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Cold weather, outdoor cats, microwavable disks?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hello fellow cat lovers!

I am a new member, don't use the internet much except to read my favorite newspaper, and this is the first forum of any kind I have used. I hope to get help from those of you who have lots of experience raising cats, because I am a novice, especially at raising outdoor cats. I am retired and moved to the tiny Kansas town in which I was born after years of living in New York City and Europe. Quite a change, but I absolutely love it here.

I hope those of you in either rural settings or urban settings who have outdoor cats in cold climates can help me. Does anyone have experience with those microwavable discs made by Snuggle Safe? I've seen them advertised in a Revival Animal Health catalog. They are supposed to stay warm for 12 hours--but is that indoors or outdoors? Do they really work? They are expensive and I would need 4-6 of them. Any other ideas? Other brands?

I'm sure many of you are going "Why not let them inside?" or "Don't you have a garage?" so, I will explain my situation, if you have a little time to read this.

Last winter I fed a lovable stray. Enjoyed her so much that I decided to adopt her even though it turned out she was pregnant.

I have an indoor cat who, in spite of trying everything the books and common sense said, would never accept this new cat. Fortunately my bedroom, bath, and the office are down a hallway that has a hall door, so I was able to close off those two rooms in order to keep the very pregnant new one inside out of the cold.

My plan was to let her have her litter inside, socialize the kittens and give them away. Unfortunately the day she decided to have them, she streaked out when I opened the outside door. She had five kittens under the back porch of an old uninhabited house a block away.

Finally at 7-1/2 weeks, she brought them up and of course they were wild as March hares. A few weeks later, Mama got spayed. Then in August they were somewhat tamed and five months old so I had the four females spayed and the male neutered. And now I cannot bear to part with a one of them.

Now it is fall going into winter in Kansas and starting to get cold. I built them a hay bale fort outside my back door, with an old piece of decking as a floor, covering the bales with cloth so they wouldn't get so dirty (three are long hairs and I'm always busy enough getting sandburs and seeds out of their hair!). I laid old shelving across the bottom bales, then set more bales on the shelving, and covered all with a very heavy tarp, leaving an opening. The space is very clean and I have a water supply inside. They do use this fort, thank goodness! It is definitely wind protection and does provide an improvement on the temperature, but I want to also try to provide a heat source for when Kansas temps go down to near zero.

As you can imagine, a heat lamp is not safe (a resident some blocks away placed a heat lamp near straw and had a fire last year).

You might wonder why I don't let them in the house or put them in a garage. #1, I live with my 88 year-old mother and she already deals with one cat underfoot and I fear that she would trip and fall if there were any more cats in the house!

#2, after 6 months of trying, our older indoor cat still gets furious and enraged with the outdoor Mama, let alone five others! The indoor cat was so enraged that she bit me severely, with two doctor visits and antibiotics necessary. So on these two counts alone, sharing the house is not an option.

The first night that the temperatures dropped about 30 degrees to 26, I did entice them into the back two rooms. But in spite of being tame, two of my cuddlers just panic when inside. I spent half the night comforting them and peeling them off the back door.

Although I feel they are safe outside with Mama (who is smart, brave and a wonderful mother), I am uncomfortable leaving just two young ones out by themselves. We do not have a fence, nor can we afford to build one. There are skunks and possums--yup, this is farmland territory, "city" population about 300!

#3 There is no garage, and our funds, as retirees, are limited.

Thank you so much for any replies to this new thread!

alliecallie aka "Leann"
Writing for:
Little Gray (Mama), Silky, Butterscotch, DT (Deep Trouble), Maizie (yep, yellow as Kansas wheat, but also a 30's name and she looks a little like Betty Boop), and Fluffa.
post #2 of 15
I think they will be just fine with combined body heat and a good shelter. However, I have a plug in pad that warms up when they sit on it. So they have a little extra warmth. It does not get "hot", so won't cause a fire. If you have a nearby plug, that night help.

Otherwise, one microwave disc may be enough for all the kitties, as they will snuggle together. You can also put uncooked rice in an old sock and microwave it. I have never done this, but there is more info on the pregnant cat care thread, at the top.

