Cats need clean fresh drinking water daily, and that applies to feral cats as well. The challenge for colony caretakers is preventing water from freezing during the cold winter months.
There are various tips and products that will either prevent freezing or at least delay it, giving cats access to water for longer each day. Not every option will work for your situation, but you’re bound to find something to help.
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Rubber or plastic bowls
Rubber or plastic bowls retain heat better than metal or glass.
Dark colours as opposed to light
Dark coloured bowls will absorb more heat from the sun than lighter colours, which should help delay freezing.
Put the bowls in a sunny spot
You want to keep “evidence” of bowls and shelters as camouflaged as possible, but if you can find a sunny spot for the water bowl that would help.
Hand warmers under the bowl won’t prevent water from freezing, but can delay it. How long you ask? That’s hard to say. When used as hand warmers some can last up to 10 hours, but under a bowl outside in the snow… there are too many variables, best to test it and see.
Microwavable heating pads
Take an old tire and position it so it will be in the sun. Fill the inner part with rocks then place a container with water in the middle. The tire will absorb the heat from the sun and prevent the water from freezing too quickly. If the container touches the ground put a layer of styrofoam underneath, or find a bigger container that will make a tighter fit.
Put floating objects in the water
I read this cool trick on WikiHow. Adding things that float, like ping pong balls for example, will prevent the entire surface from freezing over. What a fabulous tip!
Spray insulation in the space on the underside of a plastic water bowl.
Cut a hole in the side of a styrofoam cooler a few inches from the bottom, and put the water bowl inside. Find a size big enough to allow one cat in at a time, but not too big so they use it as a shelter.
Or use a small cooler. Stand it on its side so the opening is facing you, and put the bowl in the bottom (which used to be one of the sides!) for easy access. Turning it to face a wall or fence will offer protection from the elements.
Because they’re so light, be sure to weight it down so it doesn’t fly away on a windy day.
Deep rather than wide
Water in bowls that are deep will take longer to freeze than water in containers that are shallow and wide.
Heated water bowl
If the cats are in your yard or you have access to a power source (with permission of course!), a plug-in heated bowl will keep the water from freezing.
Stack the bowls
Using two different sized plastic bowls, place the larger one down first, add a hot pack, then put the small one on top.
Canned food and water
If the cats come running when they see you, giving them canned food with water added will help with their water intake during the really cold months ahead.
I hope you’ve found these ideas helpful, and I’d love to know which one works best for you. If you already care for a colony, what do you do to prevent/delay water from freezing? Sharing helps others, so leave a comment below.
If you have pictures of your set up, we’d love to see them.
Please help support my spay/neuter campaign by donating and sharing. You can find all the details on my GoFundMe page.