Monday, November 7, 2016

Providing Winter Shelters for #Cats by Karen Rose Smith

It's that time of year to think about shelters for outside stray cats.  We've been feeding a feral stray sibling pair since fall of 2015. They came running into our yard with their ears clipped so I knew they had been neutered and spayed.  When they began coming regularly, I decided to attempt to socialize them.  Hubby dubbed them Bonnie and Clyde because they ran together.  

The socialization process has been exceedingly slow.  A year later, they come regularly for wet food twice a day.  Clyde stays around our property most of the time.  But Bonnie is flighty and goes off on her own to be reunited with him at times during the day.  I don't know where she goes.  We tried confining them in the basement one night when Clyde's paw seemed to be hurting, but they ran out like the devil was chasing them the next day and didn't return for a few more days.  They were even wary about eating.  The thing about ferals is that they want to retain their independence.  

A year later, Clyde especially will rub against my legs at mealtime. Now and then if I don't move too fast, he'll let me pet him a few strokes.  But they are still not ready to be handled or brought inside. We've taken care of strays before.  It's not easy to "let go" and give them freedom but that's how they are happiest.  

The best scenario this year would be to let Bonnie and Clyde stay in the basement on terrifically cold or bad weather nights.  But as you know, cats don't often cooperate with humans' intentions.  So what my husband and I are going to do is give them options.  Hopefully they'll choose one or two.

We have a patio sunroom that we keep open throughout the year. For winter, we put a shelter and a heated bed inside in one area, a heated pad in another. ExtremeWeatherHeatPad 

I lay thermal heat pads on the furniture in the sunroom.  Outside over the years we've added different types of shelters.  Those closest to the house have low wattage heat pads inside.  Among them are an igloo and cedar shelters.  If you'd like to consider making a shelter yourself from a cooler, here is a link.  

Ally Cat Allies has pages of prebuilt and DIY shelters to examine, many with instructions. AlleyCatAlliesShelters

One caution about multi cat shelters. Feral and stray cats don't usually like to share.  Our sibling pair might be an exception.  But roaming loners like their own spot to stay safe, rather than sharing a shelter.  And sometimes a stray would prefer to have the whole property to himself or herself.

We use straw bales as buffers and protection for the shelters against the elements.  Since the flowers are gone and plants don't provide much cover, the bales are also useful on the patio to break the wind. 

Straw is the preferred bedding if the shelter doesn't have a heat pad. Hay, used as animal feed, gets soggy. Straw is sturdier than hay, usually a golden color. Moisture rolls off of it rather than sinking in. Towels and carpet become damp and mildew.  Cats can nest in straw and it keeps them warm with their body heat. 

Also important in winter are heated water bowls. We notice the strays drink more water in winter than summer because it's harder to find a water supply.  Here is one option we use but many kinds and brands are available.

Keeping these stray fur babies safe is a challenge. Hopefully they'll take advantage of our hospitality.


Read about Caprice De Luca, her family
 and her penchant for solving murders in 
the Caprice De Luca Mystery series.

Staged To Death
Deadly Decor
Gilt By Association
Drape Expectations
Silence of the Lamps
Shades of Wrath--December 2016

USA TODAY Bestselling Author Karen Rose Smith is an only child who delved into books at an early age. She learned about kindred spirits from Anne of Green Gables, solved mysteries with Nancy Drew and wished she could have been the rider on The Black Stallion. Yet even though she escaped often into story worlds, she had many aunts, uncles and cousins around her on weekends. Her sense of family and relationships began there. Maybe that's why families are a strong theme in her novels, whether mysteries or romances. Her 95th novel will be released in 2016.
Karen and Paddy

Readers often ask her about her pastimes. She has herb, flowers and vegetable gardens that help her relax. In the winter, she cooks rather than gardens.  And year round she spends most of her time with her husband, as well as her four rescued cats who are her constant companions. They chase rainbows from sun catchers, reminding her life isn't all about work, awards and bestseller lists. Everyone needs that rainbow to chase.

Karen looks forward to interacting with readers. They can find her at the links below. 

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