Are you wondering, where do stray cats go when it snows? Are you concerned for stray/feral cats in your neighborhood when the temperature and weather conditions are sub-zero?
You’re right to be concerned!
Stray cats may be homeless and do a good job of surviving all year round, but they may struggle to find somewhere safe to go when it snows. Or when there is any other extreme weather for that matter.
So, here’s everything you need to know about stray cats and where they go when it snows to help you locate any vulnerable cats. I also explain the kinds of shelter and help they need, how you can help them, and more.
Where Do Stray Cats Go When It Snows?
Stray cats will obviously try and find some shelter where they can be dry and warm when it’s been snowing. Unfortunately, a lot of the places cats think are safe for them are actually very dangerous!
The most common places they seek shelter are:
In Garden Sheds
If you leave the door to your shed open or there is another way a cat can find their way in, then they will likely seek shelter in your shed if they can.
This raises the issue of a cat getting stuck in a shed though. It’s one of the first places people look when cats go missing, so do check inside carefully for a sleeping cat when locking up and not using your shed for a while.
Vehicle engines stay warm for hours after being used, so snuggling up underneath a car where it’s dry, warm, and out of the wind and snow is an obvious choice for cats.
It’s incredibly dangerous, however. With an estimated 5.4 million cats killed on the roads in the US every year, it’s essential you check under your vehicle before driving off in snowy conditions.
Trees and Foliage
When snow has fallen, there are two places that cats will go to avoid it with there are wooded or overgrown areas near your home.
One is high up in trees to avoid getting their paws wet and sinking into deep snow, the other is inside foliage and other overgrown areas where they are out of the wind chill.
It can be really hard to spot cats hiding in shrubbery, but if you’re out looking for them give them a call and take a good look in overgrown areas.
Doorways, Arches, and Other Cover
Often the closest place for a cat to go where there isn’t snow on the ground will be a doorway, under some kind of arch, or anywhere else where snow hasn’t been able to settle.
I remember last year when we had some snow here I saw 2-3 cats in a kid’s park near my home in one of the tunnels kids crawl through.
A little unconventional, but who can blame them. It made for some decent cover out of the snow and wind.
Check out – If You feed a stray cat will it stay near me?
Where Do Feral Cats Go in the Winter?
It’s not just snowfall that causes feral or stray cats to retreat somewhere safer. You may have noticed during the winter you’re not seeing familiar faces around like you did in the summer.
Feral cats adapt to the weather. They will retreat to areas that are sheltered, or even move to another area that has better food and water access.
Cats need to eat more during the winter as they’ll burn more calories moving around and keeping warm.
So, while you might find them in some of the places I’ve outlined above, if you don’t see a particular cat you’ve come to enjoy seeing around during the winter don’t immediately assume the worst.
There is a good chance they found somewhere with better access to food and shelter and are spending a lot of time there.
You could do your bit by providing some shelter in your garden. A small outhouse with some bedding, fresh water, and a little food is usually just what a stray cat is looking for and will give them somewhere to hang out.
How Do Stray Cats Survive Cold Weather?
The answer to this is – however they can!
If it’s not really cold stray cats will generally be just fine if they are in good health. Let’s not forget that cats are very adept at surviving and fending for themselves.
They will find somewhere that provides shelter, food, and water and stay close to these essentials. Of course, you can do your bit by providing some shelter, food, and water if you’re concerned about stray cats in your neighborhood.
Unfortunately, older cats and those with injuries or poor health are at risk in extreme temperatures. The best thing you can do is notify your local cat’s protection or animal control office if you’re really concerned about strays in your neighborhood.
There is a real serious problem with strays in the US. I’ve seen estimations as high as 70 million for how many stray cats there are in the US. So, it’s inevitable that some are at risk in the winter, and local authorities, shelters, and charities can only do so much.
How to Keep a Stray Cat Warm Outside in Winter?
If you want to do something to help stray and feral cats in your neighborhood stay warm and have some shelter during the winter – good on you!
There are a few things you can do to help, and they’ll appreciate it, I can guarantee you that. It doesn’t have to cost you much if anything at all either, as I’ll explain.
Here are some of the best things you can do to provide some much-needed shelter and warmth:
Provide Some Shelter from the Elements
Stray cats are fine with being outside during the winter, it’s finding shelter that blocks the wind and other elements that’s important.
They will try and find shelter in some of the places I listed above. Like under trees, cars, in doorways, sheds, and so on. But they would be a lot better protected with a nice little house they can call their own!
You can either buy, build, or make some shelter in your backyard if you’ve spotted cats coming and going and there is a good chance they will take refuge in it.
If you want to buy an outdoor shelter I recommend checking out these shelters I found on Amazon as affordable and comfy options:
K&H Pet Products Outdoor Unheated Kitty House
This shelter is made with 600 denier nylon. That means it’s super tough and waterproof, which is perfect for wet, windy, and of course, snowy conditions.
The best thing about this type of shelter is that it’s easy to move around and clean. Wooden or plastic shelters are tougher, there’s no mistaking that, but sometimes you need a more portable option.
