How To Delay the Water From Freezing for Outdoor Cats Without Electricity

This post shares the method I used to delay water from freezing for Midnight and the other cats in my yard during the winter of 2017.

Without electricity or another power source, the water will freeze eventually when the temperature is low enough. 

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In 2018, I got the K&H heated water bowl, as we have an outdoor outlet near the feeding area in my yard, and decided to trust it. It was the best purchase I made in 2018 as no more hassling with frozen water.

Anyway, electricity isn’t an option for all outdoor cats. So, this post will detail the method used to keep the water unfrozen for as long as possible, which I used in 2017,

The option I choose was to use stacked bowls with a hot pack in between the bowls. Metal bowls should never be used in cold weather with the cats (unless it’s a heated bowl). Their tongue could freeze to a metal bowl!

(When I was in sixth grade, a kid licked a metal pole during recess. His tongue froze to the pole and the ambulance was called. We were told to not look out the window by the teacher!)

The hot packs

I’ve used hot packs when taking a hot dish to family gatherings (we got a Pyrex travel bag for a wedding gift). The hot packs had worn out so I ordered 3 from Amazon.

Why 3? I wasn’t sure what the rules for the hot pack would be. This hot pack is only for hot dishes and the pack is heated in the microwave. To be safe, I only put a hot pack in the microwave when it was at room temperature.

Having 3 allowed the pack that was frozen outside to completely thaw before reheating it again.

When the temperature was dropping below zero, I put out freshwater with a heated hot pack three times a day.

Vesture 7

The final result

The hot pack kept the water from freezing for longer than without it. Some days it was hours longer, but how much longer depended on the air temperature.

Also, setting the stacked bowls inside the cooler may have helped too (I didn’t do a test with the cooler). The cooler was a cheap cooler that I found on clearance (probably because I bought it during the winter!).

At times when I expected at least one cat to be in the yard waiting for food, I provided wet food so they could consume it before it froze to help them stay hydrated.

bowls and hot pack on table
bowls and hot pack on table
bowls stacked with the hot pack
bowls stacked with the hot pack
Water bowl in styrofoam cooler
Water bowl in a styrofoam cooler

Other resources to keep water from freezing

There are other options to help to keep the water from freezing for cats without electricity.

I looked into the Solar Sipper but the models I saw only keep the ice out of the water down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit and in Michigan, the temperature drops below 20 in the winter.

The Snuggle Safe looked like it had fabric on it. So with the bowls being outside, I didn’t want to mess around with wet fabric. Update: A reader pointed out that the fabric cover comes off and that they have used the Snuggle Safe to help keep water unfrozen (see comment section).

For the winter of 2018, we decided to trust our outdoor outlet and are using a heated water bowl. The convenience is great as I can quickly change out the water every day with fresh. We are using the K&H 96 Ounce bowl.

In late fall, my local pet store didn’t have heated water bowls in stock. So I ordered it here on Chewy. It’s also available on Amazon.

More Ideas can be found at the posts below:

Neighborhood cats – Stop freezing water

Alley Cat Allies – Winter Weather Tips

You can see how we upgraded the outdoor cat feeding station 2020 here.

To keep the water from freezing for as long as possible, I stacked bowls with a hot pack (heated in the microwave) and then placed the entire stack into a small styrofoam cooler.

Related Posts:

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Heidi Bender is the writer and founder of the Joy of Cats. She enjoys sharing cat information and providing helpful cat tips. She considers herself a cat lady and currently cares for eight cats.

3 thoughts on “How To Delay the Water From Freezing for Outdoor Cats Without Electricity”

  1. Just FYI, the Snuggle Safe cover is removable. 🙂 I have them on-hand for fostering, so I tried them out for keeping food warm/water unfrozen for my colony too and it worked pretty well.

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  2. There’s a couple of methods I use to slow down the freezing of water at our cat colonies during our New Jersey winters here in the northeast.
    First, get Styrofoam coolers/containers from your vet, doctor, local clinics or even supermarkets. The medical facilities have medications and vaccines shipped in them and supermarkets often get their fresh produce and seafood in these. Most places will gladly ‘unload’ them onto you for free!
    I found a few large bowls with hollow undersides at my local Dollar Tree a couple of years ago but haven’t seen them since. I then sprayed foam insulation in the hollow areas and let it cure (dry). If you want to make it thick, do no more than 0.5 inch (about 1.3 cm) at a time, letting each layer dry well before applying a 2nd or 3rd coat. Alternatively, you can spray this type of foam on the outside of ANY water bowl (though metal is a no-no in winter), as long as it will stick to it.
    And don’t forget about the “old tire filled with rocks” trick. Get an old tire from a junk yard (or your garage LOL), fill it with dark-colored rocks and set the bowl deeply nestled in the center. Place in a sunny area where the tire and rocks will absorb the sun’s heat and the rocks will hold it for several hours.
    You can even do this with NO water just to provide warmth for the kitties to sit near when it’s cold out. Think of it as a sort of cat backyard heater, but without the hazards of flames. Because it’s safe, you can place several around the colony (if the area & codes will allow it).
    This is for those who have no access to electricity where the colony is. Though, finally, they are coming out with battery powered water bowls for pets more and more lately but, as of now, they’re still pretty expensive.

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