Surviving The Winter: How To Help Homeless Pets Left Out In The Cold
PHOTO SOURCE: Canva.com
Last night, I was cuddled in bed watching Netflix with two cozy blankets and my cat Anakin. The temperature outside had fallen below freezing, so I was appreciating a comfy night in with my best feline friend. As I was checking my phone before falling asleep, I scrolled through Facebook. As an animal-lover and animal welfare worker, I follow a lot of animal groups and, per usual, I was seeing homeless pet after homeless pet on my feed. All I could think while I was warm in bed, was about all of the lost souls that have to fend for themselves in this freezing weather.
I couldn’t imagine spending a single night outside (or even a night in my house if the thermostat were to fall below 70-degrees); yet, there are millions of homeless animals across the country that have to survive these temperatures every winter. Luckily, us humans can do our part to make this chilly time of year much more bearable for our homeless, furry friends.
Now, the first thought that may cross your minds is to pick up every stray animal you see left out in the cold and take them to your nearest shelter for a warm place to sleep; and, as an animal shelter we are here to help. However, with an estimated 70 million stray animals in the United States alone and overcrowded shelters across the country, this task is unrealistic. Of course, if you come across a stray that appears to be sick and/or in clear need of a helping hand, calling your jurisdiction’s animal control is the place to start:
City of Aiken Animal Control: (803) 642-7620
Aiken County Animal Control: (803) 642-1537
PHOTO SOURCE: Canva.com
There is no guarantee that a shelter can take in every animal picked up by Good Samaritans. Though it is their job to find homes for homeless pets, there is still limited space at every shelter and a quality of care standard that cannot be jeopardized by overcrowding. At the SPCA Albrecht Center, we always suggest that Good Samaritans be prepared for the possibility of caring for any stray that may be picked up - whether because your local shelter is full or because they have a long waiting list. If you are able to take in a stray from the cold, be sure to visit your local vet first to make sure they are healthy enough to bring into your home, especially if you have any current pets.
If you’re like me and have a pet that rules the house and, thus, won’t allow any furry guest appearances, the best way to help homeless pets this winter is to provide food, water and shelter. Especially for feral and community cats, providing a warm shelter is the most beneficial way to ensure a safe season, and providing food and water helps keep strays healthy enough to fight off infection and illness during the colder months, as well as helps them conserve energy they would have used looking for nourishment. Pro tip: Avoid leaving wet food outside during winter, as it can freeze.
Building a shelter for homeless pets is easy and affordable, and there are a ton of online resources that walk you through how to create your own and what materials are best to use. You can even find already-made winter housing online if you do not have the time to build your own. Pro tip: Crates and kennels do not protect from the cold, and towels and blankets retain wetness and do not provide proper insulation. Instead, use a Styrofoam cooler and straw (PHOTO SOURCE).
It is so important as animal advocates that we do our part to provide for homeless and neglected pets all year-round, but especially when our furry friends need further protection from the elements. This winter, join forces with the SPCA Albrecht Center and your local shelters as we continue to combat pet overpopulation and provide for the homeless animals in the CSRA so that they, too, can know the simple joys of having a full belly and a warm place to sleep.
An Aiken native and self-proclaimed cat lady, Claire Grimes is the SPCA Albrecht Center’s Communications Director, working in marketing, grant writing and media correspondence. She attended College of Charleston, where she graduated with a degree in Nonprofit Business and interned with Charleston Animal Society, the leader in No-Kill South Carolina. When not working, you can find Claire hanging out with her 18-pound Maine Coon mix, Anakin.