There are a lot of stray cats. Most live undetected in barns or backyards. A harsh winter means a daily struggle for survival for these cats. Read here about the simple measures you can take to help stray cats in winter.
Around two million stray cats live in Germany – and the trend is rising. Many descend from farm cats, abandoned house cats, and unneutered cats outdoors. Foraging demands a lot from the animals, they suffer from parasitic infestations and other diseases that spread quickly among cats. Since strays are usually very shy and sneak through backyards and gardens at night and at dusk, their suffering usually goes unnoticed.
Stray or Free Roamer? Recognize Difference
In order to recognize whether the cat roaming the garden is really a stray, you should pay attention to the following criteria:
- If the cat is well-fed and looks healthy, it is probably an outdoor cat.
- If the cat looks sickly and emaciated but is otherwise very trusting, it could also be a found animal. A veterinarian can check if the cat is microchipped or has a tattoo.
- Most stray cats are very shy and avoid human contact as much as they can.
Here’s How You Can Help Stray Cats
Helping stray cats is neither particularly expensive nor particularly time-consuming. With these three points you ensure the basic care of a stray cat:
Offer Water Points
Especially in winter, strays have great difficulty finding water. The ground is frozen, public wells have been shut down and smaller lakes and ponds are also freezing. If you have stray cats in your area, you can offer them a fresh watering hole.
Tip: the water cannot freeze on a heating plate. Warming plates for baby food are also ideal for providing strays with a drink, especially at night.
To make it easier for the strays to search for food, you can set up a feeding station. Because wet food freezes quickly, dry food is best. Here, however, it is important that the cats are offered water at the same time.
Keep feeding times as fixed as possible. The strays will soon be eagerly awaiting you.
Set Up a Steiner Hut
Even though cats are well equipped against the worst of the cold with their winter fur, they need a dry and sheltered shelter in which to hide, rest, and warm up. A stray hut is easy to build yourself from Styrofoam boxes that are covered with plastic foil. Straw is ideal for softly padding the inside of the hut. Blankets get damp and don’t dry well.
Tip: Pet shops also sell special heat packs for cats, which can also be placed in the boxes on particularly cold nights.
Help the Strays in the Long Term
Unfortunately, we can only alleviate the suffering of cats in the long term by comprehensive castrations. If you have started feeding a stray cat, please contact an animal welfare organization in your area. This will catch the animals, castrate them, vaccinate them and then release them back into the wild.
It would be excruciating for a stray cat that used to live on the street to suddenly end up in a shelter – and our shelters are already bursting at the seams. If possible, network with other animal lovers in your area and set up a long-term feeding station.