Provide Food & Water - As always provide adequate food and water on a regular schedule and during the daylight hours for your safety and so you can easily assess the members of the colony.
Food - The amount of food a cat needs depends on their size, the weather and what other food sources are available.
When temperatures drop, during winter months, expect the colony to consume more food because they will need the extra calories to maintain energy levels and warmth. If concerned the wet food will freeze consider slightly warming the food prior to feeding and as always feed in an area protected from the wind. Wet food allows them to eat faster since they don't have to breakdown the food like dry, meaning less time in the cold outside of their shelter. Dry food is sufficient if wet food is not an option. If your colony is at another location and you plan to feed canned food, consider warming the food prior to arriving at the site and using insulated bags to keep warm during travel.
Water - Outdoor cats need clean water daily regardless of weather conditions. Throughout the winter months make sure they have plenty of water to help keep them well-hydrated and their skin less dry. In Elkhart county it is important to take precautions to keep the water from freezing. Heated water bowls are readily available at most farm stores but if a power outlet is not within reach here are some tips to help keep the water from freezing.
1. Use a bowl made of thick plastic. The best are deep, insulated and have relatively small openings compared to their volume.
2. Black or dark colored bowls will absorb solar heat from the sun
3. Position bowl so it is protected from the wind and if possible, exposed to the sun.
4. Refill bowls with hot or warm water. Add a pinch of sugar which will slow the freezing process and provide a boost of energy too
5. Purchase The Pet Solar Sipper(Model No. 10011) from the Happy Bird Corporation uses solar energy to keep water from freezing and works at 18 degrees F. and above.
6. Purchase a Styrofoam cooler, cut a 5 1/2 -6" hole in one end and place the water bowl inside where they cats can go in to get a drink, be sure to weigh down the cooler and place in a protected sunny spot like if possible.
If they come to eat right on schedule you can also put a little extra water in their wet or dry food to help keep them hydrated as well.
More to come on this subject as well as the Shelter Page which is currently under construction.