Winter is a rough time in general, but it’s more so for street cats who prefer living out in nature. Kittens and aging cats are especially prone to a host of challenges when the temperature drops and the rainy season begins.
Opening up your garage for these furry fellows is an amazing solution for their predicament, and it wouldn’t be a hassle for you. Garages could provide a place to stay for these cats, but it’s often too cold for comfort. Fortunately, there are several ways to overcome that. From building a cat house, to installing the correct heating, you can certainly guarantee these cats wellbeing.
If you’re wondering how to keep cats warm in a garage, here are 9 useful tips you can use. Read on to get the full benefit of these tried-and-true expert tips.
Assess the Situation Correctly
A bit of planning always grants the best outcomes. This starts with taking a general look at the situation at hand.
The Size Of Your Garage
Is your garage wide and windy? or small and cozy? This is a good point to start from. Also, are there plenty of placement choices to select from? Or is there a single available spot?
Answering these fundamental questions should guide the rest of the arrangements.
This is another important consideration. Putting up a litter of cats can cost close to nothing, if you reuse home stuff, and provide the cats with domestic food.
If however, you’d like to set aside a cat-caring budget, then that could cover much. Getting a new cat house, cat food, treats, and toys is thoughtful. An occasional visit to the vet for vaccinations could be a worthwhile spending item as well.
Number Of Cats
This should guide the house selection process. A cat or two could easily fit in a small house, but with five or more, you’d need to provide two shelters at least.
The higher the number of cats, the more they’ll keep each other warm. This is a plus point, but care should be taken to make sure that they get along well.
Some cats, like Maine coons, are quite furry, and they come originally from cold places. Other short-haired cat breeds aren’t naturally endowed with that much hair. It would thus be harder for them to weather the cold.
This includes weathering the frosty weather. A healthy full-grown cat, that’s used to street-life, could stand temperatures as low as 32 degrees. Kittens and older cats could barely survive temperatures lower than 45 degrees.
Also, in cases of fog, blizzards, snow, or other unfavorable weather, a kitten would have much trouble finding its way back home. Its senses are still not fully developed, and the rough weather makes matters really hard.
So if there’s a kitten around, pay extra attention to keeping it safe and warm.
Thin cats are at a disadvantage when it comes to dealing with the cold weather. The fat layer around the cat’s body is a natural insulator from the outside temperature. In addition, it’s an energy reserve from where the cat could draw some extra warmth.
Skinny cats would need more elaborate arrangements in their housing and nutrition.
The Temperature Outside
October cold is so much different from December cold. And living in Alaska is certainly not the same as living in Texas.
If the temperature is bearably cold, and the weather isn’t too windy, then a regular cat shelter should suffice.
On the other hand, the temperatures could drop below zero, with a heavy blizzard outside. In that case, consider adding an oil radiator or warming pads. Also, keep the cats’ house raised from the ground.
This should ward off the harshness of the cold.
[Related Article: 4 Simple Ways To Keep Cats Off Any Outdoor Furniture]
Choose The Right House For The Cat
Work with what you have. There are many ideas for creating a warm shelter for cats, but basically, you shoes one of three methods.
DIY A Cat Shelter
If you’re handy with tools and materials, I’m pretty sure you’ll come up with a little palace for the cats. Even if you are a beginner, there are plenty of cat house DIY ideas you can try.
You don’t need to go overboard with the sizing though. Body heat would be dissipated in open spaces, and the wind could easily get inside and make it colder. A small 12x18x12 inch house should be sufficient for one cat.
If you have a larger crowd, of up to three cats, then go for a 14x18x24 inch structure. In case there are more cats around, you could build a couple of shelters. This is also a good option if the cats don’t get along too well.
Make sure the door of the house is large enough for an adult cat, but wouldn’t let in stray dogs or other animals.
Use insulating material on, under, and around the cat shelter. You don’t need to buy new from the craft shop. Hay, bubble wrap, aluminum foil, or styrofoam could do.
Repurpose Old Furniture
Cats really like making a home out of a closet or drawer. If you happen to have such old furniture, you can repurpose it into becoming a make-do cat shelter.
Buy a New Cat House
If you don’t have the time to build a cat house from scratch, and repurposing is also not an available option, then you can buy a readymade cat house.
Just bear in mind, that the top priority is to keep the cats warm, not entertained. That’s why a thick-walled cat house is the optimal solution.
Provide Some Bedding
Cats love sleeping on soft materials that they can burrow in. They keep them warm and provide some comfort in these freezing nights.
An old blanket, throw, or even towel should do. Some people happen to have camping gear or sleeping bags they no longer use. That too would be great.
Pick A Good Place For The Cats’ House
Choose a place that’s not facing the garage door. Opening and closing the garage would let in cold wind, and disrupt the temperature inside significantly. A more favorable spot would be the carport, where there are three walls around.
Another good spot is beside a naturally warm wall. The kitchen, the living room fireplace, the clothes dryer, or heating vents, are all possible places.
Try to choose an uncluttered spot where they wouldn’t be at risk. Heavy objects on shelves are prone to falling off when the cats play or explore. Also, cats are naturally curious, and the little adventurers could get themselves trapped in nooks and crannies.
You also don’t want your valuable stuff scratched or peed-on. So you might want to place the cats’ house away from that stuff.
[Related Article: How High Can A Cat Jump Without Getting Hurt]
Place The Cats’ House Above the Ground
There are two good reasons for that.
First, the floor is often made from concrete or tile, and both could seriously become freezing cold. Putting some distance between the cat’s house and the floor provides natural insulation by virtue of the air.
Second, on rainy days, the floor could fill up with water. You certainly don’t want all that rain water barging into the cats’ house. Even a little humidity would make them uncomfortable. Again, a raised cat shelter would be a better choice.
Cover The Cats’ House With A Blanket
If the garage is windy, and that can’t be avoided, then covering the house would be a good idea. It would also help in keeping the cat shelter warm and cozy.
An old blanket isn’t the only option for that. Pretty much any insulating material would do. This is the garage afterall, and chances are, you’ll find something that works!
Make sure that you don’t block the house’s entrance to let the cats move in and out freely. Also inspect the covering material for bugs or mold. If there’s such a possibility, then using a water-proof, easy-to-clean covering is best.
Make Sure The Cats’ Bedding Isn’t Wet
A wet bedding wouldn’t just be annoying and uncomfortable to the cats, it might actually affect their health.
Cats could catch a cold, and it easily escalates into a serious respiratory condition. There’s also the possibility of hypothermia, which is a life-threatening state. That’s why it’s essential to keep their surroundings clean and dry at all times.
Prevention is better than any cure, and that starts with the wise placement of the cats’ house. A raised location would keep the rain water away from their shelter and ward off the main reason that gets their bedding soggy.
Another cause of bedding wetness could come from the cats themselves. Kittens and some cats aren’t very careful with toilet protocol, and they could easily soil their bedding. The accumulation of such wet wastes is unhygienic of course, and it could lower the internal temperature of the house significantly.
Using waterproof materials for the bedding is recommended to minimize the possibilities of a wet bedding. On top of that, it’s much easier to clean, and that would keep the cats happy and healthy.
Install A Radiator In The Garage
When the temperatures drop to sub zero freezing points, it’s unlikely that covering the shelter would suffice. Even if the cats tolerate the cold, they’d be highly uncomfortable and riddled with anxiety.
In that case, it’s best to install a radiator in the garage. First and foremost, make sure it’s safe and pet-friendly. It should be designed to heat up large spaces for extended periods of time.
It’s worth noting that many commercial heaters wouldn’t stand that kind of usage. Often, they heat up, overload, have a fuse blown off, or cause higher damages. Heaters are notorious for blowing up and starting fires.
Safety always comes first, so choose a heater that’s ready to perform well under demanding conditions. Safety also extends to the cats. Being the natural explorers that they are, it’s expected that they would venture near the heater. Selecting a radiator with a protected body and wire frame is optimal.
A garage radiator should also be able to warm up a large space in a relatively short time. Here are some good options you could choose from.
[Related Article: Do Cats Go Into Heat In The Winter]
A portable oil heater is a good option if you have a medium sized garage. They often come with a host of safety features, plus a few conveniences like a remote control and timer.
Oil heaters aren’t terribly expensive, and if set aside $100, you could have a decent model. They do have a downside though, the body isn’t fully insulated, so they could be too hot to the touch.
You could deal with that by adjusting the temperature closer to the lower limit, and placing the heater out of the reach of kids or pets.
Box-shaped infrared radiators are among the most suitable for garage heating when there are pets running around. The good ones have safety features like a tip-over sensor, and an overheating sensor. They’re usually kid and pet friendly, as their body doesn’t heat up and pose a scalding risk.
Some of them come with a remote control for more convenience, which is a feature that’s always handy on a cold night. They’re a bit pricey, and cost around $300. Not a small bill, obviously, but they’ll be a good investment as a domestic appliance.
There’s a less costly alternative. Another practical radiator sells at about $170, but it’s rather basic, and doesn’t contain the full set of safety features.
Ceramic heaters are far more budget-friendly than the previous types. You could get a decent one for $60, and if the space is too big for it, you can install two. It would still be an economic purchase.
If your garage isn’t too big, there are small ceramic heaters that you could get for under $25. This might be optimal if you want to give the best care for the cats, while staying within a limited budget.
Use Heated Mats
Heated mats are typically used under the desks to warm up your feet on cold nights. You can put a heated mat inside the cats’ house, or right next to it. It only warms up to a cozy temperature, and doesn’t pose a scalding risk to the cats when they lounge around it.
They don’t use up too much electricity, as they only work on 50-100 watts. They’re not terribly expensive, and mostly sell at $35, but you might need to buy a couple of them if you have a bunch of cats in your garage.
Provide Your Cats With Nutritious Food
Cats get their energy from what they eat. A good quality cat food should supply the cats with the protein and nutrients they need to stay warm and healthy.
If your budget allows it, you could also buy the cats some treats. This should lighten up their mood, and make them feel better about their new surroundings.
Offering the cats delicious treats could also entice them to try their new shelter. Cats are naturally apprehensive about new places, but there are three things that can motivate them to step forward: food, playing, and a cat from the opposite sex. Treats are an easy option!
You might not know what their favorite flavor is at the outset, so it might be a good idea to get a variety pack of treats. They could each have a special taste, who knows?
A Few More Things
Keeping your cats indoors makes caring for them rather easy. For starters, they’d be under your sights most of the time. If they do any mischief, you’d be around to untangle them. This is obviously not the case when they are outdoors.
There are a few things you could do to provide outdoor cats with proper care, and that of course starts with food and shelter. But there’s more.
For example, during the snowing season, your neighbors could use chemicals to melt the ice surrounding their homes. That could be detrimental to the cats’ health, so it’s best to talk to your neighbors and ask them to use nature-friendly alternatives.
Make sure that the shelter is safe from interloping stray dogs or other animals. You can set up another kennel for these dogs if you like, but at a safe distance from the cats.
Cats like hiding in cars, as they often find solace in the warmth of the motor. Before starting your car make some noises to alert them.
And finally, take the cats to the vet for routine checks and vaccinations. Keep an eye on them for any signs of illness or even lethargy. Your early intervention would be much better for the little fellows. They’ll definitely love you for all that care and attention.