How To Keep Outside Cats Warm In The Winter

How To Keep Outside Cats Warm In The Winter

As temperatures continue to drop on the farm, I’ve gotten more worried about our cat, Boss, who is an indoor/outdoor kitty. So, I’ve been researching how to keep outside cats warm in the winter so I can make sure he’s around for years.

 

Boss is one of our mousers, and in addition to being a pet, he has an important job around the farm – keeping the winter grain safe and mice out of our home.

 

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It would be a huge loss to lose him (if I had my way, Mr. Outside Cat would stay indoors all the time, but he insists on being an indoor/outdoor cat, and prefers to pee outside.)

 

If you don’t know, we got Boss when he showed up in one of our back rooms during a tornado. We heard this little mewing, and realized there was a kitten where there shouldn’t have been one.

 

He trotted out, sat on our couch, and has lived here ever since. (And that’s why he’s named Boss).

 

Although cats are resilient animals and adapt well to different types of weather, they’re still living beings. So, if you’re looking to help your feline stay warm when it’s snowing, you’ll love these “best practices” about how to keep outside cats warm in the winter.

 

Build a shelter to keep outside cats warm in the winter

The first thing to do is to build a winter cat shelter for outdoor cats since we want to decrease the risk of them catching hypothermia in the winter.

 

An outdoor kitty shelter gives them a warm place out of the wind to rest, protects them from drafts, and helps keep them safe and dry. You can either purchase a cat house in pet stores, use wood you have sitting around (making sure the final structure isn’t drafty), or use Rubbermaid bins (this is an option for a winter home but it’s not the best).

 

Or, you can get creative and turn a chicken tractor like this into a cat shelter.

 

Keep in mind that large shelters are not always the best idea since heat disperses quickly if there is extra space left. A cat house large enough for two to three cats to huddle would be great (you probably won’t find more than one kitty in an outside cat house, but that’s the appropriate size).

 

Add bedding

One of the most important “how to keep outside cats warm in the winter” tips is to add bedding to the shelter. If you are already building your cats a home to keep them warm, you might as well provide their house with some bedding, too, and it will help them retain heat.

 

Just be sure the bedding is easy to remove and clean (and maybe have extras on hand). Some ideas for bedding for outdoor cats are old blankets or clothes, or a washable self-warming fleece cat bed.

 

Straw is also an excellent insulator (we use it to create structures and as a windbreak for our hogs and rabbits, since it’s easily stacked.) I would personally use straw over hay since hay absorbs more moisture and will mold faster.

 

Lining the interior of the outdoor cat house with old clothing or newspapers will also act as an extra wind break.

 

Want ideas about how to keep outside cats warm in the winter? Here's how to care for outdoor cats in winter, build an outdoor cat shelter, and other outdoor cats care ideas.

Increase food rations

Something else we do with every creature on our farm is increase their feed during the winter. They’ll have more energy to burn so they can stay warm. Raw meat is one option, and you can’t go wrong with a high-quality commercial cat food.

 

Use a feed produced in the USA to ensure it’s actually food and not just filler. Because cats have different dietary needs than dogs and other pets, I personally rely on commercial feed for our indoor/outdoor kitties.

 

We found dry food is better than moist food or raw food since liquids and raw meat freeze easily during winter.

 

While we don’t do this, as I researched how to keep outside cats warm in the winter, I noticed that some pet owners use thermo feed bowls to make sure their cat’s moist food is warm when served.

 

You can also use heating pads to keep the food warm as long as possible. However, if you want to save energy, then you’ll have to replace their bowls with food or water a few times throughout the day in winter.

 

Also be sure to provide water; we keep our cat shelters close to the house, so we’re able to use a heated waterer. If your outside cat house will be off-grid, you can use these ideas to keep water from freezing.

 

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Other winter hazards

Hypothermia and lack of food aren’t the only hazards your outside cats will face. While we don’t get a lot of snow here, in more Northern climates, your outdoor cats might get trapped in the snow, mistake something toxic for food, get hit by a car, snagged by a predator.

