can do anything from using scrap wood for wind buffering to anchoring a plastic bin or heavy cardboard box outside to give them protection from rain and snow.
Here is a document I found with instructions: How to Build a Feral Cat Shelter
Shelters should be big enough for a few cats, but small enough that body heat is retained. Anything you can do for insulation helps in terms of cold and moisture, and awning or even a curtain they can walk through is great for an entrance, which should only be open enough for them to get through.
If you’re not handy or prefer to buy an outdoor shelter for a stray cat, there are plenty of options for sale. Amazon tends to have the best selections and prices.
Feeding Feral Cats
Other than shelter, food and water are also necessities for a feral cat. The prey they stalk in warmer months might not be as evident or easy to find if it’s snowing, and if there are snow and ice, they might not know where to find fresh water in liquid form.
Consider putting these near or just outside your shelter in order to draw feral cats to your location. They’re likely to catch the scent of water or food from a distance, and they’ll naturally find the shelter immediately after eating and drinking.
Regular feeding is more likely to give feral cats the calories they need to get through the winter, and an automated feeder might draw a regular crowd. If you do leave water out, make sure it stays unfrozen.
If your community is a TNR one, you might be worried about doing the trap-neuter-return cycle in the colder months. Females would have had their stomachs shaved for their surgery.
However, winter is still a good time to do this. Fewer cats are pregnant, so the surgery is simpler and safer. It also means fewer kittens in the spring, when many tend to happen. Just make sure that TNR cats have good warm shelter and a source of food and clean water.