Outdoor Cold Weather 'Cat Condo'





Introduction: Outdoor Cold Weather 'Cat Condo'

This tutorial will show how to make an Outdoor Cold Weather 'Cat Condo'. Our neighborhood seems to have more than our share of homeless cats and my wife tends to feed all that show up. During the winter months the weather can be wet and cold (with a fair amount of snow), so about seven years ago my wife asked me to create shelters for the feral cats. The shelters last throughout the winter months and I get rid of them each Spring at the end of the rainy season, about the time when many of the cats start wandering off.

The ‘cat condo’ consists of two 18 gallon storage container “houses” measuring 18”W x 25”L x 14”H. The outer walls of the condo are created from one 4 x 8 sheet 1½ ” extruded Styrofoam insulation. The fronts are open so that the storage container “houses” can be removed for cleaning. The ‘condo’ has ledges on each level for eating & sleeping and extended sides for protection from rain and snow. The photo above shows the deterioration on the right side where kittens used it for climbing to the roof – all of the cats like using the roof to lay in the Sun or play, especially the kittens.

The inner storage houses had old clothes/blankets, etc, so even on the coldest of days (near –20F) the cats were warm and cozy. About the only time they wanted to come out on those days were to eat and then they went back into to the houses to sleep. Note: The storage container cat houses are re-used each year.

Step 1: Tools & Materials

Tools needed:
- Long blade utility knife or sheet rock saw
- Carpenter’s square

Materials list:

Quantity   Part Description                                          Approx Cost
2              18 gal storage tubs (25” x 17 ¾” x 14 ¼”)             $ 9.50
1               4 x 8 sheet 1 ½ ” extruded Styrofoam insulation  $15.33
1               tube of construction adhesive (outdoor)               $  6.25

Step 2: Cut Out the Main Pieces

Above is a cutout diagram I created that I use each year. The second photo shows how the main pieces are glued together using outdoor construction adhesive.

Step 3: Finishing Touches to Front of Condo

The “L” section from the cutout diagram is cut into sections and then glued onto the front of the cat condo to form the extended sides - to block the wind, snow and rain (see above).

Step 4: Cutting the Cat Houses

On one end of each 18-gallon storage container, outline an entrance hole like the second photo above and cut the entrance hole. Save the tops because they keep the “houses” warmer with the lids.

All that is left is to put in some old blankets, fleece clothes, etc. My wife got ours from a Goodwill store; she washes them two or three times during the winter months when the cats are out sleeping and playing.



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I live in -20 winters as well and we use clean straw (not hay) to warm the inside versus cloth. The straw helps retain the body heat of the cats whereas cloth wicks heat away. We empty (and clean) the houses in the spring and stuff them again September 1. Thank you for providing much needed shelter and food to these unowned cats.



Thanks to you and your wife for caring about the cats! A couple of suggestions - straw or hay is a great insulator and works better than the blankets, which absorb dampness.
While feeding and sheltering the cats is great, it is ony half the job! Spaying and neutering those cats is a MUST, given the millions of animals killed in our shelters every year!

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Not hay, actually, it doesn't retain the cat's body heat. Straw does because of the hollow area of the straw stalk. Thank you for helping cats, too. (Our area has low cost/ free spay & neuter.)

Thanks so much for this. Here's an idea that might work for some folks: I keep cat beds in my detached garage (I keep my 22 year old car in my driveway so the garage is just for the cats, I keep both garage doors slightly open for them). I put a heating pad set on lowest setting and covered with a towel inside each cat bed, the cats love them. It costs me about 20 cents a month for electricity for each one, but you do need to buy the kind of heating pads that stay on all the time, 24/7, they cost about $30 each at Walmart. But I found it to be worth it when I saw how the cats loved them, and I am using them for a second year now. I turned them on in October and haven't had to touch them, they just stay on. Also, last winter I puzzled over how to keep the canned food and water I leave out every day from freezing (I also leave out dry food), this year I got one of those heated dog bowls, which are huge, and I set two small bowls inside it, one with water and one with canned food, and it works great, neither the food nor the water has ever frozen. I also place old pillows under some heating pads (I have 4 heating pads now) and some also up in the loft where the cats love to lounge around, I think they feel safe up there as they're away from me when I walk into the garage. Thanks to everyone who helps these poor cats stay warm and fed! Also, I volunteer at a pet shelter and we have a spay/neuter program for strays, you (or we) trap them and it's free to get them spayed/neutered, and then they get released back to where they were trapped. You might ask at your local shelter about that, they'll probably be happy at your efforts to help keep the population down. Thanks everyone for all your great tips!

