Building a winter shelter for your outdoor cats can be both simple and inexpensive.
Two of the more popular styles are:
When constructing a shelter, here are a few basic ideas to keep in mind.
All good shelter designs share two qualities:
Shelter size is very important.
The placement of shelters is important in keeping cats safe from predators.
Don’t place the shelter directly on the cold ground.
Use two 2x4s or other materials to raise it off the ground and place straw underneath. This makes it easier for the cats to warm the inside with their body heat.
Make the door as small as possible.
Cats need an opening of only about five-and-a-half or six inches in diameter, or the width of their whiskers.
Locate the door several inches above the ground level.
Creating extra protection:
An awning that covers the opening, made from roll plastic or heavy plastic garbage bags, provides more insulation, helps keep the rain and wind from entering the shelter, and makes the cats feel safer.
Raising the rear of the shelter slightly higher than the front helps to keep rain from pooling inside and snow from piling up on the roof.
Lightweight shelters definitely need to be secured against the wind.
Insulating materials inside the shelter will increase the comfort and warmth of the cats.
One of our favorite designs uses two storage bins with removable lids.
An earth-tone bin blends in best with the environment, making it aesthetically pleasing to you and your neighbors and more natural in appearance to the cats. Common sizes of bins are 30-35 gallon (22-32″ high x 16-20″ wide x 16-20″ long) and 20-22 gallon (16-26″ high x 20″ wide and 17-22″ long). Exact sizes vary by brand, so just make sure that the smaller bin will fit completely inside the larger bin with the lid on both bins. You’ll also need an eight-foot by two-foot sheet of one-inch thick hard Styrofoam, a yardstick, box cutter, and straw for insulation.
This shelter is easy to clean by taking off the lid and the roof. It is lightweight and may need to be weighed down. A flap over the door way is optional.