Community cat Bobbi appeared near the BC SPCA in Kelowna one day in 2007. After realizing that she was not interested in people or affection, staff and volunteers set up safe outdoor spaces where she can find shelter from weather in both winter and summer. Staff was able to trap her to get her spayed, before releasing her back outside. Over the years she has still not allowed anyone close but enjoys keeping an eye on the goings on around the facility.
The BC SPCA recommends cats be kept indoors. However, Bobbi is the perfect example of a community cat who would not be able to live indoors and be adopted out, but who is living her best life as staff keeps an eye on her health and welfare.
Even though stray and community cats feel at home outside and would not do well in a shelter or home environment, they face many hazards outdoors.
Wintertime is especially hazardous. Cats can struggle through the coldest months of the year to find enough food, water and shelter. Their ears and toes can easily get frostbitten if they don’t have access to a winter shelter.
If you are feeding an unsocialized outdoor cat like Bobbi, here are some steps you can take to help them stay warm and safe as the temperatures drop.
1.) Build a shelter
A little DIY can go a long way! Help cats escape the wind, snow and rain and make it safely through the coldest months by making a winter shelter. This simple, low-cost solution that uses plastic totes provides a place for them to stay warm and dry and avoid frostbite. Plus, it’s a fun activity for young and old alike!
2.) Ensure access to food and water
Water sources and wet food can easily freeze over in winter. When you put out water for cats, check it twice daily to make sure it stays ice-free. Choose dry kibble and ceramic or plastic dishes. The dishes should be placed near but not inside shelters in case they get spilled. Damp bedding just makes it colder for cats.
Always remember to remove the food once cats are done eating to prevent attracting wildlife.
3.) Tap your car
Keep in mind that in the winter months, outdoor cats (and wildlife) may see your car as a warm refuge. Before starting your vehicle, ‘think and thump’ – tap the hood and check between the tires to make sure no cats are hiding underneath or camping out in the engine compartment.
4.) Spay and neuter
Trap-neuter-return (TNR) doesn’t just help a feral cat colony dwindle in size, it also improves the health and well-being of each cat within the colony. Reducing their desire to roam is beneficial for their safety and, with decreased competition for mating, cats are less likely to suffer injuries from fighting.
Contact your local SPCA or cat rescue for advice on how to humanely and safely trap a feral cat. They may even have a trap loan or TNR program to assist you.
Tens of thousands of cats and kittens live outdoors in B.C., suffering from illness, injuries, starvation, frostbite and predator attacks. Using the TNR method is just one of the ways the BC SPCA is working to help tackle the cat overpopulation crisis.
- Solving cat overpopulation
- More info on cat welfare
- How you can help feral cats in your neighbourhood