Indoor house cats really do live the kind of lifestyle that we all are rather envious of. They get to sleep all day, play all day, and are fed all day. I’m pretty sure every cat owner gets really jealous of their cat each and every work day as they get ready for work while their cat snoozes in blissful slumberland. House cats legit live the best lives.
However, feral cats have it totally different. Unlike their domesticated counterparts, feral cats are constantly in survival mode each and every day. They are constantly on the lookout for their next meal. Wildcats are always looking over their shoulder for a predator or dangerous situations. They don’t even have proper shelter to protect them from the harsh elements outside!
Life is a struggle and we all need a little help sometimes. Feral cats are no different! By providing a shelter for these wild cats to stay, you are helping a living being in need and helping them to survive to yet another day. Heavy rainstorms, fierce winds, chilling snow, and other elements of nature make things pretty tough for our feral feline companions to live comfortably.
Why Build A Cat Shelter
As mentioned, living in the outdoors is not all rainbows and sunshine. Some days are beautiful and there is plenty of prey to catch. Other days are a struggle and finding food, shelter, and water is a monumental challenge.
The winter time can be especially grueling and a harsh reality for many of our furry friends living outdoors. Many of their food sources are not around as birds have migrated to warmer places and many other animals are hibernating. Feral cats do not go into true hibernation. These wild cats may sleep more to conserve their energy and to stay warm, but feral cats are essentially active all year long.
In order to help our little neighborhood cat, building a cost-effective shelter will help them tremendously with staying warm through the coldest of nights. These feral cats will certainly appreciate the time and effort you put in to create these shelters.
Building this feral cat shelter is amazingly simple and requires only a few components:
- Rubbermaid plastic storage bin of your size
- Styrofoam for insulation
- Some straw in order to provide additional warmth and comfort
- Something sharp to cut the styrofoam and plastic bin
- A newspaper in order to take the dimensions of the plastic box
- Duct tape to keep it all together
You will need Rubbermaid brand plastic storage bins (or storage tote) as these are built to last through cold weather. If you use another manufacturer, you may find that your cat shelter may crack and break due to the freezing temperatures. We don’t want that happening so I rely on Rubbermaid to get get the durability that I desire. You can easily find these storage totes at your local Home Depot or you can just order off of Amazon here.
I also use styrofoam in order to provide a nice insulation for the feral cats and to ensure that they stay warm. You could also find these styrofoam panels at your local Home Depot or just order off Amazon as well! The convenience of online shopping! Why you can even order straw online while you’re at it! I actually found it difficult to find straw in my local area and had to order it online myself.
I just want to note that it is important that we use straw for our cat shelters and not hay. Straw makes for an outstanding bedding and insulation for outdoor cat shelters as they repel moisture. Hay, on the other hand, is typically used to feed farm animals and retain moisture. You can quickly see that hay will cause the shelter to become a freezing zone as there will be moisture inside. Using straw will prevent this from occurring and will ensure that your feral cats will stay nice and warm inside your shelters. It is also a bad idea to use newspaper and towels as these too retain moisture.
How To Build A Cat Shelter
You will first have to decide on which size storage tote you want to use for your feral cat shelter. Most feral cats will bunch up in twos or threes, so getting a feral cat shelter that suits the situation is key. If you use a big storage bin for just one cat, it might be too big for her. These feral cat shelters use the cat’s own body heat to make things nice and toasty. If the shelter is too big, the heat will find a hard time being insulated.
I personally use 18-gallon storage totes because they could fit two cats nicely… three if the cats are bonded and don’t mind sharing the space. I then use the newspaper in order to draw myself an outline of the inside of the plastic bin. This will help you cut out a nice shape out of the styrofoam panels so that you are able to insulate things securely.
Once you draw an outline of the inside of the storage tote, cut the outline using scissors and place it on the styrofoam sheets. Cut out an outline for each side of the storage bin. You should have four walls, a floor, and a ceiling. Don’t worry about an entrance as well will get right on that.
Once you have built yourself a nice box shape out of the styrofoam, try placing it into the storage bin in order to make sure that it fits in nice and securely. Use duct tape in order to keep everything together and make the structure more stable. There will be some spacing between the plastic bins and styrofoam, which we can utilize effectively by stuffing straw into these areas. This will provide further insulation for your cats!
It is now time to make the entranceway, which could easily be made by cutting out a 6-inch diameter hold in both the plastic bin and the styrofoam layer. Using a sharp knife or scissors will easily get the job done. It is important not to make the entrance hole to big as other animals (like raccoons) will get into the shelter and harming the cats.
You will want to measure about 6 inches from the base of the plastic bin to have the bottom of your entrance. This is to prevent any flooding or other environmental debris from entering the shelter. Giving that little elevation will allow the cat to easily go in and out but prevent water from getting in!
Place the top of the plastic bin and put some straw inside the shelter to provide the feral cat with a comfortable place to sleep. And with this, you have easily built yourself an outdoor feral cat shelter! Be sure to place the shelter with the entrance towards a wall or with something blocking the front just enough for the cat to get in, but to break any gusts of wind that may try to penetrate the shelter.
All you have to do is maintain the straw from time to time if you desire, but the shelter will last quite a while. You may have to change the styrofoam insulation after a year or so as it might get all scratched and dirty. But an outdoor shelter is relatively maintenance free!
I just want to take the time to thank you for reading my article on how to build feral cat shelters. I am grateful that there are individuals like you who want to put in the time and effort to make the lives of our feline neighbors that much easier.
Building a feral cat shelter is very cost efficient and easy to do. You could even make a bunch of these and place these in areas where you know there are feral cat colonies. It will definitely help and help them keep warm and dry from the harsh elements.
You may not have time to feed the outdoor cats and to take care of them, but making a shelter is definitely a great way to start. I always advise that you try and participate in the TNR program (trap-neuter-return) in order to help control the cat population. It is basically a humane way to reduce the overpopulation of feral cats. You essentially trap a cat, get them fixed at the veterinarian to prevent birth giving, and release them back into the wild. It may sound strange, but it actually helps the lives of many cats. Many kittens are born each year only to die from the struggles of life. There is also an overabundance of cats which causes them and humans a lot of trouble.
As always, I wish you and your feline companions all the best. Be safe!