Thursday, October 11, 2018

Feline Outdoor Shelter Time

by Karen Rose Smith

As you plan your fall holiday decorations, remember your outside feline visitors.  Cold weather is harsh on outside cats.  You don't have to spend a lot of money to provide strays the things we take for granted--shelter and warmth.  A bale or two of straw can be used to shield already protected areas on your property from cold winter winds.  Plastic storage bins can be converted into cat shelters.  My husband and I try to give our outside visitors options.  Below are several of the shelters we provide.  Hopefully our outside cats will choose one or two.

A shelter in an island garden protected by a weeping spruce
We have a patio sun room that we keep open throughout the year.  For winter we put a shelter with a heated bed inside one area, a heated pad in another.

In addition, I lay thermal heat pads on the furniture in the sun room.

The outside shelters we provide close to the house also have low wattage heat pads inside.  Among them are an igloo and cedar shelters.  If you'd like to consider making a shelter yourself, here is a link:

Alley Cat Allies also has pages of pre-built and DIY shelters to examine, many with instructions.

One caution about multi-cat shelters.  Feral and stray cats don't usually like to share.  So if you have more than one visitor, be sure to offer more than one safe spot.  And sometimes a stray would prefer to have the whole property to himself or herself!

We use straw bales as buffers and protection for the shelters against the elements.  Since the flowers are gone and plants don't provide much cover, the bales are also useful on the patio to break the wind.  Ornamental grasses are available in the garden throughout the winter and shelters can be placed near them for added protection.

My husband just picked up this year's straw bales.
Straw is the preferred bedding if the shelter doesn't have a heat pad.  Hay, used as animal feed, gets soggy.  Straw is sturdier than hay, usually a golden color.  Moisture rolls off of it rather than sinking in.  Towels and carpet become damp and mildewed.  Cats can rest on straw and it keeps them warm with their body heat.

Also important in winter are heated water bowls.  We notice the strays drink more water in winter than summer because it's harder to find a water supply.  Here is one option we use, but many kinds and brands are available.

Keeping these stray fur babies safe is a challenge.  Hopefully they'll take advantage of our hospitality.

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