 

While this hasn’t yet happened on our farm (touch wood), there’s always a chance that your cat will ingest antifreeze. It sounds kind of out there, but antifreeze smells sweet to cats, and some try to taste test it. Keep that stuff bottled up and out of their reach.

 

Speaking of cars, everybody knows (and hears horror stories about) cats love staying inside engines to warm them through the night. They’ll also crawl inside tractors and combines. So, for the love of all things holy, check your cars, tractors, combines, etc before starting them.

 

While I would prefer Boss stay inside and safe and warm, he prefers to be an outside cat. If you’re in the same situation, and wondering how to keep outside cats warm in the winter, hopefully some of these ideas well help you out.

 

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How to Keep a Camper Warm in the Winter

How to Keep a Camper Warm in the Winter

Thinking of living full time in an RV in winter? Learning how to keep a camper warm in the winter is easy!

 

I know many of you are pioneering winter travelers or committed to living full time in an RV in winter.

 

While I’m not a huge camper, ever since we got our cabin, I’ve been discovering all sorts of “off the beaten path” ways to stay warm without using conventional ideas like gas, oil, or electricity.

 

(Discover how we avoided propane and saved money this winter by installing a wood stove.)

 

If you own an older camper (or live in a cabin) and plan to be outdoors a lot in the colder months, then you’re going to want to know how to keep a camper warm in the winter.

 

Here are some tips to keep your mobile home warm and cozy.

Wondering how to keep a camper warm in winter? These 7 genius winter camper living hacks and winter camper ideas will keep you toasty while the wind whistles outdoors!

Insulate your camper

Although most campers have some sort of insulation, this can be effected by several factors such as make, model, and maintenance. (Yes, maintenance. If you don’t do upkeep on your mobile home, you’re pretty much SOL.)

 

As we all know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so do periodic checks for leaks around windows, doors, and anywhere with rubber seals.

 

Any ideas about how to keep a camper warm in the winter that we talk about in this article are useless if your RV is drafty and not well insulated.

 

Of course, extra insulation is essential in subzero temperatures. Nobody likes to be frozen when the North wind blows.

 

In addition to fixing any drafts, you can insulate the windows and doors of your camper with insulation panels like these. You can also use spray foam to fill in any gaps.

 

Insulate the roof, walls, and especially the floor with heavy blankets (see this article about how to stay warm in winter for additional ideas).

 

While this idea is very simple, it’s also very effective, and will help keep any warmth inside the camper.

 

Also be sure to insulate your hot water pipes since, if you’re cold, a warm bath can help you heat up. Use foam covers, (these have saved our butt many winters), spray foam, or even old clothes (this is one we use a lot, and a good use of ripped and old clothing you’d otherwise throw away).

 

How to keep a camper warm in the winter off grid

So, on to how to keep a camper warm in the winter if your heating system sucks.

 

Ask me how I know these tips (hint: I refuse to use the central heat in our home because I think the cost of propane is highway robbery. We use a wood stove instead).

 

Gas heaters are one option for a camper that’s off grid and doesn’t use electricity. Here’s one option for propane heaters you can use indoors (just remember: you’ll have to pay high prices for that propane AND you’ll blow through it quickly.)

 

Electric heaters are another option. Your best bet, as far as electricity goes, is to get a solar generator, and plug an electric heater into it.

 

They’re not cheap, but they’re still affordable and because they use a renewable energy source, your camper can stay warm in the winter longer. You can buy a regular electric heater at any dollar store.

 

Pro Tip: Choose an energy-efficient electrical heater to avoid surges.

 

If a solar generator just isn’t an option, you can buy adaptors to turn a cigarette lighter into an electrical socket and run the engine of your car. Check out one option here.

 

Bring the right items so you stay warm in the winter

Getting the right items to keep you warm throughout the winter nights is essential. After all, you can insulate your camper but still feel cold, especially if temperatures reach extremely low numbers in your area.

