Winterizing Your Cat

Winter can be a very deadly time of year for any cat that ends up outdoors, whether by accident or because they are forced to live there.

Sadly, there are people who believe cats belong strictly outdoors and survival is up to them. Farm cats that have caring owners usually have a barn or out-building they can live in for protection from the elements. And such owners also know that "a fed cat is a better mouser." (Refusing to feed one's cats in the misguided belief that they won't kill mice anymore results only in losing the cat. They either run away, seeking food, or they die because there isn't any and they have become too weak to leave.)

Much of this discussion will apply primarily to outdoor cats, as our indoor buddies can simply watch winter go by at the window. The following information, then, applies to our outdoor cats, whether they are farm cats, neighborhood strays you care about, or if you are managing a feral colony.

Winterizing for your cats includes these considerations:

  • Shelter. If indoors, great. If not, please provide a warm place they can get into. On farms, out-buildings can be adequate. In town, set up little "way stations" out of the wind. These can be small dog houses, or "boxes" made of sturdy materials, with something soft inside to lie down on.

  • Water. In the dead of winter, when temperatures drop severely, any water you put outside will freeze. Try putting their water bowls into a shed or porch that does not get that cold. Or, invest in a heated bowl. At the very least, put clean fresh water out daily. They will learn your schedule and will come to drink at those times.

    [NOTE: Never EVER put antifreeze into the water to keep it from freezing. Antifreeze KILLS animals. Sorry I have to bring up the obvious, but some people are not aware of these things.]

  • Food. Dry food is your best bet for cold weather. Keep the bowl full. If there are several cats eating from it, be sure there is enough for all. During cold weather, animals must eat more than usual in order to get the calories needed to maintain body temperature.

Copyright 2006 - 2007 - RJ Peters 
Dr. R.J. Peters, a retired physician, established an animal rescue shelter in 2002. She has worked with hundreds of dogs and cats and shares much of what she's learned, at The Problem Cat.