When you live in the country in Vermont, it's inevitable that you'll need to know how to care for feral cats in the winter. All of our cats are indoor cats. But, not everyone chooses to keep their cats inside. And, there are also barn cats that roam the neighborhood. And, people drop off cats in the country to abandon them.
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How to Care for Feral Cats in the Winter
Ideally, you should catch feral cats and bring them to no-kill shelters so they can find their forever homes. You may not always be able to catch a feral cat because they are often skittish and not used to people. So, if you know that there are feral cats in the neighborhood, there are things that you can do to help care for them in the winter.
- Provide shelter. We've found feral cats in our woodshed before so you may be able to prop open a door to your garden shed or another slightly sheltered place for them to stay safe. You can also build a small shelter outside, similar to a dog house and line it with hay or shredded newspaper. You need to use a shelter that is small enough to trap their body heat. So, if you use a larger building, be certain there is a small cardboard box lined with hay for them to nest in.
- Provide food and water. If you know where the feral cats are sheltering, you can provide food and water in that area. Be certain to provide food that is high quality to offer them the best nutrition. Don't place the food or water inside the shelter itself in case it spills and creates a mess. To prevent the water from freezing, you can purchase a heated water bowl that will be kept warm by the heat of the sun.
Feral cats versus stray cats
A stray cat that is simply lost or has been abandoned and a feral cat that has always been in the wild are not the same. You can usually catch and rehome a stray. But, a feral cat is not used to people. And, it will probably never make a good indoor cat. That isn't to say that they may not become used to you enough to visit your home regularly. But, they may never be tame enough to come to you for love and hugs.
But, you can make the winter easier for both types of cats by following the tips above.