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Thanks for the heating pad tip. I also use the heated bowls. Wish I could use my garage like you, I actually need to get a nice side shed instead.

This is so sweet! I love it. We need something similar where I live for individuals without housing. I am actually serious. I want to come up with some way for homeless individuals (in Alaska) to get out of the snow and off the street into a dry small area that can be heated with their body heat. Any ideas welcome and appreciated. have a lot of ideas so far, but this gives me some additional ideas. thanks.

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I feel for your cats, they must be so cold! I just posted an idea tonight, I hope you take a look and that it might have some value for you. Good luck.

BTW, my only change would be to make the opening as small as possible (5.25" wide x 6.25" tall is good size for most cats) to keep cold draft out & predators from getting in. Cats do not have shoulder blades which allows for a much greater range of motion than many other mammals, so if they can get their head in, they can get inside.

Pretty cool idea!

Straw should be used...blankets hold the cold and wetness

nice "ible" we used to have a lot of feral cats, then a 3' alligator moved in, now we have few cats and a 7' gator

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post a pic of the shelter you made for the gator...

God bless you and your wife.. these are wonderful and I will be making some of these for the homeless cats that live by the dumpsters at my work. Thank God their are lots of people feeding them, and now they will have some warm housing! I can't thank you enough for sharing this with all of us. You can tell the size of a persons soul by the way they treat an animal. Thanks again!

Your Cat Condo is a good idea. Here's my dealings with keeping cats warm during the winter.
I have about 7 outside cats now and have tried different things to keep them warm during the winter. We moved to WV in 09 and it was a bad winter, so I let 13 cats stay in the house that winter. In 2010 I decided not this year, so I put a heat lamp over the table outside on the porch and they huddled under that. It caused my electric bill go up and I had to think of something else to keep them warm that would raising my electric. So, this past winter I took 2 styrofoam coolers taped the lids, turned them up upside down so the lid was on the bottom and cut out a small opening. Then I bought me some batting the kind you use to make Hotpads and placed on the inside. It helps generate heat from the cats body. This worked really well and they were as snug as a bug in a rug. This year too we are going to cover the porch with those clear plastic panels hoping when the sun is shinning it will warm the porch during the day. I am also going to cover the decking boards with styrofoam insulation and then cover it with rugs hoping to keep the cold air out from underneath. Wish there was a way I can keep that warmth we get from the day into the night. Do you have any ideas of keeping that warmth the sun generates during the day?

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I've been using two heated mats (see below) on our glider on the back deck. I plug them both into a Thermo cube, so that the mats only use electricity when the temperature get cold (below 32 degrees and turns off when it goes above 45 degrees).

In the winter I have a cover over the seat of the glider and one over the entire glider. I put one of these mats in each of the seats of the glider and then circle it with old baby blankets. The mats actually react to the body heat of the cats and generates more than enough heat to keep the cats "toasty". I've found that the cost throughout the Winter is minimal.

Heated Pet Mat (Thermostatic controls heat to your pet)

Thermo Cube Thermostatically Controlled Outlet


Thank you for the instructible and also for being so nice to the cats! I made cat shelters out of EPS last winter. I think yours are quicker to make. I'll probably adopt some of your ideas. Does your area have a TNR program (Trap, Neuter, and Return)? As dpc1222 suggested, you might be able to get them neutered. It's practical and inexpensive with the help of a TNR program like the one I got trained by -- http://www.neighborhoodcats.org. You might also want to look at their plans for cat shelters and links to other peoples' shelter plans. I'm really impressed that the cats were safe even at -20 F! I credit the EPS. Thanks again!

Thank you for caring about abandoned and stray cats.So many animals suffer.