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How to build a cat shelter this winter

by Tiffany Stevanovich

The life of a homeless cat is a difficult one that's compounded during our harsh Canadian winter. Too many companion animals find themselves abandoned trying to fend for themselves. Please note that a cat's fur protects them to only a certain level of cold. So, cats are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia! If a stray ends up in your backyard or at your door, offer them a place to sleep and eat for a night or two. Some cats need to briefly warm up. (A handful stay longer or keep coming back, and I eventually take them to a vet or find them a permanant home.) This guide explains how to build a cat shelter in a few easy steps on a small budget.

There are two stages. First, create a temporary shelter by enclosing an area of your house. [This guide is not for apartments or condos.] Then, build a cat house. All it requires is a few hours of work and some everyday materials. I myself have built shelters for strays. Remember, you'll tear down the shelter in the spring, so no need to overcomplicate. Here's how:



















1) First, select a part of the house you can enclose from the snow and rain: a balcony, porch, even a shed. The area must have minimal foot traffic, yet be easily accessible so you can regularly change water and food later. I find my balcony is the most conducive place in keeping everything dry and creating a snow/ice-free space. The bonus of a balcony is no shovelling. Meanwhile, window drafts are reduced.





















2) Seal your space with vinyl panels or tarp with powerful Gorilla tape.


















3) To build the cat house, find a Rubbermaid tote or a styrofoam container.





















4) To create warmth, line the inside with a mylar blanket

5) Cover the mylar with cardboard paper to reduce the scrunchy noise of the mylar, so the cats won't get scared.

6) Using a boxcutter, carve a small cat entrance about 6" wide by 7-8" high.

7) Place the lid back on top of the Rubbermaid or styrofoam, then tape it secure with masking or Gorilla tape.
8) Wrap the shelter in two or three or contractor bags (giant sturdy garbage bags) for added protection, then cut the bag where you made the entrance.

















9) Fill the shelter with straw (not hay). Straw makes excellent bedding for outdoor cat shelters, whereas hay becomes a soggy mess. The cats can nest and burrow in the straw  Fill the tote about a third with straw.


10) Throw a fleece blanket on top of straw. I find that the cats prefer the blanket to just lying on straw. You can also use an old woolen sweater. Check from time to time, and replace if wet.

















Having a full tummy obviously helps the cats stay warmer. Make sure dry kibble is always available. Put a few varieties so they have a choice and supplement with kitten kibble which is higher in calories and nutrients.

To prevent freezing, wet food should be put out once you have established a feeding schedule. Feed at the same time each day and eventually the stray will adapt to a feeding schedule which is vital for the "trapping" stage [should it come to that].

A tip for those less mobile, you can stock up on cat food from Amazon.

Water: use a heated water bowl. If you can't, then use bowls that are deeper versus wider. Be vigilant to change with warm water several times a day. Adding a pinch of sugar helps slow down freezing process and adds calories.

This winter, the help you offer can be the difference between life and death for them. Also, a shelter gives you a priceless feeling of satisfaction.


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her balcony with notes.jpg
her balcony with notes - GOOD, asked for
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