You have done a fine job with this little family. The key was getting them all spayed/neutered. Welcome to TCS (The Cat Site)!
post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much for your reply. I do think I will start with 2 of the discs. I discovered that they are a lot cheaper at Revival Care than at Drs. Foster/Smith. Now that I have good advice, I look forward to exploring this forum and finding answers already online. And thanks for the compliment about taking care of my little family. I have gotten tons of grief about keeping all five. But by the time most of them were really tame, I had fallen in love with each and every one of them. I have two super cuddlers, another one who is totally tame but not a cuddler, and two who are so-so. Both of them still resist being picked up, but if I do so they will tolerate petting and then want off my lap. These two are much better than a few months ago. I couldn't give any of the five away, even at 3 months, because noone could catch them!
post #4 of 15
Good luck to your and your herd of kitties. It sounds like you have provided a snug outdoor place for them to be in the cold months.
Welcome to TCS!
post #5 of 15
Be sure to wrap those disks in a towel or otherwise cover them. They are very hot when first coming out of the microwave.
post #6 of 15
Snuggle Safe disks are excellent. Just bear in mind that in very cold conditions, they do not hold heat for the full 8 hours. Well insulated shelters will help to keep the heat in, though.

Rice socks aren't the best choice for this situation since they only hold heat for 2-3 hours under indoor conditions. This makes them very good for neonatal kittens' nests, but they would not be useful outdoors in the winter.
post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks to all who wrote in about the efficacy of those microwave disks. Yesterday I ordered two of them to start with. I plan to create pockets in an old comforter and lay them on something thick so the heat doesn't dissapear onto the floor. I too was concerned about the heat source being too hot for their skin, no burns wanted. You guys are great! alliecallie.
post #8 of 15
Actually I think it is YOU who is really great to go to such lengths to ensure your kitties are comfortable in the cold.

Well done.
post #9 of 15
Yes, I agree. You are a great cat mama and clearly care about them alot. Good luck and keep us posted.

P.S. I love Kansas.
post #10 of 15
Honestly, you can get better results just using straw for bedding. Straw if kept dry is insulating and when it gets really cold, the cats burrow down under the straw (you will only usually see their heads) to keep warm. Straw is cheaper and again if not wet does not create a fire hazard.
post #11 of 15
Someone in my cat rescue accidentally put 50 minutes instead of 5 minutes on her microwave when heating the discs, and exploded them. It was impossible to clean the microwave, so they ended up replacing it. So stay nearby as you heat those discs!
post #12 of 15
You could also provide the fort with an old-style down or fiberfill jacket or sleeping bag. Once the heating discs warm up the jacket, the cats' own body temp will keep things warm! I know - years ago, I lived in a camper in a mining camp in the Sierra, and used a denim-bag with heated rocks at the bottom of hollow-fill sleeping bags for my family & we all stayed toasty warm throughout the night.
BTW, you are a hero for not only taking care of those precious kitties, but for living with your mother as well! I am glad that you kept all of them, which freed up other homes for kitties in the kill-shelter, etc! My sister wanted to help out with Katrina victims/deployed servicemen, and the way that worked, was the no-kill shelter adopted "regular surrenders" to my sister, which freed up cages for cats from NO - I think that the same theory applies to your situation!
post #13 of 15
You are wonderful for caring for all these cats. I don't know if anyone pointed you to this link but it might help. http://www.neighborhoodcats.org/info/wintershelter.htm

I just rescued a small kitty last week from under our wood shed. He can't be more than 6 weeks old. I'm worried about him going out in the winter too which is inevitable because we have 7 dogs and two doggie doors with access to the outside. I do hope he will know enough to come back home.
post #14 of 15
The straw works great! I just bought a bale of hay to stuff my outside dogs house and made new cat shelters for the ferals and put hay in them and the cats love the hay. I can tell that they have used them cause they have indentions in them. My dog loves his too, I used to put blankets in his and he would take the blanket out and drag it all over the yard, since I put the hay in there, he gets in there and snuggles in.
post #15 of 15
How wonderful for you to care for this lovely family!! My gram (now deceased and much missed) managed and cared for a feral colony - more care than management - and straw was great. My grandfather would put downfill comforters inside the barn/buildingas well and they would snuggle there. There was electricity in the barn - tho the colony kind of took over post cessation of real farming operations which were more a 1930's-50's thing. We would trap and neuter but alas, ppl who knew of my gram's place sometimes dropped cats there when no-one was home (and since both my grandparents worked in addition to farming, that was often) so the population was not nec'ly controlled even with trapping and s/n that we all did. It was this process that led to my developing "skills" as a bottle baby mama, sigh!!

Congrats on your work and you are a true kitty angel!! Any pictures of your brood?
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