Let’s take a look at what is necessary to get free-roaming outdoor cats ready for what is about to befall them: cold and wet winter weather.
Forget about hungry predators, cars, diseases from other animals and fights with other felines, now outdoor cats will be at the mercy of cold weather and have to find warm, dry places to live.
Although I still think it’s inhumane to allow “owned” pets to roam, the reality is that some people will continue the practice no matter what I, or their neighbors, think. Then, there are the truly “feral” cat colonies full of animals that will suffer from exposure to the elements.
A compassionate society would view these “community” cats as having the same basic needs as our indoor pets. They need protection from cold as well as food and water that is just as available in December as it is in June.
If you have decided to feed a stray animal, you have also assumed the responsibility to help it comfortably survive outdoors during winter weather. Make no mistake, the animal became yours the first time you fed it, whether you brought it into your home or not.
Community cats could be abandoned, lost or put outdoors to stay each day until their owners return from work. Through no fault of their own, they are stuck out in the cold and could use a helping hand.
Friends of Felines, a group based in Sedgwick, Kan., that advocates for community cats, offers tips on its website, www.felinefriendsks.com, on providing shelter for feral cat colonies. In winter, the cats need a dry place that’s out of the wind, with lots of bedding that they can curl up in, the site says.
Large plastic storage tubs with lids, deck boxes and modified dog houses make great shelters, the website says. Some people offer shelter for the cats they care for by providing a pet door into the garage or another outbuilding.
The website even has instructions on how to build a shelter from an unused camper top. See “Caring for Ferals.”
These tips, provided by the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, will also help you get your pets winter ready.
If you are concerned about a true “feral” cat community in your neighborhood and want to do something for them, contact Alley Cat Allies, a national organization that teaches Trap-Neuter-Return techniques, at www.alleycat.org. Feral cats are not socialized to people and aren’t good candidates for adoption. Nonetheless, they are protected under state anti-cruelty laws. Check with your community regarding laws governing the care of feral colonies.