Heat Safety for Cat on a Porch
August 20, 2018 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Recently, a stray cat has adopted my household. I live in a teeny tiny house and already have four cats. Believe me when I say that there is no room in this house for a fifth cat (plus there are personality issues that make another cat impossible). Can I try to befriend this cat while confining her to my outdoor, screened in, roofed porch? I worry that it is too hot outside.

I suspect that this cat was at one time a pet, but has been on her own for at least three years, based on speaking to my neighbors about her. I'd like to try to win her trust while confining her on my screened-in and roofed over porch, and then find her a forever home once (if) she decides humans are actually not that bad.

She is skittish, but not as bad as some I have seen. All four of my current cats, and numerous previous cats, have been found cats, so I have a little experience in that area.

I worry about leaving her alone on my screened in porch, in Florida, while I am at work. This cat would be outside in the heat either way, but at least on my porch she has access to shade (both from the roof and under additional furniture), an elevated mesh cat bed (so there is air circulation beneath her) and a small crack through my pet door to the A/C, and plentiful water.

Is this sufficient, or are there other measures I can take? Or is this a terrible idea that will endanger this kitty? Surely people kept cats in Florida before the advent of air conditioning? Argh.

Things I am already planning to do:

* Provide her with two bowls of water before I leave for work, one with cold water and some ice cubes and one frozen solid so that she always has water / cool water.

Things I could do, but am unsure about:

* Purchase an outdoor fan to circulate air through the porch. Difficulty: the plug is near the edge of the porch, and sometimes a bit of rain can get in through the screen, so I'm a little concerned about having anything electric plugged in unsupervised where it could become damp.
posted by ZeroDivides to Pets & Animals (10 answers total)
You are already doing an amazing amount for this cat. Trust yourself. And trust your own instincts when it comes to electricity and damp!
posted by roolya_boolya at 5:01 PM on August 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

Why do you have to confine her to befriend her? If you're feeding her and giving her attention, it shouldn't be a problem. She has survived outdoors for this long and cats are good at finding shade themselves outdoors under bushes, on shaded cement etc. I don't think it's fair to do this to an outdoor cat who doesn't yet trust you when you're going to be at work/inside your house most of the time anyway.
posted by acidic at 5:25 PM on August 20, 2018 [12 favorites]

Fill milk bottles full of water & freeze them put a couple of them out when you leave in the morning, these will giver her something cool to touch to cool off, Wrapping them in a towel can keep them frozen longer & make them something nice to snuggle up to. Put one or two in a large polystyrene box with a cat hole cut in the front. There are many guide for safe insulated cat boxes that are quick & cheap to make, though they are usually made to keep cats warm in cold climates there is no reason they shouldn't work the other way around. . A 1 gallon frozen bottle of water would keep one nice & cool if you put it on the side away from the door.

Your plans for cool water sound great too. Is there natural air circulation where she is? That is something you want to make sure there is plenty of & that the porch doesn't act like a greenhouse holding the heat.
posted by wwax at 6:11 PM on August 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Re: Why not Just Tame her Outside

I worry about her being loose in the neighborhood, and she is skittish enough that it has proved hard to really get to know her, because all of our interactions are on her terms, it's hard to push her boundaries just a bit to make real progress. She is incredibly patient and knows she can wait me out when it comes to food.

There is some wildlife in the area that occasionally kills loose cats. Adding to this, she had a companion cat for most of the years she was known to be loose, but this cat has disappeared. :( We can hope that someone caught him or her to provide them with a home, but I worry that it is otherwise. Every time I see her cross the street in front of my house I feel a pang of worry.
posted by ZeroDivides at 6:13 PM on August 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

+1 wwax's comment

This isn't entirely related, but if you want to speed up the process of collecting her for her safety, I know a lady that does trap and release. She says KFC chicken works better than anything else she has tried. Please take that cat in.
posted by Bistyfrass at 7:11 PM on August 20, 2018

You would need to provide her with a litter box.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:19 PM on August 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you must keep the cat on your porch, I would suggest doing so only for a short while, using the porch as an interim home, until you can find a better situation for this cat. The cat is probably used to heat, but is not used to being shut in, away from their familiar places and territory, while being able to smell the other cats inside, meaning the cat will probably want in sooner or later as well.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 12:46 AM on August 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

I commend you for wanting to care for this cat but I fear for your screens! If Kitty decides she doesn't want to stay on your porch, she's gonna make her own exit.
posted by shiny blue object at 4:22 AM on August 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

Chiming in to say that when I was a kid we had cats, and we had a screen porch. And one day my dad and my grandma were sitting on the porch swing and it fell out of the ceiling with a mighty CRACK, and four cats, who had been snoozing in a heap in the corner, ran right out through the screen.

Also screen offers an ideal toehold for kitty claws. We used to have to peel them off the screen at human head height as kittens.

Basically, if she wants out, she can get out.

In re heat, though, cats are more heat-tolerant than people. Mine is fine in a glassed-in porch in Georgia (usually he has a cat door to get into the house, but sometimes we lock it, for example if we have the plumber coming or something.) He has a water fountain there and a choice of sunny or shady spots and tends to like to spend his days lounging there in the sun, even in summer.
posted by oblique red at 2:39 PM on August 22, 2018

Because of the aforementioned wildlife, the porch screen has been reinforced with hardware cloth to prevent escapees as well as unwanted porch visitors.

I don't think she could get out, but she IS a cat...
posted by ZeroDivides at 12:58 PM on August 23, 2018

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