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This easily constructed cat shelter is perfect for our outdoor feral friends during those cold months. From start to finish only  took me less than a hour to complete. I had everything to make do this project around the house, besides the styrofoam cooler which was only a couple dollars.

Step 1: Supplies and Tools

Supplies:

Styrofoam Cooler - I got the cheapest one I could find from Wal-Mart for about $5

Tape - the stronger the better, I would suggest duct or packaging tape. Something that could hold up to some abuse outside

Insulation - Batting or Packaging Peanuts work great and are easy to find around the house. You can use Hay or Shredded Newspaper too. However some cats are allergic to Hay. It is important that whatever insulation you choose, it not be rigid or unable for the feline to burrow in it.

Plastic Bags - So the insulation does not got moldy from moisture I'm putting it in plastic bags.

Scrap Fabric - For added warmth and burrowing capabilities inside the shelter I used some scrap fleece I recycled. A old pillowcase or cotton fabric works great as well.

Tools:

Box Cutter

Sharpie

Adhesive (Optional) - make sure it is suitable for use with styrofoam

Step 2: Making the Shelter

With the particular trapezoidal shaped cooler I chose for this project, I felt it would be best if the bottom of the shelter was the lid of the cooler. This way there is more floor area inside and the tapered chamber would warm up faster.

Step 1 - Making The Entrance

If a cat can get their head through a opening, they can get their body through (unless it's a overweight house-cat of course). With that in mind, I didn't want to make the entrance too big and the shelter too drafty for the dead of winter.

1. Mark the opening with a sharpie on one of the short sides of the cooler. Mine was about a 6" by 6" shape. Just a little larger than the handle for the cooler. Image 1

2. Carefully cut along your marking with a box cutter. Don't be too forceful or you may break the cooler. Clean off any loose styrofoam beads. Image 2-3

3. Check the opening with the lid . Image 4

4. I made my opening a little too small so I took off a little more. I think My end opening size was 6" wide by 7-8" high. Image 5-6

Step 2 - Add Drainage Holes

Moisture could collect in the shelter, so its important to create drainage holes in the lowest surface of the shelter

1. In the lid ( I used the styrofoam injection marks), mark two holes. Cut a 1/2" hole using whatever implement you have at hand; a drill bit, sharp pencil, ect... Image 7-8

Step 3: Putting the Shelter Together

Now that the cooler is prepped , we want to make sure to seal the lid to the container to keep out weather and wind.

Step 1 (Optional)

1. In a well ventilated area generously apply adhesive to the outside lip of the lid. Image 1

2. Quickly attach the lid to the base, and apply even pressure.

Step 2

1. Using whatever tape you choose, tape across the lid and the base. Make sure not to cover over the drainage holes. Image 2

2. Next, tape around the edge where the lid meets the base. This will prevent any drafts, and reinforce the two pieces together. Image 3-5

Step 4: Making the Bedding

Now that the structure is complete, we want to make warm comfortable padding to insulate our feline friend. To do this I used batting but you could also use packaging peanuts, shredded newspaper, sod, straw, ect. But whatever you decide to use, you will have to be able to replace it occasionally to make sure its not damp, or moldy. The same goes for any fabric scraps you add to the bedding.

Step 1 - Making the Padding

1. In a gallon baggie, I stuffed a liberal amount of batting. Image 1

2. When closing the bag I tried to push the majority of the air out. This will still make a nice soft pad that's not too thick but pliable. Two gallon bags made the perfect amount to fit in the shelter. Image 2

* In retrospect it would have been a good idea to cover the baggies in duct tape to help prevent the cat from puncturing the bag and inflating the bedding. When i change the padding out in a week or so I'll do this or just use another insulating material that won't expand as much, like packaging peanuts.

3. Place the padding inside the structure. Image 3-4

Step 2

1. Cut up your scrap fabric into small pieces, mine were raging from 6" squares, up to 10" squares. It is important that the fabric is not all one piece, this way the inhabitant can move around the material and burrow in the shelter at night to keep the heat in. Image 5

2. Lay the frabic inside on top of the padding with larger scraps in the back and smaller scraps in the front. Image 6

That's it! The Winter cat Shelter is done! Image 7

*Depending on where the shelter will be placed it may not be a bad idea to add some weight to it to keep it from blowing over. I used two scrap 2x4's. Image 8

Step 5: Placing the Shelter

If you notice a particular area the feral cat/cats like to hang out or regularly see them sleeping, this would be a good location to place the shelter. You want to make sure the shelter is facing away from the direction of the wind and is not close to any sort of danger.

The particular cat I built this for was sleeping next to a pile of old pallets by a wooded area. Image 1

As you can see in the image is another variation of the shelter my neighbor made. He used some fallen branches to weight down his shelter.

To encourage the feral cats to use their winter homes, I placed treats along their walking path leading towards and inside of the shelter. This technique worked for me the best!

