Cool Cats, Not Cold Cats!

Keep your outdoor cats warm this winter

by Sarah Liss, Community Cats Manager

Living in Chicago means you’re bound to experience a fair number of frigid days come winter time. If you’re a community cat colony caretaker, this can come with a fair amount of stress concerning your outside cats!

Thankfully, our outdoor friends are MUCH better at handling the cold than we humans are, but, there are still a number of steps we can take to make this time of year easier for feral cats. 


  • Add a winter shelter to your property. If you are new to caregiving this year, adding winter shelters to your property will make a huge difference for the cats you care for. You can pick one up at Tree House or many other local animal organizations, or you can make one yourself! Learn how with this handy video!
  • Use heating pads or mylar blankets. You can add an outdoor safe heating pad to your winter shelter. If you don’t have an outlet or would like a more inexpensive option, you can line with a Mylar blanket.


Cat on outside shelters in snow
Covering the outside of a shelter can keep it insulated, but keeping the inside as dry as possible is just as important!
  • Cover the top of the shelter. Use an old heavy blanket to cover the top of the shelter for added insulation.
  • Keep the bowls–not the water–warm. If you do not have access to a heated water bowl or an outlet to plug one in, place hand warmers or a Snuggle Safe in between two bowls and fill the inside bowl with water. This also works great for wet food!
  • Keep water from freezing. Use deep, narrow bowls for water to slow the freezing process. 
  • Provide snacks. Provide a bowl of dry food, as cats expend more energy to keep warm and can often use the extra snack.
  • Make sure shelters are dry. Replenish straw (not hay) in shelters if it has been awhile since last doing so.
  • Clear off snow–carefully! Carefully and quietly check for snow in the entrance of shelters and clear away if possible. Never lift the lid of a shelter to clear away snow, as it will scare the cats!

Do Not

  • Place fabric inside the shelter. Damp fabric can freeze, making the shelter unusable.
  • Use warm water. Warm water freezes more quickly!
  • Open the lid of a shelter to clear snow. This will scare the cats, who need to feel safe in their shelters!

If you have any questions regarding caring for your colony in the winter, please feel free to reach out to Tree House! Give us a call at 773-262-4000 or email us at

Learn more about the Community Cats program here.

Categories:  Community Cats