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As the mercury starts to drop, your feline companion needs more help from you to survive, especially if he is an outdoor cat. Yes, his thick furry coat shields him from the winter chill, but that does not mean he doesn’t need a dry, warm, appropriately-sized and well-insulated shelter.
Why does the size of the shelter matter?
A shelter is designed to trap the body heat of your cat so that his interior stays warm. If it is too large, then it will be difficult for your cat to use his body heat to keep the space warm. If you want to pack in excess space, then stuffing it with straw is a good option as it allows your cat to burrow. Alternatively, you can also go for pillowcases stuffed with shredded newspaper and packing peanuts. If the newspaper or straw gets moist or dirty, replace it. And most importantly, do not forget to wash and dry the pillowcases regularly.
If it can get really cold where you live and you cannot keep checking up on the shelter regularly, ditch the above insulations and wallpaper the shelter with Mylar instead. The material is an excellent reflector of body heat and it is also safe for your cat to lie around in. But no matter what you do, do not use towels, blankets or folded newspaper as they absorb body heat. Also, stay away from hay as it can irritate your cat’s nose and cause an allergic reaction.
What about food and water?
If you can do it without compromising on the security and privacy of the shelter, then place food and water right next to the shelter so that your cat does not have to travel far to get it. One way to protect the food is to make sure you have two shelters facing each other, just a few feet apart. You can then fashion a canopy of sorts between the two with a wide board and place the water and food under the canopy. The container you put the food and water in also makes quite a bit of difference. Go for a thick plastic container and stay away from ceramic and stainless steel. Alternatively, a solar heated bowl is a good option if you want to keep the water and food from freezing.
If the shelter is well insulated, then you can put moist or dry food inside them, away from the entryway. Even if the food freezes, your cat’s body will defrost it when he hunkers it down. Just make sure that you do not put water inside the shelter. It can be spilled easily and a wet shelter is closer to a refrigerator more than anything else.