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December 22, 2022

Mountaineer News

PAWndering Pets

BUCKHANNON - If you or someone you know is providing outdoor shelters for homeless felines, please remember to only use straw.

A simple way to remember: Hay is for horses, straw is for strays.

NEVER place blankets, towels, inside bedding or cloth-like materials in an exterior shelter, as they do not reflect body heat in cold temps, can become wet or absorb moisture from the air and freeze - which can lead to the animal(s) freezing to death overnight while they sleep.


There are a number of options for providing feral cats with adequate shelter during below-freezing temperatures. If you’re interested in purchasing something without having to build it, there are various online retailers who sell insulated outdoor cat shelters, and they can usually arrive to your door within a few days.


If you’re handy and prefer to provide a homemade shelter, there is a simple one you can make that will have a great impact on feral cats in your neighborhood.

Line a large plastic container with styrofoam. Keep the cover on, but cut out a doorway. We recommend using a hair dryer to heat the plastic before cutting, as it makes the cut with a utility knife super-easy.

Add a layer of straw between the container and styrofoam for extra insulation, and add another layer on the floor. Be sure to avoid using blankets or hay for lining as discussed above, as they can absorb moisture and freeze.

Another do-it-yourself shelter option is to purchase or recycle a two-inch-thick foam cooler. Cut a hole in the side for easy access. You can find these coolers at restaurants or medical offices where they are used to ship perishable food and medical supplies. Sometimes we see them around local retail stores, too.

GENERAL INFORMATION Cats rely on body heat to stay warm, so keep your shelters small for small colonies and use multiple small shelters for larger colonies.

You must also be mindful that cats can get snowed in, so it’s important to remove snow from all entrances and exits as needed, or shovel regularly to stay ahead of the game.

Avoid using salt and chemicals designed to melt snow near your colonies. They can be toxic if they’re ingested from melted puddles or licked off paws, and they can also burn a cat’s paw pads. There are specially-formulated salt melts available that are pet-friendly if needed.

WATER AND NUTRITION FOR SURVIVAL Extreme cold weather can increase a cat’s energy and nutritional needs. Wet food in insulated containers is ideal for cold weather because it takes less energy to digest, which means more energy for the cat to stay warm. Be sure to check on the wet food and switch it out frequently.

A protected feeding station can make all the difference in areas that receive large amounts of snow. Just like with the instant shelter, make sure you clear snow away from protected feeding stations to ensure all cats can reach the food without any complications.

Water is necessary to prevent dehydration, but it also can become frozen quickly. If you have an outdoor electrical outlet, an electric-heated water bowl is a good option. You can also insulate dishes with styrofoam. If you are having issues with water freezing, consider using silicone camping bowls or baking pans; you can easily pop the ice out of the bowl without damaging the container, and then you can refill instantly.


During the winter months, it's not uncommon for outside strays to venture under your hood for warmth and remain there overnight. By simply honking the horn prior to starting your vehicle, it will startle and remove any stray that may be in harms way.

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