 

Here’s my best tips for staying warm in winter without heat, and if you’re cold, then one of the easiest ways to warm up is to walk around, weather permitting.

 

There’s been many a morning where I’ve groused about the freezing weather only to quickly warm up when I started feeding our chickens.)

 

Learning how to keep a camper warm in the winter is easy as long as you make the right preparations.

How To Install A Wood Stove For Beginners

Ever since we moved to our farm, learning how to install a wood stove has been on the bucket list.

 

It’s not just that a wood stove screams homesteading, but it’s also about saving money, using the resources around us (we have 5 acres of woods), and, frankly, not buying propane for our central heat system and dealing with the upkeep of said system just so we can stay warm.

 

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Our first year on the farm, we actually did use propane to heat the house. And it was about $500 a month. And ever since, I’ve refused to use it because, honestly, I think that’s highway robbery.

 

So, enter the idea to use wood. In this article, I’m going to show you how to install a wood stove.

 

This is just the way we did it – you might read about other ways to install a wood stove on the Internet, and that’s fine. Definitely do your research! This is an easy decision to make, but also a big one.

Wondering how to install a wood stove hearth? If you're thinking of getting a wood stove fireplace, and aren't sure if it's for you (or whether a wood stove surround is a good idea), then read this wood stove ideas guide!

 

So, here’s a quick breakdown of the steps to install a cast iron wood stove in your house:

  1. Decide on a model to buy
  2. Get a chimney kit, if needed
  3. Decide on a location to install it
  4. Build a fire-safe base
  5. Install the wood stove and chimney kit
  6. Use chimney braces, if needed
  7. Seal the interior chimney pipe so they don’t leak smoke

 

So, let’s look at each of these steps.

 

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Decide on which wood stove you’ll buy

This isn’t a light decision, and you should make it carefully. After a lot of research and talking to people, I decided on this model.

 

Honestly, I was overwhelmed by all the options (you can buy stoves from $300 to $3,000 and everywhere in between) and I had no idea which was best.

 

I ended up asking a friend I trusted about the model they bought and whether they liked it and whether it was easy to install (she purchased hers a few years ago and it’s still going strong), and just ended up buying that exact model.

 

Why reinvent the wheel, right?

 

Something to consider, though, is the size of the area you want to heat. I installed my wood stove inside my 12×24 cabin; as it turns out, the wood stove I bought was WELL equipped to heat a larger space (1,800 square feet to be exact, and the cabin is quite a bit smaller than that).

 

While I don’t regret my choice at all, now that I have more experience and I’m less overwhelmed, I might have looked for a smaller model.

Wondering how to install a wood stove hearth? If you're thinking of getting a wood stove fireplace, and aren't sure if it's for you (or whether a wood stove surround is a good idea), then read this wood stove ideas guide!

 

Something else to consider is the price. By all means, stick to your budget. But don’t cheap out on this purchase.

 

If your cast iron stove is well made, you will likely never have to replace it. You can’t beat that investment.

 

So, high quality means you will never have to figure out how to install a wood stove again, and it will likely have more design, safety features, and sufficient draw than a lower-quality purchase.

 

We noticed with our stove, that it had all kinds of safety features, including a way to deprive the fire of oxygen if it got too strong.

 

That’s good for us, since my husband has burnt down the barn in the past (that’s a LOOOOOONG story. Well, not really long, but an annoying story, so we’ll save it for another time).

 

We purchased our wood stove new, but if you can find a high-quality used one (maybe from a relative who upgraded and you’ve seen their old stove working), then by all means, go grab it.

 

I would be a little concerned about stoves purchased from yard sales or flea markets; you don’t know what you’re necessarily getting into, and might waste a lot of time and money.

 

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Do you need a chimney kit or a kit to customize your chimney?

Most wood stove chimneys are designed to go through the roof of your home, and that’s how most people install them.

