Winter Storm Survival Kit for Cats

  • 01 of 03

    Winter Storm Survival Kit for Cats

    Photo of Cat Warmed by Fireplace
    Cat Warmed by Fireplace. photo © Getty / Michael Westhoff

    If there is one consistent truth about weather, it is that it is almost always inconsistent and unplanned for. The first sign of stormy Winter weather coming may be too late to start planning. Fall is a better time. Your Winter storm kit may be stored in a large closet, a basement, an attached garage, or an unused room. Although a shed or a detached garage may have more room, if you are snowed in, you may not be able to get through for the needed supplies quickly enough, if at all. This article...MORE is written for a worst-case scenario: a major winter storm lasting a week or longer. If its ferocity approaches the massive storm of February, 2011, you can expect blizzards, hail, snow and ice, and lengthy power outages. You will not be able to travel, so prepare to hunker down at home and ride it out.

    Provide Warmth During Power Failure

    In our worst-case scenario, there will be a power failure of indeterminate time, so you should prepare for it up front. If you are lucky enough to have an emergency generator, you may not be faced with the hazards of a power failure. However these tips are written with the assumption most people do not have generators. The biggest potential for danger during freezing weather both for cats and for humans is hypothermia. The first rule is to keep everyone in the family - human and pets - together in the same room, for shared body warmth. Logically, it would be a room with with a fireplace or wood stove. If you do not have a fireplace or wood stove, you will need to make do with substitutes. The essentials you will need for heat:

    • Fireplace or Wood Stove
      Most homes in areas with extreme winters have either fireplaces or wood-burning stoves. You should have an ample supply of wood to last a week or longer. Pressed wood logs will take up less space, and will burn up to three hours. Be sure to have adequate ventilation in either case.
    • Mylar Blankets Compare Prices
      Humans can use Mylar Blankets inside sleeping bags or wrap up in one on a rug or other soft surface. Be sure to cover your head too, as suggested in this article.

      Line cardboard boxes with pieces of Mylar Blankets for your cats, then pad with old towels and blankets. If there is space for cat crates, you could use blankets on the floor of the crate and tape Mylar Blanket around the outside.

      Attach Mylar Blanket material to moldings around windows with duct tape to keep cold air from entering the home.

      Routinely wrap insulating material around your outdoor water pipes to keep them from freezing. While you're at it, use plumber's tape to wrap all your interior water pipes. The last thing you'll need is water all over the floor from a burst pipe.

    • Protect Cats Medications
      Once the power goes out, Keep perishables in the refrigerator and freezer as long as the appliance stays cold inside. Keep the doors closed as much as possible. Once the cold compartments start to warm, you'll need an ice chest. You can prepare it in advance with the ice in your refrigerator. Otherwise, you might be able to get clean snow. You'll need to keep absolute essentials in it, such as liquid medicines for your cats. Alternately, you could use a box lined with Mylar Blanket material. If you have a wood-burning stove, you can set a pan of water on top to heat for warming up the Ringers to the cat's normal body temperature.

    Light and Communication

    Even daylight hours can be dark during a power failure, especially with windows covered. Thanks to LED technology, safe substitutes are available for lighting without the danger of lighting a candle.

    • Battery Operated LED Lanterns
      There are a number of different "LED camping lanterns," which are powered by batteries, with prices ranging from $10 to $25 or more. Be sure to buy plenty of spare batteries. Compare Prices
    • LED Flashlight
      If you need to look in a dark closet for supplies, you will need a flashlight, and LED flashlights work better than the old-fashioned bulbs. A word of caution, though: Never aim an LED flashlight into anyone's eyes, human or animal, and never let children play with them.
    • LED Candles
      LED candles are big around my house no matter what time of the year. It should go without saying, never burn real candles with cats in the house. The only candles I use are purely for decoration on the dining room table, and then only during the holidays. Most of the LED candles sold today are also made of wax and look extremely lifelike. Along with the higher-powered LED Lanterns, they can be useful for helping to light the safe room where you will be staying. Compare Prices
    • Emergency Radio
      One of the best emergency radios I've seen is the Eton American Red Cross FR360 SOLARLINK, which was recommended also by David Sweet. One of the beauties of this radio is that it also can be used to charge your cell phone. 
    • Cell Phone
      I am almost paranoid about keeping my cell phone charged at all times, and I hope my readers are too. I even have a car charger for both of my cell phones (yes, I have two). During a storm of the magnitude we're contemplating, we'll want to check on friends and loved ones, and we'll also need to be able to call 911 or our veterinarian's office in case of a cat's emergency. So, always keep your cell phone charged, only use it during emergencies during this storm, and have a backup source for charging it. In addition to the Eton SOLARLINK emergency radio mentioned above, there are other emergency chargers for cell phones available at various prices. Compare Prices
    Continue to 2 of 3 below.
  • 02 of 03

    Essentials for Your Cats During Winter Storm

    Young Again Zero Carb Cat Food
    Young Again Zero Carb Cat Food. Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy

    Essentials for Your Cats

    We've taken care of the heat and communication for our "safe room," but still need to address the essentials for our cats. They are much the same as their daily needs. Plan on rotating supplies like food and cat litter back into your regular supply on occasion, depending on useful shelf life.

    A note about changing cat food and litter: Don't. As you know by now, cats hate change of any kind, and during times of stressful change, such as riding out a winter storm, the...MORE last thing you want to do is to change anything else, unless absolutely necessary.

