Easy Winter Cat Shelter

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Introduction: Easy Winter Cat Shelter

About: Being a Artist and Printmaker I have to be creative everyday! It is my compulsion. What I love about Instructables is the free exchange of information, and communication with the authors.

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.

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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!!!!!!!!!!!

4 People Made This Project!

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36 Discussions

0
mole1
mole1

7 years ago on Introduction

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.
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.
One question - Do they need an escape route out another side?

0
rst0606.sf
rst0606.sf

Reply 4 months ago

The woven material will likely retain the water and chill the kitty instead of warm it. I've always heard just straw is the best, and I added shredded fleece on top. I could be wrong but I heard it's okay. But no other fabrics of any kind.

0
rmazzupappa
rmazzupappa

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for the great suggestions!

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.

0
chrissie1953
chrissie1953

7 years ago on Step 5

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.

0
rst0606.sf
rst0606.sf

Reply 4 months ago

I would have two quite separated so the dominant one won't always take it and leave the other without.

0
astral_mage
astral_mage

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

umm ? unban fox might be friendly to that cat.

fleece might work but blankets stay wet, if not straw what else could I use?

0
rst0606.sf
rst0606.sf

Reply 4 months ago

Yes, I heard fleece is good if it's cut up in small pieces. I think it dries quickly. I felt the container 2/3 full of straw with fleece on top and slope it up toward the back so they can get in.

0
CarolL34
CarolL34

4 years ago

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

0
rst0606.sf
rst0606.sf

Reply 4 months ago

Also, cats tend to knit. There will likely be holes in the plastic not the styrofoam peanuts and container.

0
rst0606.sf
rst0606.sf

Reply 4 months ago

I meant if not the peanuts in container.

0
rst0606.sf
rst0606.sf

4 months ago

I had some issues with your construction after doing research and building my own. Your doors should be about 4 in off the ground because water can pour in and be blown in as well as snow. You could probably use water- resistant tape to seal the bottom and cut it higher. Also the cats will likely knit holes into the plastic bag and the container itself if not tear it apart. The more sturdy plastic bins are a bit larger and stronger, and only about $6. I also added waterproof foam on the bottom sides and top and cover it with that bubble wrap that is silver on each side for reflective heat taped together with water resistant tape. Except the lid of course so you can access it. Always use straw not hay as several others said. And as someone else said they might eat the popcorn. I was told only to use enough straw so they could burrow in easily, another reason to have the door begin four inches high. I fill the bin about two-thirds full up straw and cut up fleece in small pieces you put on top. Then I sloped it upward toward the back so they can get in. Supposedly fleece is safe if in small pieces because it dries quickly. Hopefully the people I heard it from aren't wrong. The less space empty, the warmer it will stay

1
RobertS900
RobertS900

5 months ago

Straw is the best insulator. No hay. No fleece blankets---they get wet and cold quick.

0
rst0606.sf
rst0606.sf

Reply 4 months ago

Actually I've heard several times that fleece is okay as long as it's shredded, or cut in small pieces. It dries quickly. I use straw on the bottom and I'm cutting up cheap fleece blankets that I got for 1 to $2 at a 50% off thrift store sale to put on top. Of course, I live in the sunnier part of the San Francisco Bay Area. Only gets down to about the low 40s here, perhaps a short time in the 30s. I also have my shelter both under a patio table and heavy cover that reaches to the ground.

0
kiraste
kiraste

5 months ago

Absolutely use STRAW! Unlike hay, straw holds heat. I am making one of these for an opossum who has been hanging around my bird feeders. I am also adding an outdoor electric heated pad meant for chickens. Possums don't hibernate, and with no hair on their feet and tails, they suffer badly from frostbite, so it's great to help them out if you can. My possum is gonna be well fed and cozy warm this winter!

0
WhiteheadD
WhiteheadD

2 years ago

As a mold expert, I emphasize not to use Hay! It is a petri dish for mold!

0
jrhod711
jrhod711

5 years ago

I made this today for my cat. He immediately went in and is currently using it. Thanks!

0
jean.n.thorne

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.

I couldn't upload a photo, but the community cats really like these.

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. =)

0
dalyautumn
dalyautumn

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

They use it as a shelter from the cold...they go outside to the bathroom..they would never go in their shelter...