Reassure me that my outdoor feral kitten will be ok this winter.

About 3 months ago, while taking trash to the dumpster in my apartment complex, I noticed an adult cat and a kitten foraging for food. They looked a bit skinny and malnourished, so I went back to my fridge and gave them a few hotdogs that I had. These cats (mother and daughter) were wild and wouldn’t let me anywhere near them. I began to feed them daily (dry cat food) and gradually, they started to trust me…especially the kitten. And I must say that the kitten has really fattened up a lot. Eventually, the kitten (now about 5 months old, I’d guess) became very friendly and will let me hold her and pet for extended periods of time. She does freak out a little bit when she hears a noise or sees an unfamiliar person.

The kitten appears very healthy, yet she is very tiny. I play with her with a shoestring and she is very, very quick and has excellent reflexes. And I make sure she has plenty of food and water. Her mom has somewhat disappeared, only showing up once or twice a week. The kitten, on the other hand has taken up residence on my front porch. She has been spending the night curled up on my welcome mat.

The problem is that my shared front porch is a simple 3x8 concrete slab, with a high covering. I know cats have survived for thousands of years outside in the elements, but I fear for this kitten. When it rains, the porch provides a little bit of shelter, but she still gets wet when it rains. And in central Virginia, the winter can get a bit ugly. I’m just worried to death about her well being. I wouldn’t worry so much if she’d disappear every now and then, but no matter what time of day or night I open the front door, she’s there. Or at least nearby. Each morning at around 6:30am, I open the front door and she’s laying on a bunch of old t-shirts that I’ve inconspiciously put on the welcome mat for her to lay on. And she’ll get up and stretch and began meowing until I feed her.

I guess I just want someone to reassure me that feral cats are smart and can find shelter during extreme temperatures. This cat just seems sort of oblivious to the impending freezing temperatures. My BF is very allergic to cats, otherwise there would be no problem. I’ve put the word out to friends that I’m looking for a home for her, but no one that I know of is interested in a semi-feral cat. And besides, I’m not convinced that she’d be interested in being a house cat anyway. Also, I have absolutely no place to put a shelter for her, except for a large bush near my front door. I did get a medium sized cardboard box and taped it up and attached some thick plastic to make it waterproof. But, I’m pretty sure she is not sleeping in it. I put some food in it and she’ll stick half her body inside to eat it, but that’s it. This little cat has worked her way into my heart and I just don’t want anything bad to happen to her. I’m going to attempt to take her to the ASPCA to get her checked out and then get her spayed in the spring, once it warms up.

Sorry, no can do. If the cold doesn’t get her, some hungry predator probably will. Life is short and brutal for feral cats. Also, they can start breeding as young as 6 months. She may already have feline leukemia or FIV for all you know.

Sounds like you now own an outdoor kitty. Why don’t you make a box for her and make it official? You can use anything that is a bit more sturdy than a cardboard box. Just put some blankets down and make sure she knows about it and patrol for possum habitation. If she likes you, put an old t-shirt that smells like you in the box, might help her recognize it as home.

I wouldn’t wait too long to get her spayed after it starts getting warm as she will almost certainly go into heat and get preggers once spring hits–5 months is old enough to be a momma in cat years. Flatlined probably has better advice than this since she is our resident feral cat expert.

Does that go for ALL outdoor cats or just feral cats? This cat, although technically feral, is not technically feral anymore. If that makes sense.

You can make her a feral shelter. The website below lists several designs. I think the second style, based on a Rubbermaid tub, is the most practical for people that don’t have much carpentry gear or knowledge.

But yes, if she is an unvaccinated outdoor cat, she is at high risk for a number of communicable diseases. Being friendly to humans has nothing to do with these risk factors.

Please, please, please spay her now. Please. I’m begging you. If you cannot afford it, find out the price and PM me. I will donate, and I’m sure others would as well. Please. There are too many kittens already who need homes (as you can see!) and she is old enough to be getting pregnant any day now. Please. Spay her.

