How To Make a Winter Shelter for Community Cats

December 17, 2021

Looking out for a community cat this winter? There are a few important things to keep in mind to keep them safe and warm as inclement weather approaches. While cats can often find their own shelter, providing shelter helps them shelter in a safer space. Outdoor cats often seek warmth in their shelters and can choose unsafe areas like under your car’s hood as their shelter. Providing outdoor cats with shelter can be easy and inexpensive through the use of common house-hold items like Rubbermaid bins, a styrofoam cooler, and straw.

Here’s how to make a winter shelter for the community cats in your area:
  • First you will want to gather your supplies including an 18 in. Rubbermaid bin, a styrofoam cooler, straw, an X-ACTO knife, and duct tape. Remember when choosing your Rubbermaid bin that bigger is not always better since heat disperses more quickly in larger spaces making it more difficult for a cat seeking shelter from the cold to stay warm.
  • Begin by cutting a hole in the Rubbermaid bin only large enough for cats to enter (between 6-8 in.), this will act as the entrance/exit to the shelter.
  • Next, insert your styrofoam cooler into the plastic tote. This acts as insulation from the elements. Once inserted, cut a matching hole in the styrofoam so that cat can enter/exit easily.
  • Once the styrofoam is placed correctly, add straw inside and around the cooler for more insulation and to help repel moisture. Fill as much as possible.
  • Place the styrofoam lid on the cooler and secure it in place with a duct tape. Follow this by placing the plastic lid on the Rubbermaid tote and securing it with duct tape to keep the bin sealed.
  • Put the shelter in a safe place, on even ground so that it is level. You can add leaves around the area as camouflage.
  • You can make the shelter more appealing by placing catnip or treats inside.
  • Remember to check in on the shelter regularly, especially after a snow storm since snow can pile up and trap the cat inside.
In addition to shelter, you can provide community cats with easy access to food and water since these become more scarce in inclement weather. Here are a few tips for feeding community cats in the winter:
  • To help cats conserve energy, provide them with more food in the winter. Wet food takes less energy to digest, but should be served in plastic containers to prevent freezing. Providing dry food, which will not freeze, works for frigid temperatures, too.
  • To keep food warm you have a few options. You can use bowls that are deep rather than wide and place them in sunny areas to keep water from freezing, warm up canned food and water before serving, or use heated electric bowls.
  • Afraid of water freezing? Refill their water twice a day or let a spigot run on low since it freezes slower than still water.

Together we can help the cats in our community have a safe and warm winter!