Caring for Stray Animals this Winter

By Amari D. Pollard

Fluffy coats and leather boots are starting to make appearances as the cold weather gradually returns to Syracuse. With the winter months looming overhead many are preparing for the worst by restocking their warm gear, but not everyone is so lucky.

Although it is impossible to determine how many stray cats and dogs there are in the United States, the ASPCA estimates cats alone range up to 70 million. Rather than waiting to see a stray animal suffer during the blasphemous Syracuse winter, there are multiple ways you can help them to better survive the long months of excessive snow.

Provide Shelter

If you do end up seeing a stray animal your first reaction may be to call a shelter, but Shelter Director at the Humane Association of CNY Christine McNeely says sending them to a shelter might be detrimental to their health. “It’s kind of a thin line because people want to bring them into us because they’re starving and it’s cold; but it can be very difficult for them,” said Christine. “You obviously want to help take care of the cat but at the same time it puts a lot of stress on them — to go from living outside to putting them in a cage…and being in that environment can be pretty terrifying.”Homemade shelters are simple and easy to make, they can be made out of almost anything: a sturdy cardboard box, plastic garbage can or clothes bin. Create an entryway in the side of the shelter, just big enough for the animal to enter so that the bad weather can stay outside the “housing”.

The shelter should be large enough to fit a number of animals in there comfortably, but shouldn’t be too tall or wide. The smaller the size the more body heat they can retain.

Straw is the best material to line the shelter because it not only allows animals to burrow, but it doesn’t hold onto excess moisture. Blankets, towels and newspapers may seem like efficient resources for the shelter but they get wet easily and freeze.

When it’s all put together, place the shelter in a location that’s easy to spot so it doesn’t require too much searching. And don’t forget to check up on the shelter every now and then to clean it.

Food and Water

Dry food is a great source of extra calories and nutrition, and so is canned food as well; but don’t put out canned food as much because it’s higher in liquid content and may freeze during the colder temperatures. To keep the water from freezing put it in a container that is deep and wide.

You don’t have to place the food and water within the shelter, but just close enough so the animals can reach it without compromising their comfort.

The feeding and water stations should be protected. A creative way to do this is by building another shelter and placing it two feet away from the other one. Then create a canopy of sorts (tarps are cheap and are perfect as a canopy) between them by securing a wide board from one roof to the other. The food and water can either be placed under the canopy, or in the other shelter all together.


Stray animals are always being dropped off at animal shelters in the winter, and space quickly starts to dwindle. So stop by a local animal shelter and see if there’s a dog or cat that you could bring home. Maybe you two can help keep each other warm.

For more info contact HumaneCNY