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. While all of our cats are indoor cats, not everyone chooses to keep their cats inside. There are also barn cats that roam the neighborhood and cats that get dropped off in the country by people who abandon them.
How to Care for Feral Cats in the Winter
Ideally, feral cats should be caught and brought to no-kill shelters so they can find their forever homes. But, because feral cats are often skittish and not used to people, that may not always be possible. 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 safely. You can also build a small shelter outside, similar to a dog house and line it with hay or shredded newspaper. The shelter needs to be small enough to trap their body heat so if you are using 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 a 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 solar water bowl that will be kept warm by the heat of the sun.
I should note that there is a difference between a stray cat that is simply lost or has been abandoned and a feral cat that has always been in the wild. A stray cat can generally be caught and rehomed with a loving family. A feral cat is not used to people and 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.
You can make the winter easier for both types of cats by following the tips above.