Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winter and the Ferals

Tess, Jazz and Que at the Logan feeding station come when they hear me call "kitty kitty". Their sleeping shelters are inside a chain link fenced area and the shelters are surrounded by bales of straw. This fall I added a few more bales around the shelters.

Before I built the shelters for these kitties they spent much of their time across the road in a garbage plant which meant crossing a busy street with lots of heavy trucks. In the mornings before I arrived they made their way to the feeding station to wait for me, unless it was really cold. It really bothered me that these kitties didn't have a safe, dry spot to sleep or to wait for my arrival.

In November 2009 I decided I would make some winter sleeping shelters for the cats and install them in the vacant lot beside the feeding station. It is a fenced area and is private property but has not been used for the past few years. I had my fingers crossed that no one would see them and have them removed. My fingers are still crossed, but so far so good.

I bought 3 Rubbermaid containers and three sheets of insulation Styrofoam and production began. I had Boomer as my tester, first for the entrance hole to make sure it was the right size and then for making sure the interior would offer enough comfortable sleeping space.

I cut the insulating foam to line the bottom and the sides, which I also covered in a Mylar sheet that reflects body heat back to the cats. Once everything was fitted and secured in place I put in a thick layer of wood shavings so the cats would be comfortable and warm. Then I cut a Styrofoam top and secured it to the sides before putting the lid to the container on.

Next stop, vacant lot to drop off the shelters. Now that was a fun exercise! I was able to drop the containers over the fence but was unable to climb the fence here. There is a spot that is easier to climb which is way on the other side of the lot. A few days later my sister came into the city from her farm to bring me a load of straw. She backed her truck up to the fence and we heaved bale after bale over the fence. The next day I returned to arrange the bales around the sleeping shelters for the cats. It is relatively safe inside this fenced area, but I have seen a fox scoot through the same hole that the cats use to come and go. Because of this, I arranged the bales in such a way that the cats have two exits through the bales to escape if necessary.

The picture below shows Tess (foreground) and Jazz sitting just outside their shelters. It didn't take them long to discover these shelters and they were well used last year and are being used again this year.

I would like to add that shelters should not have towels or blankets for the cats to sleep on. A cat sleeping on a damp towel or blanket loses body heat. The ideal bedding is straw or wood shavings. Also, it is not a good idea to feed ferals too close to their sleeping shelter as it could attract other animals if all food is not consumed.