How to Build a Feral Cat Shelter for Winter

Melissa Riker
Written by Melissa Riker
Updated October 11, 2016
styrofoam feral cat shelter
While not as durable as the shelter in this tutorial, this temporary cat shelter can make all the difference in emergency situations. (Photo courtesy of FACE Low-Cost Animal Clinic)

Help feral cat colonies survive harsh winter conditions by building a DIY feral cat shelter.

As temperatures begin to drop, it can be difficult for feral cat populations to find safe, warm places to escape the cold. You can change that. The most elaborate cat shelters may be made from wood with full household insulation, but there are many ways to create a shelter that will function the same with readily available materials. If bad weather is approaching and you don’t have time to build a cat shelter, improvise one by cutting a hole in a portable plastic foam container and lining it with straw, like the one shown in the photo above. If you’re thinking ahead to this winter, make this low-cost DIY feral cat shelter that offers more long-term protection. 

Supplies needed for DIY cat shelter

materials for DIY feral cat shelter
Photo courtesy of Melissa Riker/The Happier Homemaker
  • Large lidded heavy-duty plastic storage container

  • Smaller lidded plastic container that fits entirely within the larger container

  • Drill with 6-inch hole saw or jigsaw

  • Safety glasses

  • Masking tape

  • Straw

Making your feral cat shelter

A good cat shelter should be insulated, waterproof, and have minimal air space to help the cat maintain its body heat.

Wearing safety glasses, use the hole saw and drill or jigsaw to create a 6-inch circular opening in the larger of the two plastic containers approximately 1 to 2 inches above the ground. 

making DIY feral cat shelter
Photo courtesy of Melissa Riker/The Happier Homemaker

Place the smaller container within the larger one and trace the opening to mark where to cut it. Cut the hole in the smaller container. 

making DIY feral cat shelter
Photo courtesy of Melissa Riker/The Happier Homemaker

Spread a 1-inch thick layer of straw in the bottom of the larger container and place the small container on top, lining up the holes. Place a small amount of straw between the bottoms of the openings. 

making DIY feral cat shelter
Photo courtesy of Melissa Riker/The Happier Homemaker

Use masking tape to cover the edges of the plastic. This ensures the cat doesn’t harm itself on sharp edges and helps seal the edges from water. Overlap the tape slightly as you work around the opening to make sure it’s fully sealed. 

making DIY feral cat shelter
Photo courtesy of Melissa Riker/The Happier Homemaker

Once the opening is sealed, fill the area between the two tubs densely with straw — the more the better to help hold in the cat’s heat! 

making DIY feral cat shelter
Photo courtesy of Melissa Riker/The Happier Homemaker

Finally, place a layer of straw in the bottom of the small container for bedding. 

making DIY feral cat shelter
Photo courtesy of Melissa Riker/The Happier Homemaker

Place the top on the small container and cover with straw. 

making DIY feral cat shelter
Photo courtesy of Melissa Riker/The Happier Homemaker

Secure the lid to the larger container to finish the shelter. 

making DIY feral cat shelter
Photo courtesy of Melissa Riker/The Happier Homemaker

Place your shelter in a secure area safe from predators, and if possible, keep water and food close by. Check the shelter periodically to replace damp straw and make sure it hasn’t been compromised. 

DIY feral cat shelter
Photo courtesy of Melissa Riker/The Happier Homemaker

Ready to build your own feral cat shelter? Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below. 

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