 

We weren’t going to cut a hole in the ceiling of our cabin for a variety of reasons, so we decided to install a wood stove through the window.

Wondering how to install a wood stove hearth? If you're thinking of getting a wood stove fireplace, and aren't sure if it's for you (or whether a wood stove surround is a good idea), then read this wood stove ideas guide!

It saved us the effort, expense, and inevitable heartache (lest we make a drilling mistake – a likely occurrence on this farm) of drilling through the roof.

 

Additionally, not all wood stoves come with chimneys, so you might need to buy a kit. The best thing to do is consult the manual of the stove you end up buying.


And be aware that the cost to install a wood stove isn’t just the stove itself – the chimney kit will cost you as well. However, like the wood stove, don’t skimp on this expense.

 

To run the chimney through the window, we needed a 90 degree elbow and a chimney pipe that had 2 layers so it didn’t get so hot.

 

We were able to find both at a local big box store, and knew what to buy thanks to the manual that came with our stove.

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Decide where you’ll install your wood stove

In our case, I knew right away where I wanted to install our stove. In a small cabin, there’s only so much space!

 

But here’s some things we DID take into consideration: We have 2 small children, so we wanted it to be in a place where we could easily build a barrier to keep the kids away from the flames.

 

Similarly, we wanted it to be in a place where we didn’t have pets (our cats live in the house) so they didn’t accidentally burn themselves or the cabin down.

 

We decided that the wood stove would be the focal point of the room, and then we would design the rest of the cabin around it. So, we installed it in a location that made sense from a design standpoint and where there was enough space away from everything else so any chances of a fire were reduced.

 

The only caveat to installing it through the window is we lost the lower half of the window and a certain amount of light. So, we will need to decide how to recover the natural light in the cabin.

 

Build a base

After you’ve chosen a wood stove and decided where you’ll put it, you need to build a base. The point of the base is to provide a fire-safe structure for your stove to stand on.

 

In our case, we used cement board, tile, and mortar to install the wood stove. We started by screwing the cement board to the floor (if memory serves, it was 5 feet by 4 feet), then laying the tile on top.

 

It was easy and took about an hour to complete. There wasn’t enough tile to cover all of the cement board; I’m going to go back and find some easy to install tiles (read: no cutting involved) to cover the rest of the cement board.

 

Before continuing, we allowed the tile to dry for 48 hours. When dry, put the stove on the base and prepare to install it permanently.

 

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Install the chimney kit

Installing the chimney kit wasn’t hard, but it’s one of those projects that takes a bit of brain power.

 

We had to find something to support the chimney through the window. Wood wouldn’t work because we wanted to eliminate the chance of a fire.

 

So we used a spare piece of tin. You can probably find kits online, but we had tin laying around, so why not use it?

 

Install the chimney kit according to the directions that come with your kit.

 

In our case, we had to also use a chimney brace. We have very strong winds in our area, and things that aren’t nailed down, will likely go bye-bye in 70 mph winds (I remember one time I bought a shed kit for my grain, only to find it scattered in pieces the next day because a tornado came through – worst $300 I ever spent).

 

Wondering how to install a wood stove hearth? If you're thinking of getting a wood stove fireplace, and aren't sure if it's for you (or whether a wood stove surround is a good idea), then read this wood stove ideas guide!

 

So brace that sucker unless you want to buy a new one.

 

Seal the chimney pipes so they don’t cause smoke in the house

Finally, we sealed the interior portions of the chimney kit so they didn’t leak smoke (found that one out the hard way – no big deal, except it might cause carbon monoxide poisoning.)

 

We used a stove sealant like this one. Allow it to dry before lighting the fire.

 

Wondering how to install a wood stove hearth? If you're thinking of getting a wood stove fireplace, and aren't sure if it's for you (or whether a wood stove surround is a good idea), then read this wood stove ideas guide!

 

That’s it – now we’ve figured out how to install a wood stove, and we can be toasty warm all winter. Hope this guide helps you out!

