Cat Behavior 101,  Cats,  Domino,  Feline Fine Art,  Holistic cat care

Easy Ways To Help Homeless Cats In Winter

If you love cats, sharing makes us purrrr :-)

cat quotes-merlin and domino

domino feral-remember homeless cat winter

It’s hard to believe the photo (above) taken four years ago is our former feral Domino, who lived on our porch for seven years. This was his choice not ours. He had a cozy shelter with an electric heating pad but it was no picnic braving storms and having to trek through snow to do his business. It’s bitterly cold as I write this with temperatures dipping into the single digits. Domino is draped on the pillow across a warm radiator but old habits die hard. He insisted on sitting on the porch as he does most days but today he wisely came in after a few minutes. I couldn’t help but think about all the cats who don’t have the luxury of an open door.

There are vestiges of his old life in his battle-scarred and winter-weary face and every time he returns a slow blink of love and trust I melt. As I was writing this the lyrics from an old Bob Dylan song: Shelter from the Storm came into my head.

…”Not a word was spoken between us there was little risk involved
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved
Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm
“Come in” she said
“I’ll give you shelter from the storm”…

Did you know pet parents in the U.S. spent a whopping 5 BILLION dollars this holiday season on gifts for their pets? I’m not about to tell you what to spend your money on but please consider the homeless ones who won’t be getting cozy sweaters or cat beds this winter. They’ll be lucky to get food and shelter.

How You Can Help Make A Difference For Feral or Indoor/outdoor Cats This Winter

  • Anti-freeze is deadly. Clean up any leaks or spills. A cat may be tempted to lap up a puddle especially when everything is frozen and there’s nothing to drink. Even a teaspoon can be lethal.
  • Rock salt is toxic on tender paws. If you can, use gentler ways to keep walkways safe like sand, non-clumping cat litter or non-toxic ice melt. I like Safe Paw.
  • Safe Paw- Ice Melter-review-giveaway
  • Cats seek shelter in cars under the hood. Before starting the engine, knock on the hood to wake-up any occupants and maybe save a life.

snowshoe-feral cat-domino This is how Domino looked during his last winter outdoors. He rarely looked me in the eye but I think he was trying to communicate: Can you help me? This is getting old.

Tips for making or buying homeless or feral cat shelters

  • The easiest and cheapest ‘instant’ shelter is simply a sturdy cardboard box with a trash bag taped over it. Elevate the box above the ground by securing it on wooden blocks or bricks. Add insulation like straw.
  • Inexpensive shelters can be made with one plastic storage bin placed inside a smaller bin with styrofoam pieces in between as insulation. Stuff with straw, place the bin on its side facing a wall or tree to act as a wind break.
  • Mylar, the material used in emergency ‘Space Blankets’, helps retain body heat and can be cut in pieces to cover the shelter.
  • DIY creative types can make shelters out of wood and other materials but this video explains how to easily make a shelter.

We have Katkabins on our property which are cozy and weather-proof for any furry wayfarers passing through. We also leave the side door of the barn open a crack for small critters to ease their way in and find shelter. One year we had birds, chipmunks, rabbits and a feral cat. Snow is great for tracking pawprints but be sure to shovel areas near shelter access.

  • K & H has a great selection of options for outdoor tents and heated feeding station. I wish I’d known about their heated, outdoor tent when Domino lived outdoors.K&H Outdoor Heated Multiple Kitty A-Frame™ (unheated available)
  • A covered feeding station is a must. If there isn’t a heated shelter feed the cats only dry in sub-zero weather winter. Wet food freezes solid. Do not use metal bowls to avoid a cat’s tongue sticking to it. Fill with hot water which will freeze less quickly. Adding a pinch of sugar will slow freezing. If there is an electrical outlet available, there are heated bowls are designed to keep water above freezing.

Everyone can do something. At the very least, you can be an educator by sharing this post.

If you haven’t already connected with a rescue group in your neighborhood, you can easily find one by entering your zipcode at Every rescue group or shelter will mention on their website what they do and what they need from volunteers. Many shelters post a wishlist of donation items (new or used) i.e. old towels, paper towels, blankets, food and water bowls, cleaning products etc. on their website.

snowshoe cat in snow

Let’s make this winter a little more bearable by providing our feline friends a safe shelter from the storm.


  • Kim

    Excellent tips that anyone can readily follow to help our homeless friends – thank you for educating on the plight of homeless cats. This time of year is always so rough for them, and for those of us who worry about them!

    Thank you for blogging – and being – the change for animals,
    Kim Thomas
    Be the Change for Animals

  • dawn

    A lot of great tips! It’s wonderful that so many are bringing attention to the plight of feral cats. Domino is a very lucky cat to have found you.

    Thanks for sharing and thank you for joining Blog the Change!

  • Ra

    Great info! I don’t live where it snows so never really thought about kitties without homes in places where it gets freezing. Domino was lucky to have you as a neighbor

  • Cathy Keisha

    Great post. TW was appalled to see the Maple Cats sitting atop their igloo instead of in it everytime she passed this week. They came running to her to get their food. You can build the greatest shelter but they have to use it. Today one of the Park Cats was out and about by the covered wading pool so TW fed him. UCFCC is feeding both colonies and has provided igloo shelters and medical care.

