Indoor cats can easily live to the ripe old age of 18. While the outdoor ones are lucky if they get a quarter of that. It doesn’t help that we can keep them completely safe when they are out and about. Whether from accidents or other beasties and unsavoury characters. And on top of that they somehow have to make it through harsh winter. What we can do is provide them with nutritious food and shelter when they seek it. Either open the doors to our homes, or set up waterproof outdoor cat houses and hope that it will help lengthen their lifespan.
How to feed an outdoor cat in winter?
Feeding an outdoor cat is fairly easy – just put a couple of bowls out, try to refill them at least every 12 hours and make sure you provide them with plenty of fresh water as well. The only things that might be different from the outdoor cat are that they might need de-worming more often than indoor cats. And that they will benefit from a diet that has a higher fat content. When de-worming, it is best to either use gel medicine or to crush tablets and mix them in with food. Outdoor cats tend to not be as trusting and cuddly and are less likely to feed them pills. However, exposure to the elements can be way more problematic.
How much cold can outdoor cats tolerate?
Cats are vicious little predators and can hunt down their dinner by themselves. But unless they belong to a pride and they have a safe place to snuggle and keep each other warm, winter can turn very deadly. A healthy cat that is used to roughing it will not be able to handle temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. While kittens, older and sick cats are in the danger zone at 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
And it is not the low temperatures only that you have to be wary of. Blizzards and whiteouts are particularly dangerous. Even for cats who have a safe and warm place to retreat to because they can disorient them and prevent them from finding their way home. Older cats with impaired vision and kittens that not yet know their surroundings that well are again at a greater risk.
How can I keep outdoor cats warm in winter?
If you can get that cat inside where it’s nice and toasty that’s great. But if they are not moving in either because of your current situation or because they simply don’t want to, it is time to think of shelters.
A good winter shelter needs to be waterproof or situated in an area where moisture will not be an issue (like a garage or a barn), windproof and well insulated. It doesn’t have to be spacious – cats get comfort from hiding out in small spaces during highly stressful times. And we can agree that a blizzard would not be on any kitten’s top list of fun times. Also, make sure that they are accessible. If a cat is injured in any way or you are dealing with tiny kittens, they will not be able to climb up to high places.
If you are very good at DIY, there are many ideas online on how to build your own insulated waterproof outdoor cat houses. But if you are more likely to cut off your fingers than a piece of wood to measure, or you ran out of time to start your project. Or you simply prefer to buy one, there are three options that we give a gold star.
All three products picked are collapsible and easy to set up. Not only making them perfect for homes with little storage space. But also for those who break out in cold sweat at the mere thought of Ikea. Another benefit, since they are not that cumbersome. It would be easier to persuade friends and family members to consider getting them and providing shelter to their local feral cats as well.
The most economical and small-space friendly option
Our first pick is the only one that doesn’t come with the heating pad, but the units are stackable allowing you to provide more homes and shelters in a smaller space.
Kitty City Stackable Cat Cube is a customizable piece of feline real estate that will take no more than seconds to set up, no matter how you plan on going about it. The lack of a built-in heating pad can be compensated with a simple hot water bottle since the houses are fully insulated and will both retain heat well as keep the cold out. If you still want or need to go electric, most standard cat bed heaters will fit just fine.
The two layers of insulation are sandwiched between water-resistant grey fabric making it very easy and fuss-free to maintain. The roof is also covered with the same fabric allowing water to just slide away.
Inside of the unit it measures 16″ x 16″ x 16″ and can hold a 20lb cat even on the second floor. The base is made out of sturdy plastic so it can support the weight, and covered in soft fleece. They are removable and completely washing machine safe. If desired, you can also buy a super fluffy, super soft and perfectly fitted cushion to go inside.
The house has two openings and they are approximately 10 inches in diameter, enough for any Garfield to shuffle through. Both flaps are attached with velcro and can be removed if needed. Or replaced with a privacy screen for more shy or antisocial individuals.
The only issue is that there are also units designed for indoor use only but don’t shop drunk and everything will okay.
An upgrade in both features and design
Our next pick is PETYELLA Heated cat Houses for Outdoor Cats and it’s just too cute for words. The exterior of the house is something that even the strictest HOA would approve of. There are three designs available and each one is as adorable as the other. A blue bricked suburban dream home, a cozy southern cottage, and a designer beach house. Inside it comes with a heated mat with a chew-proof cord, layered over the padded bottom. The plug-in timer allows you to take advantage of the off-peak electricity rate or to set the shut-off period when you go out. The cord is just over 3 feet long. While the extension provides extra 13 feet so you have a little bit more freedom with your set up.
The unit can be set up in just four simple steps (with the fourth step being you taking a moment to appreciate your handy work) and in less than 5 minutes. It is just as easy to clean it and to stow it away. Fully assembled house measures 17″ x 13″ x 17″ and it can handle up to 25 pounds of fuzzball. The bottom is completely waterproof and equipped with four safety buckles for that extra secure placement.
It has been receiving rave reviews from both feral and more domesticated beasties. As well as their loyal humans with features like sturdiness and value for money getting very high marks.
As with everything, there is something to pay attention too. The roof is water-resistant but not completely waterproof, so it would be best to keep it under some form of a cover. A barn or garage would be ideal, but the covered porch will be great as well.
More options, more versatility
And finally, we have K&H Pet Products Outdoor Kitty House – Insulated Cat Shelter, an another super adorable offering. Though it does come in a more plain version in a simple shade of dark khaki, the printed versions are where the true fun begins. You can allow your kitten to move into a barn-like a real animal. A blue house like a posh creature it is, a log cabin like a proper outdoors cat. Or even hide in the tall grass like a true predator.
The houses come either heated or unheated so you can choose based on your budget or if you already have a great working heating pad. The 20 Watt heater is safety listed, designed for outdoor use and ready to provide your kitties with warmth constantly. The mat is covered with super-soft fleece, but it will also handle some additional pillow action. It is pressure-sensitive and will heat up only when a cat is in the house. The heater also has a tiny impact on your monthly bill.
The setup is as easy as pulling a few zippers and attaching velcro. The finished product measures at 22″ x 18″ x 17″ and weighs just under 5 pounds. Therefore being easy to assemble by any cat lover out there.
The unit fares well in both rain and snow. But for maximum protection and comfort, it is still recommended to place it somewhere covered. Like deck or porch, garage or a shed. Some users recommended placing it into a large tub or plastic container with one wall cut out if the house might end up dealing with harsher weather.
Speaking of users, cats seem to love it as well in every shape and form. With some also enjoying the toastiness by imitating Salvador Dali’s clocks or settling on the roof.