As to the question you asked… it is possible, maybe even probable that she will survive the winter, but it is by no means certain. Feral cats do not always find shelter during the winter. They frequently die. If she is as small as you say, I would be very worried. If you absolutely cannot take her into your home, and you know of no one else who can, I would take her to a shelter. Right now, she is adoptable. The bigger she gets, the more that becomes untrue. And if the worst case scenario happens and she is put to sleep, it is a better death than freezing, which, I am sorry to say, I think is what will happen. She needs shelter, and she cannot give it to herself. If you cannot let her into your home, please find a way to get her indoors somehow.

And please, please spay her.

[quote=“miss_elizabeth, post:6, topic:605147”]

Please, please, please spay her now. Please. I’m begging you. If you cannot afford it, find out the price and PM me. I will donate, and I’m sure others would as well. Please. There are too many kittens already who need homes (as you can see!) and she is old enough to be getting pregnant any day now. Please. Spay her.

I have contacted the local ASPCA regarding getting her spayed. They will do it for free, as well as her shots. But I’m still waiting to hear back from them to see if this is the ideal time of year to do it. I understand that they’ll have to shave her belly and I don’t know if it’s wise for her to be outside in the cold with a shaved belly. Also, they have told me that they’ll take her in permanantly for a 50 dollar fee, which I am more than willing to pay. BUT, they have a waiting list for that and it’ll be spring before they’ll take her.

Can a friend keep her inside while she heals up? It doesn’t take long for the fur to grow back and incision to heal up. If she is shut in a bathroom or someplace small that’d be great–shouldn’t be any issues with litter use.

[quote=“rostfrei, post:7, topic:605147”]

What’s worse: having a shaved belly and maybe being a little cold until the fur grows back or getting knocked up and having to care for kittens in the winter?

[quote=“Minnie_Luna, post:9, topic:605147”]

Hmm, bare skin in 10 degree weather?? I think that would be pretty bad.

Something like this covered litter box with hinged door, with a blanket on the bottom, should serve as shelter against the elements.

Too bad you aren’t closer to Tennessee - I could use a barn cat. Mine keep ending up as house cats.


Sorry. One year, we had a particularly bad stretch of snow, then cold, then more cold, then more snow. When it all cleared out, we found a ginger cat, dead, curled up as close as he could get to our basement window and frozen stiff. (We never went into the basement–really it was a cellar–so couldn’t see him from that angle.)

He wasn’t even feral. He was a neighbor’s cat, and I’m sure she looked for him, and if we’d had any idea he was there we would have gotten him out. And he was a fat, hairy cat.

Catch that kitty, take her to the vet, get her spayed, and then keep her inside. Then she will still be cute and kittenish, but spayed, and you can find someone who will keep her.

Note that they don’t shave a whole lot, just a strip for the incision. But you do have to keep them inside for a few days (I forget how long) while they heal. I don’t know if the ASPCA would let her stay while recovering. You could ask.

I note that you called her your kitten. If you consider her your pet, you owe it to her to provide a little care. Otherwise she’s just a feral cat hanging out on your porch and you don’t need to feel responsible.

Seems to me that by the time you capture the kitty, have him/her fixed, and get her healed that she will not longer be feral. Why not just adopt it or adopt it out, if you can’t keep it in your apt.?

I also care for feral/outdoor cats. In Michigan, where it gets seriously cold.

Spaying: YES please do this. Both to kitten and mama cat, if you can. Otherwise you’ll be worrying about lots of strays, instead of just two. The agency I work withsays February is the month they get the most pregnant cats or queens with young litters in, so don’t wait until spring. That link has a section of caring for ferals/strays, BTW.

I don’t know how cold it is right now where you live…spayed cats should be kept warm and sheltered for a bare minumum of 24 hours. Three days is better. The anesthesia lowers their body temperature so they can chill very quickly. What I’ve done at times is keep them in my van in the traps, laying plastic down under the traps to protect the carpet. (The traps open at both ends, with a divider, so we can put food/water/litter in there without the cats escaping.)