K&H Pet Products Birchwood Manor Outdoor Unheated Kitty Home, Natural Wood
This is very similar to the cat shelter I bought and put out in my yard. I prefer wood shelters personally, they last for years if well looked after, and provide excellent shelter from the elements.
This one comes with a comfy padded cushion. So, no need to donate old blankets. A few minutes with a screwdriver and it’s assembled and ready to be used by any local strays in need of a little outdoors luxury.
Want to Make Your Own Shelter?
If you want to make your own, there are a few ways you can do this that will not cost you much or take up much of your time. And stray cats will be equally as grateful (they really can’t afford to be too fussy).
The key things to remember when building an outdoor cat shelter are to make sure it’s:
- Windproof and waterproof
- Cosey inside (old blankets do the trick)
- Big enough for a large cat
- Strong and sturdy, you want it to last
I’ve seen cat shelters made from wood, styrofoam, plastic, just about any materials that you can work with and join pieces together.
If DIY and building things isn’t your strong point. Although I bet you would find it fun and rewarding, regardless of how lop-sided the finished shelter turned out, maybe you can find something ready-made.
I’ve used an old walk-in litter box before. It’s the perfect size for cats, you can pick them up second hand for a few bucks, and they are ready to go.
You may have some packaging materials or drawers, safes, anything that’s box-shaped and hard enough to keep the wind and rain out if you have a good look around your home and garage.
Whatever you find, as long as it’s going to survive the elements and provide shelter I’m sure it’ll do.
Kit it out with some soft bedding in the form of old towels or blankets. Add a small water bowl to keep any cats hydrated, and if you want to go that extra mile you can put a little cat food in there. I’m sure it’ll perk up a nose and lead someone to the shelter pretty quickly.
Something to keep in mind when using blankets is that they will retain moisture if they get wet. There is also the risk of blankets freezing.
Straw is a better option in extreme conditions as it resists moisture. Use appropriate bedding for the temperatures and check it daily to ensure it’s dry and comfy.
This video does a great job of showing you how to make an insulated outdoor cat shelter from a storage container, insulation board, some duct tape, and a few basic tools. It’s pretty cool!
Providing Food and Water for Stray Cats in the Winter
Providing a little food and water will go a long way in helping stray and feral cats survive the harsh winter conditions.
In the snow and extreme temperatures, it’s a lot harder for cats to find live prey to eat. Rodents, birds, and the other animals they would usually hunt and eat are affected by the weather too and will be hiding out somewhere warm and safe.
It’s also harder for them to find scraps in bins with a layer of snow or frost making it difficult to bin dive. As well as the fact that people will soon find ways to cat-proof their bins if they’ve had strays making a mess.
So, the best thing you can do to help out is to start putting out a little food and a bowl of fresh water somewhere they can easily find. Try sticking to a similar daily schedule too, cats love routine and will come looking at the same time every day.
Wet or Dry Food for Stray/Feral Cats?
Wet foods are typically higher in calories and protein, which is great for winter as cats need those extra calories. The problem, however, is that it may freeze if not found soon enough.
I always put out dry food. It lasts longer, is good for their teeth, and a good quality one provides a nice balance of all the nutritional content a cat needs.
If you want to keep to a budget there are some really inexpensive cat foods that will keep the neighborhood population of feral cats happy for most of the winter without breaking the bank.
Something like this should do the job just fine:
Meow Mix Original Choice Dry Cat Food
This is a huge 22 lb bag of dry food that has a good balance of nutrition for adult cats. 1-1 1/2 cups per day is more than enough to keep an adult cat full.
Available in tasty flavors (for cats) like salmon, turkey, chicken, and fish, those stray cats are going to be so spoiled this winter. I’d wouldn’t be surprised if you have them knocking on your door year-round.
Best Bedding for Outdoor Cats During the Winter
Depending on how cold it is, the best bedding for outdoor cats is either blankets or straw. Straw might seem like an odd choice, it’s not the most comfortable to lay on, but it wicks away moisture and doesn’t get as cold as a blanket.
If you’re not dealing with extreme temperatures however and you have a nice outdoor house set up for an outdoor cat then some nice warm blankets are perfect.
Cats love to sleep on something soft and warm. Who can blame them? Blankets are designed to be soft and hold onto some body warmth, so as long as they can’t get wet they’ll do perfectly.
If you don’t have any spare blankets, any kind of bedding, soft materials, or, we all know how cats love sleeping on our clothes, so why not donate some old clothes to the cause!
I hope this answers your question, where do stray cats go when it snows?
If you’re looking out for one or more stray cats in your neighborhood and want to make sure they’re safe when it snows and the colder months are sweeping in you should be able to find them in one of the places I’ve mentioned in this article.
The best thing you can do is provide shelter for them when it’s snowing so they don’t have to struggle finding somewhere safe. Some water and food will also help them survive the winter without having to hunt and scavenge so hard.
I hope everything works out for you and the strays in your area if you’re expecting snow. Feel free to let me know how you get on, I’m sure you’re going to make a new friend or two!