Shelters come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and materials. For the most part, as long as the shelter is well insulated, anything from a styrofoam cooler with a hole cut out to a fancy cat house bought online will help. The most important part is that the shelter is well insulated, small enough to keep in the heat, waterproof and full of straw to help keep the cats warm. Do not use blankets in a shelter, as they get wet and freeze.
Water can be a tricky thing to provide during the winter months. Some things that can help keep the water from freezing a bit longer include: adding a little sugar to the water, using water bowls that are dark to absorb more heat from the sun, using thick insulated bowls, and if possible using a heated water bowl. If these are not options, putting out fresh water every time you stop is at least still better than nothing.
Feeding cats wet food in the winter is a great way to get more water to them. You can even add a little water to their wet food if they tend to eat it quickly when you feed them (that is, if they are likely to eat it before it has time to freeze; this technique is not recommended if your kitties don’t eat quickly). Cats will eat more during the winter months, so an adult cat can eat a 5.5 oz can of food and additional dry food. Leave out one can of wet food and half a cup of dry food out per cat for about 15 minutes. If they eat it all, add more dry food until they are full. This will give you a better idea of how much food they need in the winter, and you can repeat this process in the summer when their feeding behaviors change.
Clearing a path in the snow that goes from the shelter to the feeding station will do a lot to help the cats get their food for the day, especially during extremely cold days. It is best to have your food/water placed in a covered type of shelter; anything that can offer some sort of protection from rain or snow will help the cats out.
While HSHV does TNR during the winter months, we highly recommend that cats only be TNR’d if proper shelters are available and used by the cats. The largest concern is for females, who have their bellies shaved during a spay. They are at greatest risk being out in extreme cold. If possible, hold off until early spring and then TNR ASAP to prevent the first batch of kittens, which mostly come around in April.
Shelter Ideas With Videos