Winter Shelters for Stray Cats in New York

Having a winter shelter is critical for homeless cats. Especially those who live in extremely cold temperatures. 
Winter Shelters for Stray Cats in New York
Francisco María García

Written and verified by the lawyer Francisco María García.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

There are many stray cats out there, but some people and organizations are now building winter shelters so they don’t freeze to death, literally.

It’s always comforting to hear positive news about how people truly care about what happens to abandoned, homeless dogs, stray cats, etc. Unfortunately, these creatures are often the target of human abuse.

For example, a program of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals supports the efforts of organizations and individuals who work to help stray and feral cats. They provide winter shelters and also offer training to anyone who cares to build one. In addition, they perform Trap-Neuter-Return in New York City. Their goal is to humanely reduce the population of community cats in NYC.

The classes offer information about the materials, tools, and skills you may need to build warm, waterproof shelters to protect feral and stray community cats from cold winter temperatures and rain.

They also show how to build two different styles of outdoor winter shelters. Furthermore, they also give general information about the cat shelters that are available for purchase locally, as well as the merits of the many pre-fab shelters available for purchase online.

The NYC Feral Cat Initiative

Top Cat and friends.

The NYC Feral Cat Initiative was pleased to announce how they were able to strengthen their community collaborations in 2018. They did so working with the New York Police Department, the Fire Department of New York, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and many other city agencies, Precinct Community Councils, and Community Boards, as well as private landowners and developers.

Through their outreach campaigns, the NYCFCI continues to be a resource for reporters and other media specialists interested in reporting on community cats. In fact, media coverage included several cat-focused articles in different well-known newspapers and also as part of documentaries and animal magazines.

Also, their Trap-Neuter-Return program helps decrease and control the number of these animals. So, males are sterilized and there’s a reduction in unwanted births in public. Note that no cats are harmed throughout this process.

Things to keep in mind when you build winter shelters

A black and white cat sitting in front of a wall.
  • There are many feral and stray cats who live outdoors during the winter.
  • A small winter shelter for cats should be less than 20 inches high and not too long. Keep in mind that a smaller place is cozier and warmer. Ideally, each winter shelter should only allow about three to five cats to be there at the same time.
  • The door should be less than 8 inches wide. It’ll keep other animals out of the shelter.
  • You may add a door or a lid. This will protect the animals against snow, wind, and rain.
  • Straw is a suitable material against rain and snow and it’ll also keep cats warm and dry. Towels and other fabrics are not recommended as they tend to absorb moisture.
  • The shelters should be built above ground level. You can use wooden pallets filled with insulating material. It’ll lessen incoming drafts.
  • If you build winter shelters in a snowy area, you must shovel off the snow that accumulates in the entrance to the winter shelters. This is to facilitate cat access and to avoid trapping them inside.
  • In regard to food, stray cats most likely require extra calories and fat during the winter. Canned food is the most appropriate food, unless it freezes. There are other dry alternatives for kittens. These have a lot more calories than adult cat food.
  • Stray cats often look for heat and safety under a car. Always make sure there are none below yours before you start the car and get going.
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