As night-time temperatures begin to dip below freezing here in Western NC, cat lovers begin their annual winter worrying: will the neighborhood strays be ok? Will any try to stay warm in dangerous places? Do I need to feed them more or less?

This season, trade the worrying in for our top 10 tips on how you can help the kitties near you:

  1. Try to take sick, old or very young cats indoors. They may not have the ability to survive the season outdoors, even with the rest of the help suggested in this list.
    • Outdoor cats need more food during the winter. Increase their portion sizes to help them conserve energy and refresh their water in the morning and evening.
    • Use deeper, plastic bowls (rather than wider and metal ones) and put them in areas with ample sunshine to help prevent freezing.
    • Build a covered or insulated feeding station to keep food/water — and the kitties — shielded from the weather while eating. This simple and inexpensive DIY option works great.
    • Build a few cat shelters to give kitties a safe, warm place to sleep. Be sure they are insulated with straw or non-toxic insulation (not blankets or towels), have small-enough entrances to keep out larger wildlife and are heavy enough to withstand strong winds and strong aggressors. This tote-and-straw based option works great once you weigh it down.
    • Keep shelters and feeding areas far apart. Food may attract other animals, and we want to keep resting cats safe.
    • Check on your community cats, shelters and feeding stations often. Injured cats can go downhill quickly when outdoors, and damaged shelters/feeding stations won’t provide much help.
    • If you park outdoors, before starting your car, tap loudly on your hood and check tires and wheel wells to make sure no outdoor cats have taken up shelter there.
    • Do not use antifreeze anywhere near cats. Clean up antifreeze spills immediately and always keep the chemical out of reach. Antifreeze is highly toxic to cats and can cause significant damage or death.
    • Choose pet-friendly deicers. Like antifreeze, the typical salt and other chemicals often used to melt snow and ice can be deadly. Cats will unknowingly walk through it and then groom their paws and ingest it.

    Please keep these tips in mind this winter season. With a little bit of extra time and energy, we can save lives!

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