Feral cats need food and water in winter.
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Easy to make cat shelter can help ferals everywhere

Cat Shelters

Even if you don’t have a barn or garage where feral cats can hang out for the winter, there are low cost, easy to make cat shelters that will help them stay out of the elements and safe from predators.

This idea was shared by the Jan Golden, who is now a former board member of  The Putnam Humane Society,  Carmel, NY at the Westchester Cat Show in White Plains, NY. When visiting the show over a year ago, she was very happy to share the idea of how to turn plastic bins into no power tool needed cat shelters.

No Power tools Needed Cat Shelters


  • 2 plastic bins – any brand or style, 1 large 1 medium
  • 1 sheet of Styrofoam insulation board
  • Heavy or thick clear plastic sheeting for door flap
  • 1 Roll Garage Door black rubber weather-strip or bottom seal
  • Duct tape
  • Utility knife
  • Black marker
  • Bales of straw
  • Medium bowl to use as template for door hole
  • Optional: Wood palette (free at most box stores or home improvement centers)
Black feral cat
Black feral cat

Paws found this directions at the  PACT Humane Society in Illinois website some time ago, and wanted to share.

Finding the two gallon containers to fit inside of one another is quite a challenge.

  • The inner box is an 18 gallon Rubbermaid “Roughneck Tote” – Lowe’s part number:  44894 – Cost $5
  • The outer box is a 35 gallon Rubbermaid “Latching Tote” that is harder to find – Lowe’s part number:  212261 – Cost $15
  • 1″ polystyrene – Cost $10
  • Total Cost in 2007-2008:  $30

This is a great project do with children or as a service project for Scouts.

The insulation board can be found at home improvement centers. The writer of this project found Walmart had most of the other materials and the lowest prices on plastic bins. But check the job lot or over stock stores. Insulation boards are large, and this provider asked the home improvement store to make two cuts across the width of the insulation board so it would be easier to get into the car. These houses are easy to access and clean. Larger bins can provide home for several cats. Check other Feral Cat web sites for feeding station plans and other ideas for helping outdoor cats in winter. Here’s the directions for the no tools needed cat shelter.

  • Cut two small ventilation slits in the very bottom of the bins. This will let out any moisture from body heat.
  • Cut insulation to fit all sides, bottom and top of larger bins. Duct tape all edges to keep out moisture. I found the Styrofoam insulation board with the silver backing very good. Place the silver side inward toward the cats.
  • Use a bowl to mark circle for door and cut out with knife. The circle should be large enough for a cat to get through, but not a raccoon or other similarly sized animal. Remember, cats can easily squeeze through tiny spaces. As a suggestion: Having difficulty cutting the plastic? Lauri M. of St Paul, Minn shared her solution. “We blew hot air from a hairdryer on the area where we planned to cut. This softened the plastic and it sliced like butter.”
  • Place the taped insulation pieces into bin.
  • But weather strip to fit hold, duct tape overlapping ends and put into hole
  • Put in bedding. Snap on inside lid. Add insulation on top of lid. Snap on large lid.
  • Cut clear plastic to cover door and tape into place. Tape bottom and edges of plastic. It gives it some weight. You may want to leave the flap open for awhile to let the cats inspect their new home. Place house on platform (plywood or bricks) or wooden palette to keep off the ground. Stuff straw under platform or palette for insulation

Congratulations you are done.

More suggestions:

  • Consider surrounding your cats’ shelter with bails of straw. Did you know that straw is a fabulously efficient insulator? Homes insulated with 18 inch wide bails of straw could save 75 percent on heating and cooling costs. Just think what that could do for your cats.
  • Place shelters where they will be protected from wind and snow drifts, 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 and drifting of snow. This could be a lifesaver, particularly for those who endure extreme winter weather where roads can be impassible for one to two days.
  • Depending on predators and other animal hazards in your area, some cats may not use the shelters unless there are two exists – one for them to sneak out should another unwanted animal enter. In larger plastic bin houses, consider an emergency exit with a flat that opens from the inside only.

Do you have some ideas for some easy shelters to make to help protect the feral cats from the elements? If so, please share. Paws will be talking about some of the things we learned when we participated in a recent webinar about Trap Neuter and Return, hosted by Alley Cat Allies. Remember, every bit of help makes a big difference in a cat’s life.

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