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How to Build an Easy Outdoor Cat Shelter

Updated on March 10, 2011

Build an Easy Weatherproof Cat Shelter for Stray and Feral Cats

Over the years I have come to accumulate a large number of cats. With my house at capacity, I had to learn how to take care of those left outside that come and go in my yard all year round. There have been many strays and ferals that feed under my deck every day, and I love to be able to provide them with a daily meal. Come wintertime however, I worry about them being cold. So I started making cat shelters around my yard and under my deck. This lens focuses on one method I have used to make a very sturdy and warm shelter for any cat that needs it.

As much as I love cats, I am aware of how too many in a house hold can cause a lot of stress for them. I have eleven indoor cats, and that's why I can't add the extra strays into the home. Read my lens on How to Manage a Multi- Cat House Hold.

This is Moscar, one of my stray kitties that I feed daily.
This is Moscar, one of my stray kitties that I feed daily.

Cat Shelters

My kitty friendly yard

I have made many outdoor cat shelters for the stray and feral cats that live in my neighborhood. My goal was to make a shelter that would insulate them from the wind and be waterproof as much as possible. I wanted a warm and safe place for the stray cats I feed when they needed shelter from the weather.

This is Pretty Kitty. She may live next door...yet we feed her daily.
This is Pretty Kitty. She may live next door...yet we feed her daily.

Making do with what I had....

I make my cat shelters from items I have on hand or that can be purchased cheaply. My largest cat shelter was made from a dog cage that I had from when we got our dog. He never liked it and it was a shame to see it go to waste. This cage was a wire one that was collapsible. It had a front opening door and if needed, the back panel could also be folded down to act as an escape route if a raccoon or dog approached via the front door.

A few winters ago I decided to make a cat shelter from the large dog cage. First I went to Home Depot and bought a large piece of Styrofoam sheeting that was backed with silver paper. This type of product is used as insulation in houses. I measured the Styrofoam and cut two pieces to fit inside to act as insulated side walls. I cut another piece to fit up against the back wall of the cage. I decided that it would be warmer if I kept the back door shut and not leave an escape hatch. You may want to do it another way, depending on the severity of the weather where you live.

Bale of Hay- will fill many shelters
Bale of Hay- will fill many shelters

Buliding the Shelter

A few winters ago I decided to make a cat shelter from the large dog cage. First I went to Home Depot and bought a large piece of Styrofoam sheeting that was backed with silver paper. This type of product is used as insulation in houses. I measured the Styrofoam and cut two pieces to fit inside to act as insulated side walls. I cut another piece to fit up against the back wall of the cage. I decided that it would be warmer if I kept the back door shut and not leave an escape hatch. You may want to do it another way, depending on the severity of the weather where you live.

For the front of the cage, I cut a piece to fit, but cut a square in it towards the bottom that the cats could enter through. The front of the cage door had to stay in the open position so the cats could come and go, but the insulated panel provided some protection from the wind. I cut a piece large enough to act as the floor and placed that down in the cage. So now the cage was lined on all four walls, and the floor with the insulation. I cut one last piece and placed it on top, on the outside of the shelter. For the top of the cage, I placed a piece of plywood over the styrofoam and used bungee cords to keep in it place. Of course this was not yet waterproof.

I took the cage and placed it in the yard where it would be safe but the cats could find it. I placed it up on bricks to raise it up off the ground, so that rain didn’t run into it. I added a small piece of scrap wood to act as a ramp, leading into the cage. I held it in position by placing a few large rocks around it. As I said, I always use what I have on hand.

Next, I went to my local feed store where they sell straw. Make sure you purchase straw and not hay. Hay will rot and break down quickly, whereas straw will not. I bought one bale and have had it for several years. One bale will line a lot of shelters and act as nice warm bedding for cats. I lined the entire inside of the shelter with a very thick layer of hay, and tossed in an old blanket on top of that to add extra comfort on very cold days.

This is Hurley. He has lived here in my yard about four years.
This is Hurley. He has lived here in my yard about four years.

My outdoor kids - This is Hurley

* Hurley is one of my outside kids. He showed up about 4 years ago and comes and goes. This winter due to the very severe weather, we started bringing him into the garage where we made him a nice snuggly bed, a litter box and a feeding station. He is thrilled with his new quarters, yet always wants to go back outside. I think he actually has another home nearby, as he is sometimes gone for two or three days at a time.

Winter Kitty
Winter Kitty

Finishing and water proofing

To make the shelter weather resistant, I bought a couple of plastic tarps that were large enough to go over the shelter, completely wrapping it up and making it water proof. I got these at Ocean State Job Lot for very little, but Home Depot sells them as well. I used bungee cords, purchased at the dollar store, to hold the tarp securely around the shelter.

And that’s all there was to it! Now I understand that not everyone is going to have an old dog cage hanging around. In a pinch, you can use basically the same techniques using a very large cardboard box. You will really have to make sure it is well off the ground and completely wrapped in the plastic tarps or else it will buckle and collapse if it gets wet. A little plywood cut to size could help prop up the inside walls prior to lining them. A bit of ingenuity goes a long way.

I hope you found my suggestions on how to make a quick and easy outdoor cat shelter helpful.

eBay cat shelter options

In case you don't want to build it yourself....

Reader Feedback

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    • Missy Zane profile image

      Missy Zane 5 years ago

      Love the pictures of your outdoor kids.

    • Afteretc profile image

      Afteretc 5 years ago

      I'm really loving all your lenses!! I use dog igloos and feral villas for my feral cats. I also install outdoor safe heating pads for them - I live in Chicago and the heating pads inside the outdoor housing keeps the cats nice and toasty. I wrote lens about TNR in Chicago, check it out.

    • WildWilliams profile image

      WildWilliams 5 years ago

      I too have been adopted by a feral cat. Like you he inspired me to write a lens about our experiences. If you like you can visit https://hubpages.com/animals/black-cat-saga and read about Black Cat.