North Dakota Prepares for More Frigid Temps. How to Help Our Freezing Feline Friends
February is promising the return of subzero temperatures. If you see any stray or feral cats, please help. If it's too cold for you, it's too cold for them. Remember, they're out there because someone failed to spay or neuter. Do what you can to help them survive the harsh winter weather.
Bring your indoor/outdoor cat(s) inside or provide a warm shelter such as a garage, shed, cat shelter, etc. If you have a power source close to where the cats hang out or pass by, consider placing a heated mat under bushes or at the feeding station so they can warm up as they make their rounds. Heated water bowls are also ideal for keeping cats hydrated when all is frozen.
If you’ve got stray cats running around your area, get some big Styrofoam coolers. Many times, you can get them for free from businesses if you ask. (Rubbermaid containers and igloo coolers are other options). To make a den, cut a hole on the side, and then place straw on the inside. Keep the hole small (5 1/2 inches to 6 inches) and place it high. This keeps critters and snow out and heat in.
Never place towels, blankets, cat beds or any cloth materials in your shelters. These materials can get wet and absorb moisture from the air and freeze, which can lead to the cat freezing to death overnight while sleeping. A helpful rhyme to remember this is: Hay is for Horses; Straw is for Strays. Tape the lid using packing tape or duct tape, make sure you’re putting a brick or something on top of the cooler so that it doesn’t blow away and if possible, try to set it off of the ground a few inches using bricks or a pallet, so it doesn’t take in the cold from the ground.
After it snows, shovel out the area around cat shelters and provide a clear walkway to the shelter. Cats can get snowed in, too. Avoid using ice-melting chemicals on your sidewalks and driveways, since these chemicals can be toxic to cats. Also, avoid using salt near cat shelters because it hurts their paws.
Cat caregivers might consider posting a little laminated sign that says something like this: “This shelter is part of a humane trap-neuter-vaccinate-return program for community cats, so please do not remove. If you have questions, please call xxx-xxx-xxxx.” Always get permission from the property owner before placing an outdoor cat shelter for community cats on property other than your own.