Categories: volunteers

How do feral cats stay warm in winter?

Concerned people want to know how feral cats stay warm in winter. The fact of the matter is that most often feral cats don’t stay warm in the winter but they put up with it because they are able to. True feral cats, cats born in the wild, have adapted to extreme temperatures and therefore cope quite well in winter temperatures but of course it depends on how low these temperatures are.

It is quite certain that many feral cats succumb to very low temperatures in, for example, the North of the United States or Canada. It is said that feral cats have a lifespan of around three years. I don’t necessarily subscribe to that idea because it depends upon where and how they live but, going back to my previous point, feral cats do die in the winter. The older ones, the sick and chronically ill plus the vulnerable kittens may not survive harsh winter conditions.

So how do they stay warm or at least protect themselves from the cold? The obvious way to do that is to find shelter. Thankfully, there are very many volunteers in America and other countries who operate TNR programs which incorporate the provision of food and shelters. These are home-made shelters made out of recycled household products such as coolers or washing machines and even tyres. You don’t have to look far on the Internet to find a lot of ideas on how to provide shelters for feral cats because a lot of people are concerned about feral cats suffering during winter months.

Feral cat shelters

So volunteers help feral cats stay warm in winter but there is a downside to this. Some people object to feral cat shelters and complain to the local authorities. Businesses on business parks have sometimes aggressively removed feral cat shelters.

In lieu of feral cat shelters, feral cats find shelter in old, abandoned buildings or indeed any other area where they can keep relatively dry and warm e.g. under sheds or under houses. All cats are very tolerant of temperature extremes just as other wild animal species are such as foxes and coyotes. There are numerous stories of outdoor and feral cats surviving very low temperatures to the point where their ears and paws were frostbitten and had to be amputated. But there are limits. The truth is that many feral cats do not stay warm in winter and very low temperatures are one reason why feral cats don’t survive.

Clearly, a very good food source is an important factor in survivability. Where the cat can feed well, their metabolism will run properly and it will help to keep them warm. So the provision of food must be factored in as to whether feral cats stay warm in winter. Feral cats congregate around food sources.

There is another factor worth mentioning. You’ll find far more feral cats in warm Mediterranean-type climates then you will in colder regions. For example, you rarely see feral cats in the UK (although the UK isn’t that cold). However, in southern European countries, those around the Mediterranean Sea, you will see lots of feral cats. They become part of the tourist trade. I’m sure that in Canada you see less feral cats than you see in the south of America. Therefore, there is a natural process of population reduction of feral cats in colder climates which means that they don’t have to survive or stay warm in the winter because they are not there in the first place.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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