When the outside temperature starts to drop, it's time to ensure that outdoor cats in your community have warm shelters where they can feel safe and comfortable. Community cats (cats that live outside) get thicker fur when it's cold outside, but they still need protection from the elements.
If you care for outdoor cats in your community, this guide to winter care can help. Here are tips for building an outdoor cat shelter, advice on what to feed community cats during the winter months and how to keep them healthy and safe.
How to build an outdoor cat shelter
There are many types of DIY cat shelters. The most elaborate may require power tools and a bit of construction know-how, while other DIY houses, like the one below, are very easy to make using inexpensive materials that are easy to find.
This outdoor home was designed by David and Susan Trussell, longtime volunteers with Utah's Best Friends Animal Society who have built countless styrofoam shelters for community cats in Salt Lake City and beyond. To find out how they do it, watch this video of the Trussells building a cat shelter.
You will need these materials for this cat house:
- A roll of thick black plastic
- Gorilla Tape (or other industrial grade waterproof tape)
- High strength liquid nail construction adhesive
- Styrofoam cooler
- Bubble wrap or other insulation (optional)
Styrofoam cooler:Many people ask their vet to keep the large Styrofoam coolers they send in their vaccinations in because they are so thick and perfect for cat shelters. Hospitals, fish markets and even grocery stores can also donate large coolers.
black plastic:You can buy black plastic rollers at any hardware or garden store. Do not use garbage bags as they are too flimsy and will tear.
Gorilla-Tape:You will need Gorilla Tape or other waterproof tape to attach the black plastic to the radiator and to cover any exposed areas near the door hole. One roll (35 yards) is enough for three shelters.
A carpet knife or a sharp knife:You will need a sharp tool to drill a hole in the fridge for the protective door.
Bubble wrap or other insulation:If the cooler is less than 1.5 inches thick, you can cover it with layers of bubble wrap or insulation. If you use insulation, make sure it has paper on both sides and make sure none of the fibers are exposed when you finish your shelter. (You can mask off any exposed areas near the hole in the door.)
Steps to build your cat shelter
First, turn the styrofoam cooler on its side and cut a circular inlet that is 6 inches in diameter. Position the inlet hole 1-2 inches below the line where the cap meets the body of the cooler and position it at one end of the longer side of the cooler. Two entry holes are recommended if the shelter is in an area where predators may pose a threat to cats.
In the next step, the lid is sealed with Liquid Nails glue. Next, wrap the shelter in black plastic like a gift and tape all the seams. After wrapping, locate the door hole and make snips in the plastic like you would cut a cake, then tape the door frame around with masking tape.
How to get the most out of your winter cat shelter
To provide additional insulation for cats, you can make a door hole curtain out of two layers of bubble wrap or plastic waste. Cut the wrapping to make fringes; Leaving the first few inches tight, cut vertically to make the fringes. Then tape the curtain over the hole in the door.
If your outdoor cat house will be exposed to the elements, it's best to place a piece of plywood across the top of the shelter and a piece of wood (or similar material) at an angle across the entrance. Another idea is to make an awning out of plastic, cardboard and gorilla tape. It is important to do everything possible to keep moisture out of the shelter. Putting the cat house on a pallet works well to keep it off the ground and protect it from moisture, but it's not always necessary.
Shelters should be loaded with bricks or boards as they are lightweight and can move easily in the wind. You want them to be secure so they don't lean forward and trap the cats inside.
If you are placing the cat house near a building or on a porch, position the hole for the shelter door near the wall of the building (and leave enough room for the cats to get in and out) rather than it to avert. If you have several shelters in one place, you can place the door holes opposite each other and put a board on top.
Straw is an excellent material for padding in your shelter as it absorbs moisture better than fabric. You can also use fleece or faux sheepskin, which you can purchase and cut at fabric stores. Do not use cotton fabrics such as towels and sheets as these can get wet and freeze making the accommodation cold. You can also try mylar emergency blankets layered between fleece. If the shelter is in a garage or other very dry area, towels, fleece, or cat litter work well. Check the inside of your shelter regularly to make sure it stays dry.
For added convenience, you can provide an electric heating pad to create a heated cat shelter. Be sure to use a heating pad made specifically for pets. Low voltage heated pet beds are available in various sizes from many suppliers. The most popular models for heating outdoor cat houses are those from Lectro and K&H. You may also consider buying heated pet meals to keep cat food and water from freezing and to ensure they stay hydrated during the winter.
To entice cats to use the shelter, put some catnip in it, and if you're using a plastic or bubble curtain, it's best to only pin down part of it first so cats can easily see the entrance.
Cat sitters may consider putting up a small laminated sign that reads: "This shelter is part of a humane trapping, spaying, vaccinating and returning program for community cats, so please do not remove it. If you have any questions, please contact xxx-xxx-xxxx”. Always get permission from the property owner before building an outdoor cat shelter for community cats on a property other than your own.
How to create an outdoor cat feeder
Here are some tips:
- Set a specific eating area for cats. This way they know where to go when they are hungry and thirsty and can access their food quickly so they spend less time in the cold air.
- Make sure the cat feeder is protected from the elements. Place it in a covered area or create a structure with a roof and walls.
- Consider creating an outdoor feeder that is elevated to keep food and water warmer.
- If possible, heat canned food or only feed dry food if there is a risk of wet food freezing. You can also spray insulating foam on the bottom of cat bowls to prevent food and water from freezing.
- Fill water bowls with warm or hot water, place them in the sun if possible, and use dark bowls to absorb the sunlight. Double layered bowls are also a good option as they protect the water in the bowl from freezing from the cold surface underneath.
- Prevent the water from freezing by using a solar powered container or placing a microwave heated heating pad under the water container.
- Remember to provide outdoor cats with adequate food and water during the winter. They need extra calories to stay warm in cold weather, so feed them larger portions when the temperature drops.
Winter safety for outdoor cats
Here are some tips:
- To stay warm in winter, outdoor cats sometimes crawl into or sleep under the engine compartment of vehicles. Look under your car and pat the hood before you start the engine, especially if you know there are gangsters in your neighborhood.
- Cats like the taste of antifreeze, and if they have access to it, they're likely to drink this toxic liquid. Keep antifreeze out of the reach of cats and clean up spilled antifreeze.
- After it snows, clear the area around the cat houses and clear a path to the shelter. Even cats can get stuck in the snow.
- Avoid using chemicals to melt ice on your sidewalks and driveways as these chemicals can be toxic to cats. Also, avoid using salt near cat shelters as it will hurt their paws.
For more information on helping community cats, click hereBest Friends Community-KatzenressourcenjWebsite von Alley Cat Allies.