I hope you all enjoyed this fast and easy Instructable! This is a great community project for kids, and all animal lovers alike!!! PLEASE post any images of your Easy Winter Cat Shelter, I'd love to hear some feedback or suggestions!!!!!!!!!!!
<p>Also used a remnant of cushioned thin mylar insulation on the inside of the cooler. Thanks!</p>
<p>I had an old pillow that I took apart and put in the gallon bags and used what was left over inside the shelter. Thanks for the great easy DIY project!!</p>
<p>please do not use plastic bags the cats may eat it. also the Styrofoam peanuts are edible. Thank y'all for helping these little souls</p>
I made this today for my cat. He immediately went in and is currently using it. Thanks!
<p>Please don't use Hay, use STRAW. Hay gets moldy and when wet won't keep them warm. Also, if it's going to get damp or wet, do not use any fabric. The best Styrofoam coolers for this are the free ones that meat and medicines come in. My vet saves me some and I get others donated from a hospital.</p><p>I couldn't upload a photo, but the community cats really like these. </p>
<p>This may sound like a really silly question but I have never had cats before so I'm not sure what the answer is. How do you clean this as it's duct-taped together and will feral/stray cats use this as a litterbox as well as a shelter? Thanks. =)</p>
<p> They use it as a shelter from the cold...they go outside to the bathroom..they would never go in their shelter...</p>
<p>The only thing I worry about in my neighborhood is that the skunks would it take over as shelter. Have you had issues with skunks and if so did they take over your shelter for the cats? I also have a dog that is really bothered by stray cats and any animals it drives her crazy to see animals near our house but we still feed at least 2 of the stray cats. My dog has been sprayed by skunks 6 times in the last 5 years because she does not animals in our yard or she is stupid(I am trying not to call her stupid because I love her so much). I really do not want to find a skunk in the shelter I make for our beautiful stray cats.</p>
<p>FYI-in case you haven't heard this one&hellip;&hellip;If your dog has been sprayed by a skunk,Get some Massengil Douche (Unscented).Dilute w/water and soak your dog with this and leave on. Learned this from a professional groomer and IT DOES WORK!</p>
<p>My correction-leave douche mixture on dog for 15 minutes,then rinse and follow with a bath.</p>
<p>I would say there is no guarantee that other animals would use it as a warm spot, but most likely if they smell that another animal has been in there, they might not go in. I have one in my yard that one cat has been using since last winter and other cats do not go in it.</p>
<p>Do you have skunks in your area? This is the main reason I am afraid to spend the money on this thing, is that skunks or other wildlife that you do not want the cats to inter act with would use it and the cats would not be able to use it!</p>
<p>Cats won't urinate or poop where they eat or sleep. They are very clean that way.</p>
<p>The duct tape it may hold. I like the one with the container inside another. but they'll go outside to do their business. cats won't poop</p><p> where they sleep!</p>
<p>Most cats will not urinate or defecate in their living areas, so it shouldn't really be a problem.</p>
<p>I've never seen a cat use it's shelter for a litter box, as long as it's not trapped in there.</p>
<p>fleece might work but blankets stay wet, if not straw what else could I use?</p>
<p>Hay is a terrible insulator, I would use straw instead. Because it's hollow it makes for better insulating value. Hay is nothing more than a weed.</p>
<p>Use straw only in the cat shelters, it's better then blankets for warmth and staying dry. They will make a little nest in it. </p>
<p>Thanks for the inspiration. https://www.instructables.com/id/Cat-House-for-the-Winter-and-for-Feral-cats/</p>
<p>I like how you did this.</p><p>I did something similar a couple of years ago, none of the feral cats used it. Mine took longer and was more expensive - but worth the experience.</p>
This is my project for tomorrow. I've just moved to an area where a cat is left out all night and the UK is smothered in snow, and will be for some weeks. I can't take the cat in (badly allergic) but it begs at my door (I think the previous person who lived here used to let it in) and it's been upsetting me. I never even thought of this sort of solution until I saw this idea. If the cat doesn't use it, we have an urban fox I've been feeding, so thanks a lot.
umm ? unban fox might be friendly to that cat.
I wonder if one could use the travel bags that you suck the air out of to enclose the insulation? And perhaps straw could be used (versus hay, commonly misconstrued)...thanks for helping the poor cold cats out there. I have a special place in my heart for feral cats.
These are great! Thank you
There aren't many feral cats in my area, I've only seen one or two. I do, however, have several bunnies in my yard that keep crawling under my car when it snows. Maybe they'll like a shelter? I'm going to make a couple of these from some Omaha Steaks shipping coolers I have laying around, thanks for the idea!
This is great! The drainage holes are important. I recommend the packing peanuts (the non-cornstarch kind) for the padding instead of anything that can absorb water. I also recommend woven fabric to hold them rather than a plastic bag, so any snow, or other moisture that comes in with them will drain out rather than puddle. <br> Wish I'd seen this years ago when an old stray adopted my backyard! (I'm deathly allergic to cats, so I couldn't touch it or take it inside.) Ended up building something much more difficult and not nearly as nice as your idea. <br>One question - Do they need an escape route out another side?
Thanks for the great suggestions! <br> <br>As far as a escape route, I find that keeping the entrance just large enough for the cat to get in and out of makes the shelter pretty defensible. Feral cats are pretty tough and I feel could hold their own if another animal tried to get at them while in the shelter.
As the resident Instructables cat lady, I just have to say that this is wonderful! I have some friends back in KY that make little shelters like this for the cats in the neighborhood - but they use large plastic totes. This seems like a nicer insulated option. :)

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