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Top 10 Tips for Caring for your Feral Cat in Winter [Part 1]

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Winter can be a very rough time for people. And it's easy to think that cats aren't affected by the cold, given their furry bodies. In truth, freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall also present many risks for our feline friends. Particularly those who like exploring the outdoors. Cat owners must therefore protect their cats from elements and colder weather.

This article discusses 5 tips on how to help your feral cat stay safe and warm this winter.

1. Provide a Warm, Clean, Dry Outdoor Shelter

For feral cats, a safe, cozy place to shelter from the harsh weather elements is irreplaceable. Provide an insulated outdoor shelter for your cat. The shelter should be level, elevated off the ground, and facing away from the wind and other elements. The doorway should only accommodate your cat.

Putting a flap over the entry also helps keep out elements and potential predators. Moreover, put warm blankets or heating pads to provide additional warmth to your cat. If your cat is unwilling to use the shelter, sprinkle a little catnip, silver vine, or treats inside.

2Adjust Your Cat's Diet

In their bid to stay warm, feral cats require high-calorie intake over winter. One easy way to provide this is to feed kitten food. Dry kitten food is high in calories and nutrient-dense, whereas wet food in insulated containers requires less energy to digest. Regardless of the type of food, ensure your kitty has plenty of food supply and essential supplements to meet their nutritional needs. It will not only help them conserve energy but help their bodies develop thick coats and an extra layer of fat for improved natural insulation.

An feeding station is the best way to feed your feral cats during winter. Food shelters are easy to clean and help shield food, water, and your cat from harmful weather elements.

Pro Tip: Have your cat on a regular feeding schedule. Spray insulation foam into the underside feeding/ water dishes bowls to prevent food/ water from freezing as quickly.

3. Provide Safety Gear

Before letting your cat explore the great outdoors, ensure they have outdoor safety gear such as microchips in case of emergencies or should they get lost in the cold. Some sort of reflective collar or clothing is also recommended.

4. Provide Adequate Fresh Water

Cats become highly dehydrated in winter since most water supplies are frozen. Consequently, it's essential to monitor your cat's water bowl continually. Change water at least twice a day and fill with warm – but not hot - water. You can also add a pinch of sugar, which stops water from freezing as quickly and boosts your cat's energy levels.

Use deeper bowls rather than wide ones. Don't use metal bowls as your cat's tongue may inadvertently stick to the bowl. Remember, eating snow isn't enough to protect your kitty from dehydration and can cause hypothermia. Without access to ample fresh water, your cat is also at high risk of consuming antifreeze and other harmful substances that may be left unattended in the neighborhood. Lastly, you can use heated electric water dishes with outdoor cords to ensure your cat's access to adequate water.

Pro Tip: Adding extra water to canned food can help prevent dehydration.

5. Check for Hypothermia

Signs of hypothermia in cats include shivering, lethargy, anxiety, stiffness, etc. Worse yet, your cat's body temperature and breathing rate could decline and cause a coma. If you suspect hypothermia, take your cat to the vet immediately. Wrap them in warm blankets or hot water bottles to provide extra warmth.

Be on the look for part 2 ~ we'll cover the next 5 tips! 

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