- WATER: First and foremost, be sure that there is adequate water for your outdoor cats. If you see a cat lapping water from an outdoor source (such as a puddle), this is a sign that they need water fast. Standing water contains all kinds of bacteria and disease and it’s important to provide clean fresh water. Even in the winter, cats can become dehydrated.
- FOOD: The winter time is a good time to give your outdoor cats high fat table scraps and canned food. They should still get their normal dry food, but don’t hesitate to put some canned food (which will help hydrate them) and your meat table scraps out for them. They are burning a lot of calories to stay warm and the extra fat will help them. I even give them a bowl of whole milk to drink every few days.
- SHELTER: Ideally, you should have a garage or barn that they can sleep in. If not, you really should not be keeping outdoor cats. If they do not have shelter, they will most likely find someone else to live with or take desperate acts such as sleep in warm cars, etc.
- BEDDING: Even if you do or don’t have shelter for your outdoor cats – it is recommended that you provide bedding for them. You can make a bed by simply providing an old pillow for them or stuffing an old pillowcase for them. My favorite method is to take a plastic container (with lid on), turn it upside down and cut a cat door for them. Inside, you can place bedding and it will be easy to wash. Do NOT use cardboard boxes unless you know they will stay 100% dry.
- HEAT: Be careful of providing a heatsource to prevent fire hazards. But if you can safely set up a heat lamp in the garage or barn, your cats will stay close to it. You can find a heat lamp at any local feed store or order online. They do not use up too much electricity (cheaper than vet bills) and they can be turned off during the day (unless freezing outside).
- MORE IDEAS: When it is frozen outside, I recommend setting up a temporary litter box for your cats. You can simply use a pan with some outside dirt (they will use it!) that you can discard or dump later. If you have more than one cat, it is a good idea to use several pans.
- EVEN MORE IDEAS! If you can, set up a shelf underneath one of your windows. A lot of heat is generated through your home’s windows and you can set up a temporary bed. Plus, the cats will enjoy being close to you and being able to watch what is going on in the home. This will prevent boredom and detachment. What I also love about this is that it allows me to look the cats over without touching them and ensure that they are free of cuts, bites and a cold.