 

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How to Stay Warm in Winter Without Heat

How to Stay Warm in Winter Without Heat

I, for one, am not the biggest fan of electricity. In fact, I try to avoid it if possible. But with winter on its way, and the likely power outages (anyone remember Snowmageddon where most of Washington DC was out of power for a couple weeks?) you’ll want to know how to stay warm in winter without heat so if you lose power, you have a plan.

 

Being cold sucks (unless you’re one of those people who craves cold. I’m not. I want to stay warm all the time), so during power outages you will need to look for alternative ways to make sure that your house is sufficiently heated.

 

These are my genius hacks (tried and true) for how to stay warm in winter without heat, and if you’re camping or go hunting this winter, then you can adapt these tips to figure out how to stay warm in a tent, too.

 

Drinking a Warm Beverage

Tea, coffee, whatever. If you don’t have power, then brew thyself a warm beverage to stay warm in winter. The beverage will raise your body temperature, and you’ll feel it down to your toes (this is also good for animals if they’re cold, too). Just don’t burn yourself.

 

Staying Under Extra Blankets During the Day

During the super cold days (the ones where my hands are freezing), I pretty much stay under several quilts all day. Those blankets help retain the heat your body lets off and you can even practice a bit if Danish Hygge with your cozy self.

 

Wearing Fleece

Sheep don’t get cold for a reason (ok, they do but fleece is still a winter staple for cold wussies like me who need to stay warm in winter). Pants, socks, even a fleece shirt are all winning ideas.

 

I keep a couple fleece tops in my winter emergency survival kit in the car in case I find myself stranded (during Snowmageddon, there were several people who froze because their cars got stuck and they didn’t keep a winter emergency survival kit in their vehicles.

 

 

Wearing a Hat

Your mama always told you to wear a hat, and that’s because you lose most of your body heat through your head. So, be a trooper and wear a hat, preferably with fleece, so the cold has minimal spaces to get into your body.

 

Your mama taught you right. Now go call her and thank her.

 

Using a South-Facing Sun Room with Good Insulation

Southern exposures get the most sunlight during the day, so any room facing South will be warmer (also, Southern winds are warmer than northern winds, so Northern facing rooms will be colder simply because that’s how weather works).

 

Also be sure the room has good insulation so heat that gets into the room does not escape easily. There’s no use in trying to stay warm if you aren’t taking that extra step to RETAIN the warmth.

 

Using a Wood Stove (or a Rocket Stove)

While it’s not the most economical because you have to buy the stove and pipes and possibly the wood, this is probably the easiest way to stay warm in winter without power. (This is the stove we use – I HIGHLY recommend it).

 

Just be sure that the chimney leads outside so you don’t inhale smoke. Most commercial wood stoves are created to have sufficient draw, so your part is just installing it correctly so you can stay warm without accidentally hurting yourself.

 

And yes, you should use a commercial stove – don’t be that guy that builds his own and burns his house down or dies in the middle of the night because of smoke inhalation. Yes, those people do exist. Usually they’re my neighbors.

 

You can learn how to install a wood stove here.

 

 

Only Heating the Rooms You Most Frequently Use

This won’t really help you heat your house, but it’ll help you lower the cost and possibly the stress of having to figure out how to heat a bunch of rooms.

 

For example, we don’t worry too much about heating our kitchen, as long as the temperatures aren’t below 20 (if it is, then we have to worry about pipes freezing, and yes, we’ve woken up to our fair share of broken pipes).

 

The food will stay fresh and we won’t have to worry about paying to run the fridge. Pretty win/win.

 

Using a Gas Generator

A gas generator can also be an easy way to stay warm in winter during a power outage as long as you don’t mind paying for the gas and listening to the noise.  You just need to keep the generator outside the house so that the fumes produced do not hurt you.

 

(An alternative is a solar generator like this. Supposedly, this gadget can power several appliances. It ain’t cheap, but you’re worth the investment.)

