Introduction: How to Make a Solar Powered Cat House Out of a 19 Gallon Tote

About: Just an entrepreneur making my way up the ladder

This is how I made my Solar Powered Cat House out of a 76 Qt Tote.


  • Sterilite 76 Qt. Stacker Box Taupe Splash ($10 at Walmart)
  • Reflectix BP24010 Series Foil Insulation, 24 in. x 10 ft ($13 on eBay)
  • Gorilla Spray Glue ($6 at Walmart)
  • 50 ct. Solar Lights ($7 at Dollar General Store)
  • Silicone Caulk & Caulk Gun ($4 at Walmart)

Step 1: Find a Plastic Tote

I wanted to keep the budget for the box itself around $10 bucks so I picked up this 76 Quart plastic tote for $9.95 at Walmart. I initially wanted a bigger one, but since this was all they had I had to settle for this size.

There was one that was only $4 online and it was a Sterilite, 45 Gal/170 L Wheeled Latch Tote, Christmas ( much bigger) but there was none in the store so I would have to order online then pick up in the store and I didn't want to wait.

Step 2: The Cat Entrance

You can do this in several different ways. You don't need a cat door as we used here.

You can just cut a hole and add some plastic flaps over the doorway. Just make sure the opening is at least 5 1/2 inches so the cat can fit through.

But we had a cat door that was given to us, so I used it for the box. After cutting the box to match the door I used (4) 32 X 1 3/4 in. machine screws and nuts to tighten the door to the box then silicone up all the cracks and edges. Found these at Walmart for $0.97 for 8 screws.

I drilled 2 small holes on the very top of the swinging door for ventilation (shown in picture).

Step 3: Add the Lights and Foil Insulation to the Lid for Heat in the Winter

I bought some foil insulation from eBay for $13 to use for the inside lid and the inside of the box.

I also found a $7 dollar string of 50 Solar Lights. It may provide a bit of heat for the box on cold nights. Plus it's solar so it charges during the day and only comes on at dark. There is an on-off switch to turn this off in the summer or hotter times of the year.

I drilled two holes with a 1/4 in drill bit through the top of the lid and foil insulation. One hole was to feed the lights through one at a time. (the only way to do this).

The second hole was for the last light to put through in the middle to go back outside the box as seen in the images. This light is just an indication for me to let me know if the lights are on at night and are working.

There is a rechargeable battery inside the solar light that can be changed out when needed. But it charges by the sun during the day. And it even charges on cloudy days it says.

After all the lights were fed into the lid, I taped each light down making sure all lights were pointing straight down and aligning them in a circle around the lid.

Then I taped down the foil insulations to the lid. I also put a blob of silicone to cover the two holes around the light and the cord for the solar panel.

Step 4: Add the Insulation Inside the Box

I bought some Gorilla Glue Spray Adhesive from Walmart for $6 and used it to spray the inside of the box and on each (cut to size) foil insulation piece to fit into the box starting with the floor.

Then I did the sides. Then I added two more layers to the floor to make it more comfortable.

I put the cat's food and blanket inside. Until he gets used to going in and out. Then I will put his food back outside the box. Some say to put straw inside, but here it doesn't get that cold and doesn't snow.

Plus, the cat door seals up really well so I think a blanket will be fine.

Later, I plan to build a wooden frame to put under the box to keep it off the ground as the door is kinda low and I don't water to get in if it rains a lot.

And I want to make a small roof in the shape of a pyramid so that rain doesn't collect on top of the lid because of the way the lid slopes inward.

UPDATE: So it rained the other day and the cat house leaked. The spot it leaked from was on the roof where it slopes in at the spots where I put blobs of silicone on the cords. I also notice from the get-go that this silicone in the tube might not have been what was on the label. It says "clear" written on the tube, but it was actually white as you can see from the pictures. So I don't know if there was a mix up at the factory on this one.

So I recommend getting a brand like the glue-type weather-resistant silicone. As this brand I bought didn't want to stick to the plastic very well. I just notice after it got wet I could move it around and it was soft, so that's how the water got in.

I would also recommend that you keep this cat house under a shelter (garage, patio, porch, anything with a roof) if you don't build a roof like I plan to do because of the way the roof is designed on this tote. It tends to collect water there.

NEXT STEPS: I will get the weather-resistant silicone and redo the two spots on the roof and just as a precaution measure will add some weather stripping to the top of the box just encase it may get leaks there between the lid and the box. Although it does seem to not leak from there as of right now.