Hi! Nice to hear you are taking care of ferals!!
I have one outdoor feral...
I couldn't find the Mylar blankies, so for my feral I got a shelter
which accomodates up to 2/3 cats (depending on the size) from Indy Feral (they are a very reasonable
30 dollars if you order 2 shelters, 40 for a single shelter, and you then put together - has a roof and everything).
Here's the address/link:http://indyferal.org/index.php?page=shelters
I lined the inside with
that stuff you put on your water heaters - a reflective bubble wrap.
Costs like 1.50 or less per yard.... it insulates and reflects heat back and
can be used to make / line structures (like a cardboard box or tupperware
container. Then because I had no hay, I went and raked up pine needles
from the trees around... I made sure they were dry, and placed a thick
layer (about 2 inches or more) inside the shelter. It was free material,
and the kitty seemed to like it plenty!!
Maybe you could use that stuff? You can get it at most ACE, TrueValue, or other hardware store, or at home improvement stores like Home Depots, Lowes, etc I believe? In your area you can also purchase plastic foam board that you can cut to size/shape with an exacto knife and line containers/shelter areas with...
Which is another thing - a large rubbermaid container, with lid attached,
lined with the bubble wrap or with the foam board insulation, filled with hay, put on its side with holes
cut in lids for cats to go in/out works really well... just put a piece of ply
wood or some stiff cardboard and prop it up in front of the entrance holes so the cats can get in/out
of hole, but the wind doesn't enter it...
Supplies will run you about 30-40 dollars
or less (some home imrovement stores will let you
take "left over scraps.. you don't need much!!) and will shelter around 4 or 5 cats depending on the size of the container you use....
Here's instructions/ideas for other low cost shelters and warmer ideas
(using solar pool blankies for example..)
What a stroke of genius! Debbie Peterson of the Chicagoland Stray Cat Coalition uses solar pool covers/blankets to keep her ferals warm during winter. Solar pool covers are used to attract and retain heat from the sun, to keep water in swimming pools warm. Debbie saw them as a way to upgrade her feral cat houses to solar energy! On a 10Â°F night the temperature inside could easily reach 70Â°F! Torn but usable solar pool covers can be found curbside on suburban garbage pick-up days. Purchased new, prices vary based on construction and thickness. A 15 mil premium-grade 12' round blanket costs $32. Cut them with standard household scissors. Drape one over your feral cat house silver-side down, and the purring will start. Aim for full exposure to the south. Check the temperature until you know how much heat is generated; it may become too warm inside on milder days! Consider setting up a solar feeding station a distance from the sleeping area
Here's some more good info from this web site;
costing around $15-20 this idea comes to us from a feral cat caregiver in Villa Park, IL.
Finding one plastic bin to fit inside another is the most challenging part of this project.
The larger bin was $6, the smaller was $4. A 4x8 sheet of styrofoam insulation costs about $7, and is enough for 2 shelters with some left over.
Consider surrounding your cats' shelter with bails of straw. Did you know that straw is a fabulously efficient insulator? Homes insulated with 18" wide bails of straw could save 75% on heating & cooling costs. Just think what that could do for your cats!
Place shelters where they will be protected from wind and snow drifts -- particularly those without protective flaps over the door(s) -- otherwise snow could blow in and bury/trap the cats. If there are fixed objects, such as buildings in your feral cat shelter area, pay attention to the way the winds tend to circulate, and place the shelters where there is the least amount of blowing & drifting snow. This could be a lifesaver, particularly for those who endure extreme winter weather, in which roads may be impassable for 1-2 days.
Depending on predators and other animals/hazards in your area, some cats may not use shelters unless there are two exits -- one for them to sneak out should another unwanted animal enter. Consider an emergency exit with a flap that opens from the inside only.
Following the instructions from Alley Cat Allies, Diane & Manfred of Glen Ellyn, IL constructed the this Cadillac of feral cat shelters, complete with a tile floor and stuffed with straw in the winter.
Download Alley Cat Allies' instructions for Building an Inexpensive Feral Cat Shelter to make your own "Cat-illac Ranch".
Here's a few other good ideas:
Originally designed by Karin Hancock of Port Washington, NY, the Feral Cat Winter Shelter shown here has many advantages. The two inch thick hard Styrofoam is excellent insulation and traps the cat's body heat, effectively turning the feline into a radiator. Air space is purposely limited, so there is less volume to be heated. Typically, 3 to 4 cats can fit comfortably inside, although more might curl up on a severely cold night. The plans for the shelter can be downloaded from this sitehttp://www.neighborhoodcats.org/info/wintershelter.htm
The shelter is lightweight and should be weighed down. Best is to place two shelters about a foot apart with the doors facing each other. Bridge the gap by laying a piece of plywood across both roofs. Now the shelters are fully protected against the elements.
After the cats have begun using the shelters, you might try adding a flap door which can be easily pulled back. A piece of of a clear vinyl mat will do, attached by drilling (or poking) two holes above the door opening and using plastic nuts and bolts (like those used to attach toilet seats). Bowls of food can be placed in the shelter, but never water (which can spill and threaten the cats' health by getting them wet).
The cost of the shelter will vary from place to place, but on average, the 8 foot sheet of Styrofoam will run about $9 (uncut). A few linoleum floor tiles, a tube of silicone sealant, some contact paper for the interior walls and enough deck paint will run the total cost up to somewhere from $15 to $25.
The CSM Stray Foundation Winter Shelter
Here's another idea inspired by the CSM Stray Foundation in Kew Gardens, Queens (email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Materials needed are: a large Rubbermaid storage bin, an eight foot by two foot sheet of one-inch thick hard Styrofoam, a yardstick, a box cutter or utility knife, and straw, shredded newspaper or other insulating material. Then assemble as follows:
1. Cut a doorway six inches by six inches in one of the long sides of the storage bin towards the corner. To prevent flooding, cut the opening so that the bottom of the doorway is several inches above the ground.
2. Line the floor of the bin with a piece of Styrofoam, using the yardstick and box cutter to cut out the piece.
3. In similar fashion, line each of the four interior walls of the bin with a piece of the Styrofoam. Perfect cuts are not necessary. Don't make the Styrofoam go all the way up to the top of the bin, but leave a uniform gap of at least three inches between the top of these Styrofoam "wall pieces" and the upper lip of the bin. There needs to be room for an interior Styrofoam "roof" to fit.
4. Cut out a doorway in the Styrofoam where it is lined up with the doorway that has been cut out already in the storage bin. Trace the outline of the doorway on the Styrofoam first before cutting.
5. Stuff the bottom of the bin with straw or other insulating material to hold the Styrofoam interior wall pieces in place.
6. Cut out a Styrofoam "roof" to rest on top of the Styrofoam interior wall pieces
7. Cover the bin with its lid.
This shelter can be cleaned by taking off the lid and the Styrofoam roof. It's also lightweight and may need to be weighed down. A flap over the doorway is optional. Catnip can be sprinkled inside at first to attract the cats.
An adequate shelter for one cat can be made from a simple Styrofoam cooler available at any hardware store for about $6. Glue the lid onto the cooler, turn it upside down and cut a hole in one side (anywhere but in the middle of one of the long sides). The Styrofoam containers used to ship meat can be turned into shelters in the same way and can, depending on their size, house 3 to 4 cats. If you want to get fancy, get a large Igloo cooler and, with a jigsaw, cut a hole towards the left or right of one of the long sides. The attached lid will allow for easy cleaning.
Hope these ideas help you out. If you need anymore info the people on this site can help alot.
PS. Are your feral/outdoor kitties fixed yet? That's so you won't
pick up more cats than you can handle, LOL!!