SHELTER: Provide a small warm area, such as an igloo, in a sheltered place away from the wind. A good-sized shelter offers a space just big enough for three to five cats to huddle. Keeping your outdoor cats warm and dry will prevent hypothermia and frostbite (common on ears and tail tips). Ideally, the floor should be raised a few inches off the ground. Line the shelter with straw as straw resists the wet and keeps a shelter warm whereas blankets will hold moisture. The door should be no more than six to eight inches wide to keep out wildlife and bigger predators. Install a flap on the door to keep out snow, rain and wind. Alternatively, you may choose to allow cats to have access to your shed or garage during the winter. Visit www.alleycat.org for various options for feral cat shelters.
EXTRA FOOD: When the temperature is below freezing, you may need to increase calories by as much as 30%. An easy way to do this is to feed kitten food . Wet food in insulated containers is ideal for wintertime feeding, as it takes less energy for cats to digest than dry food-and cats can use that extra energy to keep warm. Supplementing their diet with essential fatty acids (canola, safflower and fish oils) will give the cats an extra energy source and cause the coat to grow in a bit thicker for the cold months. Keep the cats on a regular feeding schedule. The cats will come to expect the food and will spend less time in the cold before being consumed.
FRESH WATER: Change water twice a day and fill with warm water. Using bowls that are deep rather than wide, and place them in a sunny spot. A pinch of sugar stops water from freezing as quickly, and provides an added energy boost. You can apply foam insulation to the hollow underside of a regular plastic feeding dish to delay the freezing of the water. Don’t use metal bowls outside during the winter as a cat’s tongue may accidentally stick to the bowl. Adding extra water to canned food is one way to help prevent dehydration. Purchasing heated electric water dishes will insure that your cats always have access to water. Visit www.cozywinters.com/pets for a lot of great products!
Note: warm vehicles can attract cats to jump up into the engine compartment to get closer to the heat. Therefore, always knock on the hood of the vehicle or blow the horn before starting your car or truck.
ANTIFREEZE: It is estimated that nearly 100,000 pets each year are poisoned by antifreeze. Less than a teaspoon can kill a cat! Its sweet taste attracts pets, wildlife and children to ingest it. Ethylene glycol is an alcohol; hence during the initial phase the animals appear “drunk” and consequently exhibit many of the classical signs associated with alcohol intoxication: staggering, stumbling, and incoordination shortly after ingestion. Vomiting, nausea, extreme thirst, and frequent urination are also observed. During the second stage, your pet’s liver and kidneys will work to metabolize the poison. During the metabolic process, his organs will turn the ethylene-glycol into an even more toxic substance. With this new toxin in his system, his vital organs will shut down and he will slip into a coma. The best way to prevent poisoning death is to switch to propylene-glycol antifreeze.
ICE MELT: Sidewalk ice melts like salt, magnesium, or calcium chloride can cause irritation to paws and are toxic when ingested causing stomach upsets, and if enough is ingested, nerve damage. Use a non-toxic ice melt like Safe Paws…For more information, visit www.safepaw.com