As winter settles in, bringing frigid temperatures to the area, stray and feral cats are left to fend off the cold for survival.
Olivia Taylor is doing everything she can to help cats endure the winter weather conditions with her creative Do It Yourself (DIY) outdoor cat shelters. What were once vehicle tires are now three DIY cat shelters Taylor made in her garage. Stray cats are socialized to humans, while feral cats are wild cats with little to no human interaction.
“When it gets extremely cold during the winter there is a real possibility that cats might not be able to make it,” Taylor said. “I’ve been making outdoor shelters for three years, and I’ve helped quite a few cats with them.”
Although she had never used a reciprocating saw, Taylor taught herself to operate one in less than three hours. After she cut roughly 2 foot-wide holes in one end of the tires with the saw, she nailed cylinder-shaped wooden boards on each side of the tires.
Lastly, Taylor fills the tire with fine wood chippings that provide warmth and an insulation to the shelter.
“Before making these tire cat shelters this year, I had turned totes and Styrofoam coolers into shelters for the winter,” she said.
Hoping to save as many cats as possible this winter, Taylor said each shelter could hold two to three cats.
While the shelter can provide an enclosed, warm space for stray and feral cats that are unable to withstand extreme cold weather, a cat could still die if the temperatures remain frigid over an extended period of time. That’s why Taylor frequently checks her makeshift shelters for cats in dire need of warmer air.
The shelters have proven to be effective, as Taylor has found plenty of cold, sometimes malnourished cats over the past few winters. When she comes upon a cat in her outdoor shelters, Taylor nurses them back to health and brings them to local animal rescues where they are fed and stay indoors until adopted, fostered or transferred.
“There are a lot of stray and feral cats in Mitchell, and I want to help them in anyway I can," Taylor said. “I’ve had some mellow stray cats I’ve brought in from the cold, but there have been some very wild feral cats I’ve helped as well.”
Shelby Holmberg can attest to the volume of stray and feral cats roaming the Mitchell area. As the owner of a nonprofit animal rescue shelter, Fur Get Me Not Animal Care, Holmberg has taken in just over 100 cats through the entire year, which is close to an average annual capacity. However, Holmberg said there are plenty of more cats that are roaming the city of Mitchell.
Although the outdoor shelters can help save cats lives, Holmberg said too many of them could create overpopulation, along with spreading viruses among cats.
“The outdoor shelters are great, but one thing that’s important to note is to not make 1,000 of them and put them all over town near each other because then you’re just breeding feral cats,” Holmberg said.
Holmberg emphasized the importance of checking the makeshift shelters regularly to reduce the time cats are in the cold. But more importantly, she said securing stray and feral cats to have them properly vaccinated and neutered by small animal veterinarians or professionals is vital for the local cat population.
“There is a lot of work that comes with helping cats, but it’s a real necessity for the survival of our cats,” Holberg said.