If you have an outdoor cat or stray cats in your area, here’s how to build a homemade cat shelter to accommodate them throughout the cold winter months.
Based on plans by the CSM Stray Foundation
- All you need is a plastic storage tub, foam, and straw to create this simple shelter for feral cats.
- Make sure to periodically replace the straw to keep it fresh and dry.
Materials needed to build a Cat Shelter
- 35-gallon plastic storage tote or bin with lid (approximate dimensions: 32.5 inches long, 19.75 inches wide, 18.5 inches tall)
- utility knife
- sheet of 1-inch-thick rigid foam insulation board, 8 feet by 2 feet
How to Assemble the Cat Shelter
1. Using the yardstick and utility knife, cut a 6-by-6-inch doorway on both of the long sides of the storage bin toward the corner. To prevent flooding, cut the opening so that the bottom of the doorway is a couple of inches above the ground.
2. Cut a piece of the foam insulation board to fit the floor of the bin, and line the floor with it.
3. In a similar fashion, line each of the four interior walls of the bin with a piece of the plastic foam. Perfect cuts aren’t necessary. Leave a uniform gap of at least 3 inches between the top of these wall pieces and the upper lip of the bin.
4. Cut out two doorways in the plastic foam lined up with the doorway in the storage bin. Trace the outline of the doorways on the plastic foam first before cutting.
5. Stuff the bottom of the bin with straw or other insulating material to hold the interior wall pieces in place.
6. Cut out a plastic foam roof to rest on top of the interior wall pieces.
7. Cover the bin with its lid.
- To clean the shelter, simply remove the lid and the foam roof.
- The shelter is lightweight and may need to be weighed down with a large rock or cinder block.
- Face the opening away from the direction of the wind, if possible.
- To entice cats to check out the shelter, sprinkle catnip inside.
- Periodically replace the straw to keep it fresh and dry.
In previous years, we learned that finding one plastic bin to fit inside another was the most challenging part of this project. We found all the materials at Lowe’s:
The inner box is an 18 gallon Rubbermaid “Roughneck Tote”
The outer box is a 35 gallon Rubbermaid “Latching Tote”
Having difficulty cutting the plastic?
Laurie M. of St. Paul, MN shared her solution with us: “We blew hot air from a hairdryer on the area where we planned to cut. This softened the plastic and it sliced like butter.”
Consider surrounding your cats’ shelter with bails of straw. Did you know that straw is a fabulously efficient insulator? Homes insulated with 18″ wide bails of straw could save 75% on heating & cooling costs. Just think what that could do for your cats!
Place shelters where they will be protected from wind and snowdrifts – particularly those without protective flaps over the door(s) — otherwise snow could blow in and bury/trap the cats. If there are fixed objects, such as buildings in your feral cat shelter area, pay attention to the way the winds tend to circulate and place the shelters where there is the least amount of blowing & drifting snow. This could be a lifesaver, particularly for those who endure extreme winter weather, in which roads may be impassable for 1-2 days.
Depending on predators and other animals/hazards in your area, some cats may not use shelters unless there are two exits — one for them to sneak out should another unwanted animal enter. Consider an emergency exit with a flap that opens from the inside only.
NEVER EVER Stuff one of these with Newspaper or Textiles as they wick moisture away from the body and may cause the animal to freeze.