How to Prevent Freezing Drinking Water For Neighborhood Cats

How to Prevent Freezing Water

Neighborhood Cats

  1. The ideal solution, though only plausible in secure circumstances, is an electrically heated water bowl. The water will evaporate relatively quickly, so the bowl needs to be filled with a gallon of water in order to last 24 hours. The bowl also can be used for wet food, though it will quickly dry the food up.

    A 5 quart dish with 6 foot protected cord is available for $24 from KV Vet Supply (item #86041) -, or call 1-800-423-8211. Ask about their other heated bowls.

  2. The Solar Sipper. It's a water dish that uses solar heat to stay warm and keep from freezing, available for $22.95. It's only good at 18 degrees and above but that is an improvement. The link:

    Contact info:

    Happy Bird Corporation

    P.O. Box 86

    Weston, MA 02493

    Tel 781 899 7804

    Fax 781 899 8447


  3. "Snuggle Safe." It's a disk about the size of a frisbee intended to keep pets' bedding warm. Under normal indoor conditions, you put it in the microwave for 5 minutes and it stays hot for 12 hours. For outdoor use, it has been reported that the discs can be safely heated up to 8 minutes in a 1,000 watt microwave to last as long as possible outdoors. Depending on the microwave, the discs can conceivably melt so you have to do a little trial and error to see how hot you can go.

    The discs are just the right size to fit inside the under rim of some large dinner plates and water bowls. In the frigid outdoors their heat lasts 2-3 hours. If you can afford it, it's convenient to have two sets of discs - that way you can heat and bring one set to the colony, and pickup and bring back the set used the last time you were feeding.

    Snuggle Safe is also great (wrapped in cloth the cats can't open) for providing warmth inside their shelters. Available for $20 from Foster & Smith (item #9B-9599). The link is: or call 1-800-826-7206

  4. Place the water bowl inside a styrofoam cooler - one of the cheap white ones used for soda and the like. Cut a hole for the cats to enter on one end of the cooler and put the bowl at the other end. The styrofoam's insulation will slow down the freezing process.
  5. Use a thick plastic, thermal-type of water dish. It's amazing how long it takes for water to freeze in one of these. I use the bottom of a tupperware container - it's shaped like a large cup and very thick plastic.
  6. Wider and deeper is better for the water dish than narrow and shallow. This keeps the surface water from freezing longer.
  7. If the cats come to eat right away while you're there, put a little extra water in their wet food. Also, you can put some in the dry food you know they'll soon eat.
  8. (From Susanne Mahar of Noah's Kingdom in Albany:) A few months ago, I ordered some vaccines for my own cats, and they came in a thick (probably 1 1/2 inches) Styrofoam box about 8 inches square and about 4 inches deep. A friend of mine had the idea to cut a whole in the top, big enough for a cat to drink from of course, line it with a plastic bag, and fill it up! We change the bag every couple days, and fill it with hot water every night. The water usually is fine for at least a few hours when the temperature is above 15 or so, and fine all the time when it's warmer.
  9. Get an old tire off the rim, and stuff it with rocks. Wedge a container (like a large bucket) in the hole in the tire and put the water in there. The black tire will absorb the light from the sun during the day and heat the rocks within the tire. The rocks will radiate the warmth enough to keep the water from freezing. This suggestion comes from a horse magazine, to keep water for the horses in the fields in winter. The barn manager piled a few rock-filled tires on top of each other and then inserted a water bucket in the center of them. She said this actually prevented the water from freezing for a period of time.
  10. (from Phyllis V., Gloucester Township, NJ): We have a number of birds and squirrels in our backyard, and for them we put a large, deep plastic dish underneath the outside spout where the water drains every so often from our heating system. We put rocks in there too. The water is warm coming from the pipe. Also the sun warms the rocks. By the time the water cools enough to freeze, another splash of water comes out. We've been doing this for years and we like to watch the animals come close to get a drink. In springtime they go back to the birdbath!
  11. For wet food only, one trick is to place the bowl inside the cats' insulated shelter, assuming you're using one. Their body heat will often keep the food from freezing or defrost it enough for them to eat. BUT NEVER PUT WATER IN THE CATS' SHELTER!!! - cats can get sick in winter from getting wet and then not having any warm, dry place to go.

Courtesy of

Neighborhood Cats

2565 Broadway #555

New York, NY 10025