Amur Tigers Have Adapted for the Cold. Your Cat Has Not!

The Amur Tiger Adapted to Survive Harsh Cold WintersSiberian tiger in snow

The Amur tiger, you might know this cat by the name Siberian tiger, lives in the coniferous, scrub oak and birch woodlands of the Primorsky Krai region of the Russia far east.
This tiger has adapted to live in a the harsh cold climate where extreme cold temperatures and deep snow are common.
  • Their large size, the biggies cats in the world, allows them to conserve heat better than their smaller cousins living in Sumatra.
  • The Amur tiger has a layer of fat on its belly and flanks to protect them from the bitter cold.
  • This tigers fur is thick and long providing protection from freezing cold during the winter months.
  • Their paws have extra fur that protects them like wearing snow boots from the snow and ice.

Your Cat Has Not Adapted to Survive the Harsh Winter

Yes domestic cats have a thickened winter coat to help them against winter’s chill but they are not adapted to survive the harsh freezing temperatures, and especially not the below zero temperatures that the arctic vortex is blowing into our area.  If your cat is an indoor cat, she is fortunate.  If you cat is an outdoor cat, please bring her in out of the cold, and if that is not possible, consider your garage, shed or other warm, dry, well insulated place for her to take refuge.

If you have stray cats in your area, please consider providing shelter for them too.  No matter how resourceful outdoor cats are, they still need our help getting through the harshest winter months.

Annie hat and scarf

How to Provide Shelter for Outdoor Cats

A shelter must trap and hold  the cats’ body heat  to keep the interior warm. If the shelter is too large, it will be difficult for the cats’ body heat to keep the space warm. So consider the size when choosing the shelter.  Bigger is not better in this situation.  A good size for a shelter is at least 2’x3’ and at least 18” high.

Make sure the door is  six to eight inches wide to keep out other animals. If you are using a dog house, make sure to block off part of the door to make it cat-sized. If you can place a flap on the door it will  keep snow, rain, and wind out. Raise the shelter off the cold ground by placing it on a wooden pallets stuffed with insulation.  For ideas and inspiration on how to make a shelter for outdoor cats check out Alley Cat Allies Shelter Gallery

What to use as insulation

Straw is the best material to put in a shelter because it allows cats to burrow.  You can use pillowcases loosely stuffed with Styrofoam packing peanuts and shredded newspaper for extra protection. This type of insulation requires you check on the shelters regularly to  replace the straw and newspaper if it gets moist.

If you can’t check on the shelters regularly and it gets super cold like we are experiencing now, you should line the shelters inner walls and floor with Mylar.  This material reflects back body heat and is safe for cats to lie on.

What NOT to Use as Insulation in Your Outdoor Cat Shelter

Do not use blankets, towels, or folded newspaper as they absorb the cat’s body heat and the cat lying on them will be colder. Do not use hay as it absorbs moisture.

Food and Water for Your Outdoor Cat Shelter

Extreme cold will freeze your cat’s food and water so a few extra steps will be needed to make sure the outdoor cats food kept in good condition.

Use a thick plastic water container that is deep and wide. This type of container is better insulated than a thin plastic or ceramic one. A solar-heated water bowl is ideal as it will  prevent or delay water and canned food from freezing. A dark color will absorb the sunlight and adding just a pinch of sugar to the water will  help keep the water from freezing as quickly.

If your shelters are well insulated, you can place the bowls of dry or moist food inside but far from the doorway. Even if the moist food freezes, the cats’ body heat will thaw it when they snuggle in the shelter.

Please do not put water bowls inside the shelter.  If the water is spilled, the wet shelter will feel more like a cold refrigerator than a warm safe shelter.

For more information about how to care for outdoor cats, check out our friends at Alley Cat Allies.

Thank you for caring for all cats, big and small.


Amur PSA about winter


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  1. I never knew things like blankets would make it colder. We don’t have feral kitties in our neighborhood but; this good to know in case I would see any. I have had neighbors dump their cats before as I have one I rescued. And one my daughter rescued and brought to our home years ago. And so far I have not seen the neighbor cats so I’m hoping they are safe and sound. I hate seeing cats cold or hungry.
    Sue B

    • Sometimes, little things make such a difference like using shredded paper or Styrofoam packing peanuts for insulation. I hope our neighborhood cats are snuggled in too.

  2. Great information! We’re going to ask our mommy to make a shelter for the outdoor kitties in our area. It is way too cold outside!