What to do with Henhouse Cat in Severe Winter Weather?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Barry Natchitoches, Nov 27, 2010.

  1. Barry Natchitoches

    Barry Natchitoches Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We have had a homeless kitten move into our backyard. She hangs around the outside of the henhouse at night, feasting on any mice that make the mistake of coming near that henhouse.

    She's turned out to be a good cat, overall. She mostly disappears during the daytime, but comes back every night for warm cat chow and wayward mice.

    I don't know where she is hiding, other than it is some well secluded place behind the henhouse. I built her a little cave out of bales of pine shavings -- it is comfortable and extremely well insulated. But she seems like she is afraid to even go into the little cave, and chooses instead to hide herself someplace else that we haven't found yet.

    Nights like this are bad enough -- it's about 30 degrees outside right now. She's hidden herself somewhere behind the henhouse, but comes out when I bring warm turkey soup and cat chow for her.

    But what do we do when it gets even colder?

    How cold can it get and a little cat without a real shelter make it?

    We cannot bring her into the house. Our house is small, and there I have both a wife, a little child and another cat living in here already. The two cats fight anytime they see each other. Besides, there is just no room for her inside the warm house, even just for a few nights. And she won't use the warm little cave I built her near the henhouse.


    At what temp MUST we figure out a place for her, and what do we do if she just cannot come inside?

    I do have the big dog pen that I sometimes put baby chicks in. I have thought about locking her up in there if the temps get brutal enough, and putting her in the shed where we keep our freezer. That shed has a small utility heater in it (the kind that is sometimes used in barns), and the heater is programmed to come on and go off based on room temperature. We could put food, water, a cat toy or two and a battery powered radio to keep her company, and check on her periodically during the night.

    I don't know -- what do you all recommend?
     
  2. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    All the barn cats just hide out in sheds or in a cardboard "cat box" on the porch. Our winters are usually 30's for lows, with a week or two of teens to 20's for lows. Nobody comes inside and everyone is fine.
     
  3. BlacksheepCardigans

    BlacksheepCardigans Chillin' With My Peeps

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    http://www.pacthumanesociety.org/core/WinterShelter.htm

    This
    style of box tends to work well - they like the little door for some reason.

    If you can possibly trap her and get her spayed, since you're feeding her (nutrition means ovulation, in female cats, and they usually get pregnant pretty quick once they're being fed) that would be great. LOTS of places will do free or low-cost feral spays and will tip the ear as well so if she's picked up as a stray they'll let her back out as a feral. While she's out they will typically do a full round of shots and ear mite meds, but if they don't you can medicate her as she's waking up if she won't let you touch her normally.
     
  4. Barry Natchitoches

    Barry Natchitoches Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Trapping her is not a problem -- she comes up to us and likes to be held. ESPECIALLY on cold nights like tonight. I must have spent 20 very cold minutes sitting on the lawn chair holding her at midnight, so I could give her a little warmth on this cold night.


    We're going to spay her sometime soon. We're figuring that we'll do it when it is really cold outside, so we can get her out of extreme cold at the same time she rehabilitates from the surgery. We're going to put her in our large dog cage in the heated shed during the healing process.
     
  5. BlacksheepCardigans

    BlacksheepCardigans Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If you go to a place that is experienced in feral spays, there usually isn't a recovery time. My vet, who does many spays and c-sections, gives the spayed animal back to you with a dot of superglue on her belly. Nothing else. No cone or bandaging or anything else. Cat spays, if you can catch them before they get pregnant the first time, only require a tiny incision and then they actually fish the uterus out with a crochet-hook-type tool. Release the ovaries, ligate the stump and let it slip back in, couple absorbable sutures and glue on the outside and the cat does beautifully. Some clinics ask you to keep them inside over one night but plenty have them wake up in their outside boxes.

    It's when they are already pregnant that it gets dicey and there's a much longer recovery time.

    If you want super-interesting video, this is a great one: . It really is a five-minute surgery; about the only thing faster is a cat neuter, which is so fast and easy that I am always tempted to do it myself!
     
  6. chickadiddle

    chickadiddle Out Of The Brooder

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  7. Dar

    Dar Overrun With Chickens

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    we can get as cold as -40*C on some winter nights. the barn cats do just fine. If your chickens are fine so is the cat. As long as she is out of a direct draft like the chickens she will be fine. Cats grow a winter coat if they are left outside in the winter. you may find on the cold days she may hang out in the coop if the winds are really bad
     
  8. Barry Natchitoches

    Barry Natchitoches Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:The henhouse is locked tight at dark, so the only way she could get inside with the hens is if she was in the henhouse when we locked it up.


    She actually did get locked up -- accidentally -- one night with the hens. She went inside the henhouse and was on mouse patrol inside the plywood egg laying "room" we built the hens (for privacy in laying) when we locked the henhouse up for the night the night before. As a result, we didn't see her till the next morning when we went to open up the henhouse. The minute we opened up the henhouse, she darted out of that plywood box and out of the henhouse itself. She was very frightened. I think the hens or the rooster put the fear of God in her.


    Anyhow, my point is that she cannot go in and out of the henhouse on her own at night. It is built in a way that it is either completely open or else locked tight. No middle ground. But on the other hand, the fact that it is built to be locked tight protects the hens really well from predators.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2010
  9. sharol

    sharol Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I suspect she is afraid of being trapped in your shavings shelter that you built for her. She has survived on her own by being aware of her surroundings. She may have a shelter that she has found that feels safe to her. There are lots of risks to outdoor cats beyond the weather, but some cats just aren't happy confined in a building of any sort.
     
  10. jenjscott

    jenjscott Mosquito Beach Poultry

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    You need to start giving her her warm food farther and farther in her little cave. Start with it just outside the cave, then each time set it a little farther back inside. she should soon go in gladly.
     

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