    Water and Food

    • Drinking Water and Bowls
      I would recommend a supply of two gallons of water per cat, to allow for spillage and/or evaporation. So for my six cats, twelve gallons should be more than enough. If we should run out, our local drinking water is about the purest to be found. If there is any doubt, water purification tablets can be added to the water, to be on the safe side. Compare Prices
    • Without power, your automated cat fountain will be useless. I would suggest providing stainless steel drinking bowls instead. I prefer the wide-based, no tip variety. Compare Prices
    • Canned Food
      Canned food contains up to 78% water, so it should be the first kind of food to set aside. The amount will depend on your cats' daily ration. My five male cats share five 5-ounce cans of cat food a day, so I would set aside 35 cans of food for an emergency. (Keep in mind that this is in addition to whatever happens to be on the shelf containing their regular supply.) Currently, they are enjoying Natural Balance Chicken and Green Pea Formula, alternating with Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Feline Formula (both are grain-free). A seven-day supply costs me about $30.

      Most canned cat food today comes in cans with ring-top pull-off lids. However keep a spare manual can opener on hand in case yours comes in the plain cans.

      Although the shelf life of most canned cat food can be as long as two years, rotate your emergency stash back into the regular supply about twice a year.

    • Dry Cat Food
      A 10-pound bag of dry cat food lasts a little longer than two months for my six cats. Jenny eats mostly dry food only, and the five boys eat mostly canned, supplemented with a small amount of dry. I'd say four pounds would be more than enough for one week, as three out of my six cats need to lose some weight. Your mileage may vary, depending on whether your cats eat solely dry food.

    Cat Litter

    With one caveat, avoid changing your cat litter for your emergency stash. The exception might be World's Best Cat Litter, which is corn based. It has been reported by some users who live in cold moist climates, or warm, moist, climates, that WBCL sometimes gets moldy during inclement weather.

    Extras for the Cats

    When one day seems much like the one before, cats can quickly become bored, or even depressed.

    Feliway Spray

    The first thing I'd keep on supply is Feliway Spray. If you already have the plugin, that's fine, but keep in mind that with a power failure, you'll need a backup. I am sold on the pheromone action Feliway has on calming cats. I habitually spray it on my cats' bedding, inside their crates when traveling, especially to the vet, and in the bedroom of a particularly stressed cat.

    Interactive Cat Toys

    Playing with an interactive toy with your cat is one of the best ways for both of you to work off that housebound energy in a positive way, and to help prevent or cure the inevitable stress. da Bird seems to be a universal favorite. However, stop before your cat becomes too tired, or the play may backfire on you.

    Play-Alone Toys for Cats

    Also provide plenty of play-alone toys for those times when you might be napping, reading, or otherwise occupied. Those are the times that cats get bored and a bored cat is sometimes a destructive cat. Although it isn't necessary to buy extras of the high-priced toys, I'd suggest stocking up on extra catnip cigars, though Compare Prices, and possibly some extra toy mice.

    You should be well prepared now for riding out that "perfect winter storm" with your cats, and if it should actually come, you and your cats should emerge relatively unscathed. If you also have outdoor cats or feed a few feral cats in your yard, read on further.

    Continue to 3 of 3 below.
  • 03 of 03

    Protect Outdoor Cats in Your Yard from a Winter Storm

    Picture of Gray Tabby Cat in Snow
    Picture of Gray Tabby Cat in Snow. Photo Credit: © iStock Photo/Nikolay Stoilov

    Do you feed feral cats in your yard? Do you have one or more cats who are outdoor-only? If your answer is "yes" to either question, you'll need to also protect those cats from the dangers of a freezing winter storm. It doesn't take long for a cat to suffer frostbite or hypothermia. Both are serious conditions, and if you are snowed in, you may not be able to reach your veterinarian. You will need to provide them shelter, food, and water during a winter storm.

    Shelter From the Cold

    A shed, garage,...MORE or barn would make an ideal shelter for feral cats and outdoor owned cats. It is almost unanimous that straw is the best bedding for keeping cats warm, since hay or blankets trap moisture. The hay can become moldy, and the blankets will be cold and damp. If you use a garage, be extremely careful of antifreeze leaks. Antifreeze with ethylene glycol is extremely toxic, and also sweet-tasting and attractive to cats.

    Lacking a suitable building, use your inventiveness for a structural shelter. How about under a porch or a high crawl space under your house? Since cold and frost flows down, overhead cover is usually more important than four walls, for shelter from cold. Lacking any of the above, you'll need to be inventive in designing a small shelter for outdoor cats. Here's one example:

    Foam-Insulated Cardboard Packing Boxes

    Appliances such as washers, dryers, and refrigerators usually come in well-insulated cardboard boxes. If you don't have large ones like that, you can make do by taping smaller boxes together to approximate the larger sizes. You'll need two boxes, one approximately three to four inches larger than the other. Lay the larger box with its open side on top. Fit foam packing material to the bottom - either the solid foam or foam pellets. Securely tape the smaller box's top closed, then set the smaller box inside the larger box, bottom side down. Fill in all spaces between the boxes with foam packing material, using a solid piece in the side facing you. (This will be the side with the door opening.) Using a carpenter's pencil or a wide permanent marker, draw an opening about six inches to a side, starting about two inches from the ground. Using a sharp knife cut the door opening through all layers. While holding the foam securely in place, tape well around the entire opening. Line the back part of the house with straw for bedding, and put food and water bowls in the front on either sides of the door. Since storms often come with wind, consider nailing or tying a box to a fence, or pounding stakes into the ground around it

    Before I rescued her, my Jenny was a vagrant, semi-feral young cat, who came to me looking for attention and food. During the cold, rainy California Winter, she could not come indoors yet, as my husband had terminal cancer, and her presence would have been too disruptive to our other cats. I provided her with shelter in the form of a medium dog-sized Igloo Dog House Compare Prices on the deck of our former home. It was large enough to hold a sleeping bed, as well as food and water dishes. Read more suggestions from readers on Keeping Feral Cats Warm During Cold Weather.