Ash Veterinary Clinic


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With all the frosty mornings of late, I worry about the cats that live outside. Yes, outdoor cats are resourceful. They basically know how to take care of themselves, with little to no help from humans. Yet, during the winter time, these outdoor cats will need extra help from their human friends to make it through the long winter months, especially during those spells of cold artic blasts and snowfalls.
Even with their fur coats, outdoor cats need protection from the elements, preferably a warm and dry place to sleep. This is why feral cat colonies are often found in and around abandoned buildings. It is also one reason why we strongly encourage “barn cats” be locked up at night in the barn.  Cats also prefer to hunker down in places with multiple escape routes. Felines rarely let themselves become boxed in, preferring to have at least two exits available to them. This would explain why cats do not use heated dog houses that some people put outside.
Cats love to sleep in high places. Not only is it usually warmer, but they have the advantage of being able to watch for danger. It is not unusual to find outdoor cats in rafters of barns and sheds, or even in hollow trees. Garages are full of great hiding places for cats, both high and low. Often attached to the house, it is where the hot water heater may be located which can be a great source of constant warmth. You can leave your garage door cracked open enough or put a cat door in to allow a cat in. If you are worried about rodents accessing the opening, your feline guest inside will welcome the fresh meal and keep your garage pest free.
Remember, the warmth from a car engine will linger for a long time which is very inviting to cold felines but also a valid concern for their safety. Each year scores of cats and kittens are killed because they have chosen the engine compartment of a recently run vehicle as their nighttime hideout. If your car is outside or you have cats that stay in your garage, please make a habit of pounding on the hood before starting it up, even in summer.
Cats love open boxes. I make simple shelters to go inside my garage by using a “tote”, turning it upside down and cutting a hole in it. I line the bottom with towels and straw if I have it. Either way, they are inside a garage and inside an insulated closure. Pretty nice “pad” for barn cats. You can also use cardboard boxes filled with straw and covered with an old towel or blanket. Add several layers of newspaper in the bottom for added insulation. You can even make your own warming bags by sewing dry rice, corn or beans into pouches, but the heat they give off will not last as long.
Besides providing a safe shelter for your outdoor cats, you need to make sure that the cats have extra food to eat. Prey can be harder to find in the winter months. It can be harder to hunt during the winter time, as well. Outdoor cats need both dry and moist food, if one is able to provide it. They also need plenty of water to drink. Water is hard for outdoor cats to find in the winter months because liquids will freeze easily. To help keep bowls of water from freezing quickly, we recommend thick, plastic bowls. Make sure to change the water daily, too. Pet stores also sell heated water bowls to help keep water from freezing.
With a lot of our clients living in more rural areas, we realize that some owners have strictly outdoor and barn cats. We want to make sure that owners are informed on how took keep these outdoor kitties safe and comfortable this winter. We know that just because they are outdoor pets, does not mean they are loved any less. If you have any questions about caring for your outdoor cats this winter, or need to schedule an appointment, please call us at 734-782-2827, visit us at or email us at

[4:06:25 PM] Dianne Raftopoulos: