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Thread: caring for an outdoor only cat

  1. #1
    Brett William Moore Will M's Avatar
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    caring for an outdoor only cat

    My wife & I have had cats for 18 years. The first one we had was a cat who technically belonged to a neighbor but became our cat because he liked us better (she has lost of cats & he liked quiet). He spend the majority of time outdoors. He would come in for food, pets & long sleeps. We would bring him in if the weather was bad. We did make a box on the back porch if it was cold or wet and we weren't home. The box is made of wood & is 2 x 3 feet x 2 feet high. It is rainproof. Its on our back deck sheltered a bit from the wind. It has a 40 watt light bulb to generate a small amount of heat & has a bunch of old towels on the floor. This worked fine for our old cat & now for one of our current cats who is an indoor/outdoor cat.

    Now, a few weeks ago a new cat showed up in the neighborhood. I thought it was maybe because its been so cold & we do have food outside for the indoor/outdoor cat. Maybe we are on the edge of his territory & he wanted to eat something to stay warm as he made his way back home. Well this cat has been showing up almost every day & the last 2 nights has slept in the cat box. He's out there right now fast asleep. I am starting to think he doesn't have a home.

    He is a bit skittish & trots off if you make sudden moves or if you approach him. He doesn't growl or hiss. He has shown signs of marking our yard as his territory but has not shown any signs of getting into fights with either of our two cats who go outside (one male & one female). Its all fine. I'm happy to provide him with some food & a warm bed. Except I wonder what happens if it gets really cold. If I'm going to take on the responsibility to take care of him at what point do I need to provide better shelter for him? If he gets comfortable enough with us to come inside then I can just bring him in if its really cold. But what if he won't come inside, its 5 degrees outside with bitter winds and the cat box just isn't warm enough?

    Does anyone have experience with outdoor only cats? What do you do in the winter? Any help is much appreciated.

    - Brett
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  3. #2
    Member TeamCasey's Avatar
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    Re: caring for an outdoor only cat

    We do! We're rehabilitating one right now. We showed up about a year ago. He wouldn't come up to us for 2 months. He's an unneutered male. I wanted to chase him off since we have a male cat and 2 females and I thought it was unfair. The warm hearted people in the household won out though so we're working with him. We've gained his trust over time and I challenge him a little more each day. I'm the hardass in the house and he's sort of adopted me and sleeps on my feet often. Weird! Either I'm a big marshmallow or he sees me as an alpha figure. LOL .... probably both.

    Anyway, we built two outdoor shelters for him because he wouldn't come in the house. He was liviing on our deck. One was made out of a Rubbermaid container, with a box and blanket inside. (A hole cut in the box and container for a door.) We did the same with a large cooler. I sawed a hole in it - big enough for the cat, too small for raccoons. Some good ideas here.

    http://www.urbancatleague.org/WinterCatShelters

    http://www.alleycat.org/ShelterGallery

    I put down a rule that he can't come in the house until he is fixed, has a dental problem fixed and has shots. Well, it got cold and I lost again. He finally got the courage to come in and spends more time indoors with us then our own cats. Thank goodness he used the litterbox right away because he freaks out if you try to pick him up. I'm the only one that can do it if it's quiet and no one is around. The other humans are afraid to try so I'm working with him on that too. The key is to not let him win but let him know he's safe and I'm not hurting him. He's not aggressive but fearful. This training would go better with treats but not an option yet.

    I've been PROMISED by the adopter that he will go to the vet the week after Christmas. If that happens then I'll be O.K. with all this. He has a bad tooth and we make cat food milkshakes for him in the blender. Well, I don't ..... but my warm-hearted adopter does. I won't admit to her that I like poor old Stanley ..... but I do.

    We found a great place here in Cincinnati that specializes in feral cats.

    http://www.ohioalleycat.org/ Check them out.
    Pots and Kettles

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    Member TeamCasey's Avatar
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    Re: caring for an outdoor only cat

    All of our cats have come to us as orphans in some way.

    Tia was a barn kitten. (RIP - lived a long pampered lifestyle, she was a princess and our snuggler)

    Kitty was abused and my roommate kidnapped her. (Elderly and tough as nails - would take off your hand if you pet her more than 3 times. She lived a long, happy life but really only trusted 2 of us. She loved potato chips and slept between my feet. Her nickname was "B itchKitty" because of her temperament.)

    Lingy was a downtown city stray. ("Old Blue Eyes" RIP 2013 - lived to an elderly age and was best friend to the little guy in our house. Slept with him as an infant and saw him through to his teenage years before she passed. Dumber than a box of rocks but I loved her too. )

    Colt, Sadie and Tigery came to us when someone passed away. Colt is my favorite ..... also dumber than a box of rocks, but HUGE and lovable. His mother is Sadie and she is our independent daredevil (Tiny and opposite personality). Very smart, has 50,000 lives - climbs to the neighbors roofs, climbs trees and there can't be a mole or mouse left in the neighborhood. We lost Tigery ..... I suspect a coyote.

    Stanley - just showed up in our woods. He's a work in progress.

    Hard to keep them indoors when they all came to us from outdoors. We limit their time outside to daylight hours. Other than hunting, they stick close to the house.

    Except for Tia, all of them have had different social challenges. My approach - a little toughness for some, extra coddling for the timid, love for all.
    Last edited by TeamCasey; 12-13-2013 at 08:00 AM.
    Pots and Kettles

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    Member medford's Avatar
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    Re: caring for an outdoor only cat

    We had outdoor cats growing up from time to time. The one that stuck around the longest stayed outside about 99% of the time. There were a couple of spots he'd crawl up in (like under our elevated porch) in the winter. We were backed up to the woods so there were times we'd go several days w/o actually seeing him, and he kind of split time b/w our house and the neighbors house as they had an indoor/outdoor cat, so there was usually food outside and both cats would eat at each place.

    When my father sold the place he left the cat behind where he remained a dull house cat b/w the same neighbors and the new owners of the house I grew up in. We had a hot tub on the elevated deck that sat on a platform below said elevated deck. Even on the coldest days that spot remained fairly warm and where you could often find him on a snowy day. The cat was about as low maintance as you can get. If you walked out on the back deck and sat down to read a book, you'd often find him greeting you after 10-15 minutes. Food was placed out every day and eventually got ate by one of the cats. We'd find birds and moles on our doorstep, the occasional rabbit, often chipmunks, etc...

    Don't know about all cats, but we didn't really have to do anything special for that particular cat during the winter; he loved being outside in the snow.

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    Member cumberlandreds's Avatar
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    Re: caring for an outdoor only cat

    Growing up our cats were outdoor/indoor cats. Mostly outdoor. They had a basement they could easily get into though and it wasn't a problem for us. I would say if you can give them a shelter like a doghouse with a blanket and a water dish in it. If you want to go to the trouble you could always buy a heated water dish to make sure it doesn't freeze.
    Reds Fan Since 1971

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    Member TeamCasey's Avatar
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    Re: caring for an outdoor only cat

    Wow, I was long winded over a sleepy cup of coffee.

    One thing I would not recommend is straw or hay. Not a fan due to respiratory/ urinary concerns. Old pillows, blankets, towels or clothing work fine for insulation.
    Pots and Kettles

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    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: caring for an outdoor only cat

    When I was growing up in Iowa we lived just outside town and we had this large metal garage where we kept a pickup truck and a tractor amongst other things. We also had outdoor cats and we made sure during the winter that they had food and water every day next to our house and left them to their own devices. They pretty much stayed in the big garage or next to the house.
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    Brett William Moore Will M's Avatar
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    Re: caring for an outdoor only cat

    thanks guys. this is all very helpful.

    TeamCasey: I too have developed a "daylight only" rule for my 2 cats that go outdoors. In the morning I don't let them out until the sun has been up for a while. When its 3 hours before dark its time to round them up & get them inside. Since other cats & wildlife are active at dusk/dawn this seems to have cut back on the number of times the male cats gets into fights & has greatly improved my peace of mind.
    .

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    Member TeamCasey's Avatar
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    Re: caring for an outdoor only cat

    Exactly ..... our independent roof climbing Sadie is the only one that fights curfew. Then she shows up scratching at my window in the middle of the night. (I'm on the second floor and she climbs to the roof to do this.)

    It freaked us out when we first discovered her adventures but we've found that she is as creative getting down from heights as she is exploring them.
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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: caring for an outdoor only cat

    Quote Originally Posted by Will M View Post
    thanks guys. this is all very helpful.

    TeamCasey: I too have developed a "daylight only" rule for my 2 cats that go outdoors. In the morning I don't let them out until the sun has been up for a while. When its 3 hours before dark its time to round them up & get them inside. Since other cats & wildlife are active at dusk/dawn this seems to have cut back on the number of times the male cats gets into fights & has greatly improved my peace of mind.
    That's what we do, Our outdoor guy has all day and then boom he's in at dusk

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    Member TeamCasey's Avatar
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    Re: caring for an outdoor only cat

    One of the tricks I did for getting them in at night was treats. I put a coin in an empty soda can. I would shake it and give them a treat if they came. They associated the sound with treats.

    Works for everyone except ........ Sadie. She can't be fooled.
    Pots and Kettles

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    Please come again pedro's Avatar
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    Re: caring for an outdoor only cat

    One of my cats will come running inside at the mere utterance of the word "treats". The other one has to be enticed by the threat of being locked out all night. Turn off the lights and shut the doors without trying to coax her in and 10 minutes later she'll be at the back door like clock work.
    Get your nunchucks and the keys to your dad's car. I know where we can get a gun

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  18. #13
    Member Spitball's Avatar
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    Re: caring for an outdoor only cat

    Quote Originally Posted by pedro View Post
    One of my cats will come running inside at the mere utterance of the word "treats". The other one has to be enticed by the threat of being locked out all night. Turn off the lights and shut the doors without trying to coax her in and 10 minutes later she'll be at the back door like clock work.
    I use operant conditioning to get our cat indoors. Each time I feed our cat, I make the same "pisst, pisst, pisst" sound. Now, when I make the noise, she comes running.
    "I am your child from the future. I'm sorry I didn't tell you this earlier." - Dylan Easton


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