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Winter shelter(s) - Possible new design - but pre-made solution...

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

So I just had a possible goooood idea!!!!!

We've got our feral colony and will have about 6-8 cats to house for the winter. We're in an apartment complex, so we can't get too fancy or the landlord will have a fit and he'll just call Animal Control. As a result, I was trying to design a shelter that fit the following criteria:
  • Insulated and warm
  • Waterproof
  • Inconspicuous (we recently had ferals poisoned a few towns over)
  • Roomy enough for cats, but small enough for transportation by car
  • Can be cleaned
  • Removeable roof
  • Cat resistant
  • Handle that can be chained to a tree or railing so no one moves it
  • Two entrances/exits
  • Can be temporary
  • Can be left on a low balcony for cats for the winter.

Soooooo...I sketched out all of my ideas, thinking plywood, roofing material, two-ply walls for insulation, etc... I've seen plans online for serious cat housing, but I'm not sure we can do something like that because we don't own the property.

Then I realized...a Coleman Cooler can fit 99% of the criteria. How about a 48-quart cooler with two holes cut out for an entrance or an exit? They're only $20. They make them to 100 quarts for $50. They're insulated; You could line them with hay; they've got a drainage hole; a removeable top; the cats can't hurt them. I suppose the only thing would be adding a few air holes and such and configuring the door so the heat doesn't escape. Maybe paint them on the outside to make them less conspicuous? Set them on bricks or add a flat weight to keep them stable.

I'm not sure what the internal insulation is...


The color isn't the best, but you can see a sample here:

post #2 of 11
What about some pet carriers? You could cut another opening in the back. I've seen them as cheap as $10.
post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 
Well, the biggest difference is that a pet carrier isn't insulated, whereas the cooler would be.
post #4 of 11
Here's something I found:

Alley Cat Allies says a big thank you to six AOL employees who volunteered their time October 18 to help Washington, DC's feral cats stay warm this winter. Ben, Michelle, Bob, Stacy, Chris, and Rob were among more than 500 staff members from AOL’s Virginia headquarters who donated their time for human, animal, and environmental service nonprofits in the DC metro area. Forming an assembly line, the volunteers quickly produced 12 shelters made of styrofoam and insulation strong enough to survive the blustery months ahead.

If you are interested in obtaining plans to build shelters like these, e-mail us here. alleycat@alleycat.org
post #5 of 11
We used wooden milk crates fasten them on the wall of the barn to keep them off the ground, stuff them with hay and provide a walking ramp for the cats to get up there easily. We have also used styrofoam coolers cut a hole in them and stuffed them with hay. We try to stay away from plastic because plastic holds in cold and constricts when it is cold.
post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
Hmmmmmmm....so you think the plastic wouldn't work? My thinking is that once the cats were in it, it would be warmer...or maybe painting the lid black would soak in some heat. Hmmmm.

I've seen these styrofoam coolers suggested:


But they seem kind of flimsy and not very tall, height-wise.
post #7 of 11
We used the large covered litterboxes (the cheapies). We wrapped them in insulation (outside only) then wrapped that with black plastic bags (to protect insulation from weather and soak up sun). We were close enough to an outlet, so we ran heat tape (that you use to wrap pipes with to prevent them from freezing) inside, covered that with a thin board and stuffed them with hay. We "built" little plastic flaps over the entrances to protect the inside from weather. These boxes only had one entrance and exit.

Not the simplest things in the world, but they worked and were easy to maintain. I think it would work without the heat tape - but Styrofoam should work just as well. Cats don't need as much protection from the cold as we think. I would think large styrofoam coolers with entrance and exits cut in them (a few inches up the side) - perhaps that thick black plastic taped over it to protect snow/sleet/rain from getting inside - stuffed with hay would do just fine. If worried, perhaps paint the styrofoam back. Helps make them less obvious and helps soak up rays.

I haven't looked at the Alley Cat Allies construction though. I'm sure whatever it is would be easy and work well!
post #8 of 11
No matter what you choose try to get them off the ground onto some bricks.
post #9 of 11

This is free and exactly what you are looking for. (Thanks to TNR1 for this link)
post #10 of 11
I have a large cardboard box on the back porch with a little drawbridge type flap cut out in the front. I taped a nice piece of plastic around the box and stuffed an old pillow in the back. I then
folded an old wool blanket on the bottom of the box as a warm floor.
The black and white cat has been sleeping in the box. He also moves the wool blanket forward as more of a cover. You could put straw bales around the box or pile up some firewood around the sides.

Another idea is to use large, heavy weight cardboard boxes that contained computers or tvs and cover them with a plastic tarp that you can buy in hardware/home improvement stores. Or, get an old dog cage, buy 1 inch thick pieces of styrofoam and tape them around the outside of the cage, using duct tape. Put a thick blanket inside as a floor. You can wrap a heavy weight piece of plastic as a cover around the cage, or surround it with straw bales/firewood. I try to get some firewood logs that I can place upright around the pet house.

For a commercial house and if you have some money to spend, I saw some really nice looking wooden dog houses in several sizes that can also be used to shelter cats at Pet Supplies Plus in the $80-$100. range.

All of these houses can be placed on bricks or blocks. My back porch is a step up with a wooden floor, so I can put a shelter right on the porch.
post #11 of 11
Wow! I started using styrofoam coolers about 20 years ago! They're great - warm, inexpensive and easy to modify. You can attach any number of them together and cut holes in between, and they come in lots of sizes.
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