Every year I think about helping cats in cold weather. Where I live is fairly mild compared to the mid-west where (with the wind chill factor) last night it was more than 50 degrees BELOW zero F. In that region there are approximately 13.7 million pet cats and around 9.5 million ferals. So, they’re out there, and they are susceptible to the cold just like we are.
Indoor cats, especially the elder and kittens who might find themselves outside, are at greatest risk at just 45 F above. Feral cats (who’ve acclimated) can live at 32 degrees but not for long. Cats whose core temp falls to 60 degrees will die. Our fatal core temp is 70. The point is they need our help. Frostbite and hypothermia are killers. To save a cat from the freezing cold, bring them in of course, dry them and warm them slowly using a warm (not hot) water bottle, not a heating pad which could burn them even on a low setting.
I see that Alley Cat Allies has a page with probably every shelter idea there is (https://www.alleycat.org/resources/feral-cat-shelter-options-gallery/). Designs range from fairly elaborate and permanent to quick and easy. You can obtain straw from: pet and farm supply stores, garden centers, or ask your vet or local humane society. Straw is cheap and can last a long time when kept dry.
Another need is fresh water (heated bowls prevent freezing) to help them stay hydrated, less tempted to lap up deadly anti-freeze and to help them warm their insides, too. Those cost around $16 from online stores such as Chewy.com. Straw is the recommended choice for bedding, avoiding hay or blankets that can retain moisture and grow mold. A good feature to provide for them is an opening to use as an exit.
Note fiver’s design which manages it by not having a platform at that opening. That makes it harder to get in that way so it’s used to get out if need be. Being that cats don’t like to feel trapped, it might also encourage some to use the shelter in the first place, if the life-saving comfort isn’t enough. Also, cats tend to buddy up naturally so having just enough room for two is good.
There are reports of a steady stream of cats being brought into PAWS Chicago with frostbite. Sarah Ahlberg said:
“We are currently treating cats suffering from frostbite, URI’s, panleuk, in need of amputations, you name it!”
The are running a cold weather fund which has raised alsmot $1000.
Helping cats in cold weather. Timely advice, hoping it’s in time to save some lives.