Do NOT use a blanket or any sort of fabric inside an outdoor shelter. In winter, it will get wet and won’t dry out, or will freeze. Use straw. We make foam shelters and line them with mylar, which reflects body heat back and keeps the cats from frostbite, then put a little straw and catnip inside to entice them.

Cats need water too, especially if everything freezes - we make gruel out of canned cat food and warm water when it’s really cold.

I think it’s great that your ASPCA will do a free spay and shots! I hope you get them done, and find safe homes for them too.

I’ve always had a soft spot for stray animals and this cat is no different. I’ll do whatever I can for her, including getting her spayed and getting her shots in order. But the issue mainly is the temperature and her outdoor survival. I’m very limited as to what I can do, since I live in an apartment. I’m halfway tempted to just get a small cage and keep her inside at night and then let her out in the morning. I know the BF might suffer a bit, but I’m willing to discuss it with him.

Money is not an issue. I’m perfectly willing to spend money to make her life more comfortable. I’ve even thought about getting a heating pad and running a cord outside for her. But, I don’t know how safe that would be.

If money isn’t an issue, then perhaps best to hand her over to the ASPCA, if they’ll put her up for adoption?

Even if fed/vaccinated, spayed/neutered, outdoor cats lead a very high-risk life. And since you’re renting and presumably will move at some point, what then? It’s pretty difficult to move outdoor cats; many won’t stick around.

Unless you’re willing to take her in and make her a 100% owned cat, her chances for long-term survival are much better if she’s given a shot at having a “forever” home.

Turning her over the ASPCA is my ultimate goal, but I’ve been chatting with someone there and I was told that there is a waiting list before they can take her. It’ll likely be spring before they can take her in, for a 50 dollar fee…which I’m more than happy to pay. But before they’ll even add her to the waiting list, I have to get her spayed and vaccinated. I’m going to do it very, very soon. I’m just waiting to hear back from the lady at the ASPCA to find out the details.

As for the mother cat, I’d like to get her spayed too, but that may prove a bit more difficult. She shows up sporadically to be fed, sometimes a few weeks go by before I see her.

Sorry, I missed that part about them not being able to take her until spring.

Seems the females are more flighty and harder to catch than the males! Maybe if flatlined shows up, she’ll have some tips…I’ve trapped a whole lot of male cats around here, but the females are more wary, and like your mama cat, show up sporadically so it’s harder to get them.

I can’t speak for all people with cat allergies, but I used to be quite allergic to them. Then I got an indoor cat. Faced with constant exposure I developed a tolerance. You can minimize allergies by brushing a lot, getting a good air filter and constantly changing it, and keep kitty out of your bedroom (assuming the BF sleeps there).


I agree with the rest of the chiming in about going ahead with the spay now. I work for a shelter and while we used to to refer to springtime as “kitten season” there really is no such thing. Especially with outdoor cats who have a “spot” where they feel safe and fed, the next thing they do after food and shelter is breed. I’m afraid your kitten will end up with a litter of her own by February, and her momma will most likely show up with a new brood as well. TNR is just as busy all year round, our volunteers and staff who work with ferals are always busy, there is no slow down!

As far as a heating pad - a regular one for sore muscles, (household use) isn’t recommended, but there are lots of outdoor-rated heating pads and water bowls if you have the space for something like these: cat bed, or water bowl.

As far as letting her in at night, it’s a thought if your BF will be OK with it. I work with lots of people at the feline rescue who are allergic, but they’re here anyway! Many just take claritin or zyrtec every day, and a couple get allergy shots. Trying to get kitty into a cage every night will probably be impossible, but if you have a mudroom area or kitchen where you can put a screen door to keep her in, that could be possible.

Keep working with her to keep her friendly, which translates to adoptable. The more you can get her acting like a regular house cat by spring, the better. Even if the local humane society takes her, if she’s not adoptable (i.e. friendly enough) for regular off-the-street people to want to adopt her, she may be stuck there forever or, uh, not forever if it’s a traditional shelter.