How to Help Stray Cats in Winter: A Little Effort Can Mean the World

Hangai Lilla

2023. December 19 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

Street, feral, homeless cats have learned to take care of themselves even in harsh conditions because their survival depends on it. They hunt, gather, explore, sneak, hide, and huddle to survive. However, it would be a mistake to think that we cannot help them, and they don't need the goodwill of humans.


If we could, we would adopt them all so that no cat would have to roam the cold streets shivering and hungry. While, unfortunately, this is not possible under current circumstances. But it comforts us to know that we have the means to make their situation a bit better. If, for some strange reason, you, as a reader, happen to be someone who, despite reading these lines, doesn’t like cats or is indifferent to them, we would like to persuade you as well. Please, read on how to take care for stray cats in winter!

Why It’s Worth Helping Them

These feral cats must hunt for their survival, helping control the local rodent population. This results in less need for chemicals and poisons. Moreover, perhaps even more importantly, you can set an example. Love and respect for animals are important tasks for thinking individuals. Such behavior not only sets a good example for our children but also for those around us.

In this situation, there is no need for world-changing actions. Just a few small things that may require minimal effort for you but could mean survival for stray cats. Not to mention that doing good simply feels good. Let’s show you immediately what we mean!

Providing shelter

Cats don’t need a lot of space. It’s enough for them to stand and turn around. The essential factor is that this small shelter provides safety from the elements and protection from predators. When the weather gets cold, cats like to rely on each other’s body heat. But there might not always be a companion nearby with whom they can form a deeper connection. That’s where we come in!

A homemade shelter can be made from almost anything: a sturdy cardboard box (such as packaging for a TV or microwave), a plastic trash can, a wooden crate used for storing fruits, etc. You can use anything you can spare at home and feel that a cat could comfortably take shelter in. Definitely include a door in this cozy little home, but make it just big enough for the cat to come and go. To prevent wind or rain from getting in, it’s a good idea to cover this entrance with something, like a thick plastic sheet.

If you have an outbuilding where you can let them in, that’s an extremely generous solution. Just make sure there’s a litter box for them inside. Trust us, from experience, you don’t want to clean up cat poop from the floor!

We also know someone who likes to tinker, so they built a comfortable little hut from discarded pieces of wood that any passing cat can use. It’s not only a useful help but also looks good in the yard. Make sure not to place it in a central location!

If you feel that you can invest a bit more energy into the project, you can insulate the shelter and line it with straw. Straw is the best solution because it insulates well, repels water, and keeps them warm. Fabrics can freeze in the cold, causing injury, or the cat may not want to go there simply because of the frozen fabric.

Providing food and water

Outdoor cats need extra calories to survive the winter cold and grow a layer of fat. We generally don’t recommend only dry food, but it’s more practical in cold weather as it won’t freeze. If the temperature is above freezing, we recommend wet food. Of course, you can also give them any home leftovers that they can digest and won’t harm them. We’ve written more about this here.

Place the feeding and watering bowls as close to the shelter as possible. Cats are fans of routine, so it’s a plus if you can serve them food at the same time every day. This makes it easier to build a relationship with them over time (if you want to). And you can be sure that the food won’t be eaten by the neighbor’s dog.

Taking care of someone or something is a great feeling, and it might even lead to making new friends among the neighborhood cats. Over the years, several cats have become our own because we started taking care of them when the cold weather set in. We wouldn’t trade the experience for anything!

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