 

Making Sure the Rooms Are Free Of Drafts

This is also helpful to stay warm because the drafts can allow heat to escape. You just need to take a few minutes to ensure there are no drafts.

 

Putting Heavy Blankets Over Doors and Windows

We do this every winter because it’s fast and effective. By keeping the heavy blankets over the doors and windows you will be ensuring that heat does not escape. This will also prevent more cold air from getting into the house.

 

 

Opening Curtains During the Day

When your curtains are opened during the day, the sun’s rays can get into the house. Particularly if your windows face south and there’s no drafts in the room, this will help heat the air inside your house.

 

Placing Clear Plastic Over Windows

This is one of our favorite ways to stay warm in winter, especially if the wind is really blowing. Our farmhouse is old, and the insulation is minimal. Clear plastic keeps the chill out while at the same time allowing light to get in and significantly helps to preserve heat.

 

Putting Blankets On the Ceiling and On the Floor

Especially if there isn’t much insulation on your floor, you’ll want to put blankets down to stay warm. We’ve used this method to help insulate the house, keeping it relatively toasty even when it’s close to zero outside. Just keep the blankets away from your wood stove or generator.

 

Cold but don't have power? Here's 14 genius ideas for how to stay warm in winter without heat!

Rain Barrels: How To Choose, Install & Use Them For Off-Grid Water

Rain Barrels: How To Choose, Install & Use Them For Off-Grid Water

If you really want to go off-grid, you will need rain barrel so you can harvest rainwater and repurpose it.

 

We try to conserve rainwater on our farm, especially since we’ve lived on properties that required an electric well pump – and when the electricity was out, guess what! No water! Not good when you have livestock.

 

I know many of you would prefer to not be on county or city water so you can better control the chemicals and toxins your food supply and family are exposed to, and using a rain barrel is a place to start.

 

Today, I’ve invited my friend Chris from Faded Bluebird to tell us all about how to choose, install, and use a rain barrel so you can start supplying your own water!

How to Choose, Install, & Use A Rain Barrel

 

Water Conservation has become a big thing here in Oklahoma……and well, everywhere. Continued pollution of our finite fresh water sources, extreme droughts and an expanding population that strains our water infrastructures has made water catchment more popular among the masses and less of a “OMG, you’re one of those!”.  

 

I have a system of three 55 gallon rain barrels set up in my backyard, and I’m proud of my hippidom! On a good year, I don’t have to use municipal water at all in my garden.

 

I’m hoping I can convince you to join us on the green side of life.  Don’t worry it won’t hurt, it’s easy and it might make you King/Queen of your neighborhood.

 

Can You Legally Own a Rain Barrel?

 

Until we can educate more people about the importance of water and how to handle it wisely such as using pervious pavement, there are several State and Local governments who have banned water catchment.  

 

So the first thing you need to do before buying a rain barrel is check to see if you can legally own one.  You may also want to check with your Home Owner’s Association as well.  

 

I know that it doesn’t make much sense to ban water catchment when you are in water crisis, but believe me, there is method to that madness and it is done for the greater good. But, that’s a whole other post!

 

What Rain Barrel Should You Buy?

 

Here’s what you’re looking for.  You want a rain barrel that will hold at least 50 gallons, because just a 1/10 of an inch of rain on a 1000 square foot roof will produce about 62 gallons of water.  

Harvest Water Off Grid With A Rain Barrel!

 

Overflow

Then check for the following:  Does it have an overflow? You are interrupting your guttering system to install this barrel, and the guttering is in place to protect your foundation.

 

If the barrel doesn’t have an overflow that allows you to redirect the water where you want it, then when the barrel overflows, and it will overflow, it will just puddle around your foundation.

 

The overflow will also allow you to connect another rain barrel later!  And believe me, you will want another one, or two…..

 

Shape

Also, look at the shape of your barrel, if you are going to place it against the wall, having an overly round barrel puts the catchment hole further from your guttering.  You might consider a flat back rain barrel, or be prepared to buy a flexi-downspout as well.

 

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