Outdoor Cats: Help Them Stay Safe and Warm This Winter

I worry about animals staying warm in the colder months when I see them wandering about outside.  While there are ways to keep dogs warm (such as outwear, heated dog houses, paw covers, etc.), how can we help outdoor cats stay warm and safe in winter?

outdoor cats

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Many cats enjoy the comforts of indoor living. Some cats spend their days and nights outdoors, living on their own.  Sure, they’re tough fending for themselves and surviving on their own, but are their fur coats alone enough to keep them warm during winter months?

According to Dr. Marty Becker, DVM, of vetstreet.com, if you want to help outdoor cats who help keep the rodent population in your neighborhood down, there are a few ways you can thank them and help them stay warm, fed and safe this winter.

Winter Shelters for Outdoor Cats

When temperatures drop, outdoor cats need shelter.  Purchase a small shelter at a pet supply store, make modifications to a dog house or construct your own.


The size should be about two feet by three feet and at least 18 inches in height.  That size accommodates up to three cats who like to snuggle for warmth, but not too large that the heat will quickly escape.

Keep the doorway small – no more than eight inches in width. This will keep larger animals out.  To repel snow, rain and wind, attach a plastic flap. This will also keep more heat inside the shelter.

Lining the Shelter

Pack some straw, not hay, to insulate the space.  Mylar blankets cut to size are also a great idea.  These allow cats to retain the warmth.  Fabric blankets and towels absorb moisture and will just make the inside of the shelter colder.  Raise the shelter off the ground to insulate it from the cold.

Place the shelter in low-traffic areas, where cats would feel safe and secure, away from chaos and noise.

Food and Water For Outdoor Cats

What To Feed

What about food and water?  Put slightly warmed canned food out at the same times every day and the cats will learn to arrive to dine before the food gets cold.  Leave out some dry food, too.  If not consumed right away, the canned food will freeze.

It is important for outdoor cats to remain hydrated. Winter air can make that a challenge, as access to water is limited.  Put out a water bowl and check it throughout the day to be sure it has not frozen.

Type and Placement of Food/Water Bowls

Another option would be to obtain a heated water dish safe for pets. Solar pet dishes are another good option.

Avoid putting water and food bowls directly in the shelter. Spilled water inside would make the space much colder.  Metal bowls are not a good idea, either, as a cat’s tongue could get stuck on it.  Opt for ceramic or plastic dishes.

It’s difficult to see animals having to survive in the great outdoors, there are ways to make it easier on them. After all, a little love and compassion really serves to warm the heart.





Written by Ann Butenas

Ann Butenas

An internationally-recognized author and writer, Ann began her professional writing career at age 12 and began speaking while in college. She has been published thousands of times over the past three decades in all media forms, was former editor and publisher of KC Metro Woman magazine, and has also hosted three talk radio shows in the Kansas City area.