  • The Island Cats

    When it’s this cold, we worry about the 2 kitties that our dad-guy takes care of at his business. They do have access to an unheated garage area filled with bales of straw and a heating pad. But still…they gotta be cold! Thanks for reminding us of all these tips.

  • Skeeter and Izzy

    Thank you Layla. The homeless of every species suffers greatly in horrid weather conditions We hope that more and more people work toward TNR but don’t forget that spay/neuter is only the tip of the iceberg.
    Luvs to our dear friends Merlin , Domino an Nou Nou.
    Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang + Twig & Peanut & Romeo >^..^<

  • maggie

    We’re happy that TNR programs have been so successful in our area. We don’t see any feral cats in our neighborhood anymore. Our last feral deck resident passed away a few years ago and we gave her heated house and waterbowl to someone who maintains a colony. Every morning for 12 years, I checked on our Grandma kitty first thing and shoveled a path for her if it had snowed. I wish she had been willing to come inside.
    You’re providing really good information- thanks Layla.

  • Nerissa's Life

    Such important information in this post, my friend.

    This is Anderson’s first winter inside and boy is he ever noticin’ a difference. He doesn’t wanna go outside at all. He just lies about on the couch or on a bed, enjoyin’ the comfort and warmth. Has to put up with a lot of cuddlin’ and kissin’ but says it’s worth it, for sure.


  • da tabbies o trout towne

    doodz…thanx for re postin & in cloodin de you tube linx…thiz iz one oh de best DIY cat shelter videe ohz we haz seen; way cool eye dea on usin piping thru de door way…and durafoam sted on just plane styro foam …we subscribed…thanx !

  • Kathryn

    So glad Domino came indoors a few years ago. He is such a doll, as I rarely see male cats who were neutrered after they fully developed all of their secondary male characteristics (full face). I am so glad to learn that many options exist to help outdoor cats who do not have homes. Most cats in my town are indoor only and a few also go outdoors. We had two in this town who were both in and out of doors, but it was on a busy street, so that was not a positive for them. Both had been feral, so there was no way to keep them inside.

  • Texas, a cat in... Austin

    We can’t begin to imagine how hard it must be for kitties to live outside in the cold :-/
    Thanks for all these tips: they will be very helpful to help the outside kitties.

    And thank you so furry much for your wishes for Milou! We really do appreciate!

  • Coccolino

    That was such a nice post. I actually WISH some homeless cats would venture our way because I would love to take care of them and provide for them. I am sure many others don’t and it makes me so sad, especially after moving from Italy where I took care of so many.

  • Sue Brandes

    Thanks for the information. It is really cold here in WI. I did not know you could look up rescue groups on Petfinder either.

  • Skeeter and Izzy

    We all need shelter from the storm. The kitty’s need shelter from many storms both weather and other storms. They need us and we need them.There are so many things that we each can do to help. I have pretty much started carrying food etc. in my vehicle at all times…never know when I’ll come across a wee one that needs a meal. I keep spreading the word about Ferals and what each one can do to help them in some way.
    We have the plastic insulated coolers with several varieties of bedding and tarps. The Feral Gang hasn’t completely embraced them yet but we are working on it every day using treats and feeding where the coolers are located. Of course my next plan is to lead them indoors to the basement first then upstairs in time. Just remember no action is too small,no time given too little, no donation too insignficant,after all the oceans are full of drops of water.
    Luvs Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang + Peanut and Twig and Romeo >^..^<

  • Kathryn

    Oh love the shelter. Love Dom and Merlin together. 5 billion is a lot of money! If we had ferals around, I would def build a shelter. So city here that all the cats are truly taken and indoor.

  • Kathie

    I built a shelter out of a big styrofoam cooler for the three kitties I have living in my yard under my shed. They still seem to choose the shed over the cooler but I’m hoping that they will use it when it gets real cold. I have seen them go in from time to time… They get fed twice a day with fresh water and every couple days they get a can of tuna as a nice surprise!

  • Viki Worden

    I am sure Domino is so very happy to be living indoors now. Especially with all the love he is given. I wish i had the funds to help all the homeless kitties. I would do everything i could if i had feral babies where i live. So far i have not seen any.

  • da tabbies o trout towne

    havin lived on de streets de furst yeer oh me life, eye appreciates thiz post ~~~~ N all me street pals due two…thanx !!

    butter lover boomer o cat

  • The Island Cats

    Very timely information. Right now, there are 2 cats hanging around the dad-guy’s business and the peeps there are feeding them and built them a shelter (they need to build a better one, though). The mom is planning to trap them this week and get them fixed, but unfortunately, they will need to go back outside. The mom doesn’t want to take them to a shelter because she doesn’t know how adoptable they are.

  • Sammy

    We do worry about homeless animals in the winter……the little feral we have who visits us has it “made” outside on our front porch with warm quarters and food but there are so many others who don’t.

    Pam and Sam

  • Sparkle

    Thanks for this advice – while it is mild in southern California compared to the rest of the country (if you can call upper 30s mild!), there are a lot of wild and homeless kitties in snowy areas who really need help and shelter from caring humans.

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