DIY-Give the gift of warmth to feral cats this winter!

Ian Somerhalder Foundation

It may be cold out, but winter can be a happy time of year when you are cuddled up with a loved one, taking in the crisp smell of fresh snow, or enjoying a cup of cocoa by the fire. But for an outside cat, life is harsh.  It is not uncommon to find cats curled up in the engine of cars to keep warm. But, sadly for these cats, they can be killed as soon as the car is turned on. Generally speaking, outside cats live shorter lives than ones that are kept inside as they are subject to dangers including car accidents, attacks by other animals, diseases, hypothermia, and other harm. Many neighborhoods have feral cats that have it pretty rough.


If you do have an outside cat or have seen some strays hanging around, creating an insulated house is an easy and kind way to provide them with a safe place when the cold weather starts. Luckily, this kind gesture is also affordable. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to build a shelter. Be sure to ask an adult for help if you choose to build one!

Materials Needed:
1 large plastic storage tub with lid (exterior tub)
1 medium plastic storage tub with lid (interior tub)
1 in. thick hard Styrofoam
Box cutter
Mylar reflective blanket (optional for added warmth)
1. Cut a 6” x 6” doorway in each tub using a box cutter and yardstick a few inches above the ground to prevent flooding. If your area has predators, cut a hole in the front and back of each tub so that there is an escape route. Tip: If you are having trouble cutting the plastic, use a hair-dryer to soften the plastic.
2. Cut some of the Styrofoam and line the floor and four interior walls of the exterior tub with it. Leave about a 3” gap between the top of the wall pieces and the upper lip of the tub.
3. Cut out two doorways in the foam that line up with the tub’s doorway. Tip: It helps to trace an outline on the foam before cutting it.
4. Place the interior tub into the exterior tub.
5. Fill the bottom of the interior tub with straw. Do not use hay, blankets, or folded newspaper as they will freeze and provide no warmth. Also, hay is moist and can become moldy. The cats need something they can burrow in, and straw is the easiest and cheapest material to use.
6. Put the first lid on the interior tub and then cut some Styrofoam to rest on top of the interior tub’s lid.
7. Cover the exterior tub with its lid.
8. *Optional for more extreme temperatures* Using a Mylar blanket will add extra warmth as it reflects body heat back onto the cat rather than absorb it like regular blankets. You can either line the interior walls of the tub with Mylar blankets or put one at the bottom of the tub in addition to the straw. Mylar blankets are very inexpensive and can be a lifesaver in the extreme cold.
9. *Optional* You can also add flaps to the door opening with a piece of vinyl mat.

And remember, it is important to regularly change out the straw to keep it fresh and dry. Also, place the shelter away from snow and wind to ensure the most effective and safest shelter!

So there you have it! This is a great way to keep outside cats safe and warm in the winter.

There are many ways to make an effective shelter. This is one great example.