Cats in Winter

Cold feral cat walking on frozen pavement


Snow is falling and our beloved pets are warm and safe indoors curled up in front of the fire.

But what about the poor cats that have no home? That are lost? Whose owners heartlessly "put the cat out at night" despite snow on the ground and temperatures below zero?

What can you do to help? Apart from taking in a homeless cat and giving it a forever home, or asking us or the RSPCA to catch and rehome the cat, here are some ideas that can make the life of a cat in winter a little less harsh:

  1. Give the Gift of Warmth. One of the greatest risks to feral cats is the bitter cold of winter weather. Help them make it through the long nights with a place to hide. If you have an outdoor shed with a window, could you leave it ajar so needy cats can slip inside for shelter? And maybe provide a box with a blanket in? If you feel more creative, rig up an outdoor cat shelter - a cardboard shelter is better than no shelter. To keep it from getting wet, elevate off the ground, line with newspapers and cover the lid with plastic (a black bag will do). Straw is also good bedding, but don't use blankets - they absorb moisture and become sodden.
  2. pawprints in the snow Feed a Feral Cat. When feral cats rely on wildlife for food, they not only disrupt local ecosystems but expose themselves to dangerous situations due to cars and disease. Your own cat may be choosy but a starving cat will eat the cheapest of cat food with relish. If your own cat doesn't finish his dish before you feed his next meal, instead of throwing away his left-overs, put it in an old bowl, or even plant pot saucer, and put it out for a needy cat. If the weather is particularly cold and you have a microwave, warm it up (not too hot!) - it could bring a little warmth to a shivering feline.
  3. Provide fresh unfrozen water regularly. Animals who don’t have clean accessible water will turn to gutters and puddles where they can drink deadly antifreeze, oil and other chemicals.
  4. Be careful when starting vehicles; cats are known to look for warm spots in the most awkward places, including around the engine of your car. Take a moment and give a quick check underneath the car and inside the bonnet.
  5. Be very careful with Antifreeze. Antifreeze, which is Ethylene Glycol based, is highly toxic to both dogs and cats. It is sweet tasting and so attractive to our pets. The signs of poisoning can include loss of balance, vomiting and lethargy. Immediate veterinary treatment is required, but of course a stray cat is unlikely to be noticed by anyone who cares enough to take action.
  6. Spread the Word. Any beloved pet that is not microchipped could get lost and join the army of unloved cats. Get your own cat microchipped and encourage your friends and family to do likewise. Contact us or your vet for advice.

A few points to keep your own moggy safe:

  • If he usually goes outside to toilet, he may start "holding it in" because outside is so cold. Make sure there is a clean and hospitable litter tray and encourage him to use it. It could save you a trip to the vet - urine retention increases the risks of blockages, particularly in male cats, and urinary tract infections which are more common in female cats.
  • If he is going outside on these dark mornings and afternoons, consider fitting a high-visibility collar to let motorists see him
  • Check his paws when he comes in and clean off any snow or grit. De-icing products can be caustic and irritate paw pads, or get wedged between them and burn.
  • Keep him in as much as possible, expecially is he is old, or very young, or sick.