Building a Winter Cat Shelter

December 22, 2009

pets, thrift

We’ve adopted a few feral cats who have homes outdoors. Well, not exactly outdoors– one sleeps in the attached garage and one sleeps in the basement (we have small hatches for both areas). Both areas are warmer than the cruel outdoors, but Upstate New York winters can be pretty rough on a critter. My feral cat, Milo, an orange tabby, is an old geriatric at 12 years old, and we had to ditch his comfy but dirty old stuffed chair last year. I did some searching, and came up with a terrific idea for a winter cat shelter. I decided to make the simple plastic container shelter for Milo, with a few adjustments. I post what we did, here, in case anyone searching for ideas can use it.


This is a very inexpensive shelter, and it’s easy to build. The most difficult part of the construction is cutting the plastic holes, a task we found arduous. I read one tip (after the fact, ugh) that suggested heating the plastic buckets with a hairdryer to soften the plastic, and thus make the cutting of the holes easier. I wish I’d known that beforehand!

    Supplies you’ll need:

  • a 28 gallon plastic tub with lid (it cost me $12 at WalMart)
  • an 18 gallon plastic tub with lid (I had one on hand already; I think they are about $8 at WalMart)
  • a roll of fiberglass insulation or a sheet of rigid 1″ foam board insulation/polystyrene (I had my fiberglass insulation on hand, and it cost me $15 two years ago; a rigid 1″ foam board at Lowe’s was selling for $20 at my local Lowe’s)
  • duct tape
  • A box cutter or heavy-duty carpet scissors to cut the plastic
  • a bottle of Great Stuff (or whatever brand) expanding foam

We cut a generously large hole, because Milo is a little skittish. A small hole with no other opening might have spooked him. Cutting the plastic was hard. By the time we made a second, bigger shelter for the dog, we were pros. But the first time was kind of tough.


I taped the hole edges with duct tape, because the edges were a little rough.


And doesn’t the tape make the box look fancy? :-p

OK, so we put a layer of fiberglass insulation on the bottom of container #1, and tested out the hole placement for container #2, so the holes would line up. Then, we cut the second hole for container #2.



Once the holes were cut and *relatively* aligned, we placed layers on insulation between the containers. I think using fiberglass insulation batting is MUCH easier than measuring and installing rigid foam. However, cats like to pull (and sometimes eat) fiberglass insulation. You have to make sure that no insulation is sticking out.


So what I did to resolve this was spray some of that Great Stuff Expanding Foam between the two layers where the holes were showing insulation. The expanding foam will not adhere to the plastic, but it will adhere to itself. I sprayed it all around the hole, creating a ring. It hardened and is preventing any insulation from showing. It also creates an airtight seal around the hole’s opening.


Once you have container #2 secure inside container #1, place the lid on the inner container #2. Place a strip of insulation on the top of the inner container, and place the lid for container #2 on to the entire set. Secure with duct tape, if necessary.


I also added a heating pad for those days when the temperatures reach below zero around here. Milo is a very fussy cat who hates to get into any containers (especially the cat carrier which means we’re going to the vet!), so he was hesitant about entering this new cat shelter for about a day. But temperatures dropped, and the heat of the heating pad was too much for him to resist. Now, he loves his shelter. I’d say that the setup cost me about $17, since I already had some supplies around the house. If I had to buy everything new, it’d probably cost me about $40. Not too bad for a hefty cat shelter. And a roll of insulation will be enough for two shelters.

Nice and toasty! 🙂

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  1. Winterizing for Wild Kitties - October 15, 2012

    […] make winter a little more bearable for them — building a shelter is not all that hard to do. The New York Renovator blog has a great post about how to make an inexpensive winter cat shelter. (Incidentally, my human, who has owned her share of “vintage” homes, likes the whole […]

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