DIY Winter Cat Shelters: A Simple Guide to Helping Feral Cats Stay Warm

DIY Winter Cat Shelters: A Simple Guide to Helping Feral Cats Stay Warm


Winter is coming. While many of us cozy up in our warm homes, feral cats are left to fend for themselves in the cold. If you're an animal lover looking to lend a helping paw, creating a DIY winter cat shelter is an excellent way to help these vulnerable creatures. This guide walks you through a simple, cost-effective method for building a shelter that can be the difference between life and death for a feral cat.

Homemade Cat Shelter

Materials You'll Need:

  • Storage Tote: One large, durable plastic storage tote with a lid (18-30 gallon capacity is good).
  • Styrofoam Cooler: A slightly smaller Styrofoam cooler that can fit inside the tote.
  • Straw: Enough to line the bottom and sides of the cooler.
  • Utility Knife or Box Cutter: For cutting.
  • Tape Measure or Ruler: For precise measurements.
  • Permanent Marker: For marking cut lines.
  • Gloves: For safety during cutting.
  • Duct Tape: For sealing edges.
  • Optional Mylar Blankets: Reflective blankets that bounce back body heat.

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Prepare the Tote

  • Mark the Opening: Choose a side to be the "front" and use a permanent marker and ruler to outline a 6-inch by 6-inch doorway.
  • Cut the Opening: Wearing gloves, carefully cut out the doorway with your utility knife.

Step 2: Prepare the Styrofoam Cooler

  • Repeat the Opening Process: Just like you did for the tote, mark and cut a matching doorway into one of the long sides of the Styrofoam cooler.

Step 3: Assemble the Shelter

  • Insert Cooler: Place the Styrofoam cooler inside the tote, aligning the openings.
  • Add Straw: Fill the bottom of the cooler with a layer of straw for insulation.
  • Optional Mylar Layer: Line the inner walls of the Styrofoam cooler with Mylar blankets for extra warmth.
  • Seal the Edges: Use duct tape to seal the edges around the openings.
  • Finish Up: Place the lid on the tote and secure it with additional duct tape if needed.

Step 4: Placement and Maintenance

  • Choose a Location: Pick a quiet, safe, and relatively dry spot for the shelter. Elevate it if possible and make sure the opening faces away from prevailing winds.
  • Regular Check-ups: Ensure the shelter stays dry and clean. Replace straw as necessary.

Additional Tips

Maintenance is Key: Check the shelter regularly to ensure it remains dry and clean.

Multi-cat Shelters: If you're looking to accommodate more than one cat, consider a larger tote and larger or multiple openings.


Building a DIY winter cat shelter is a simple and fulfilling project that can have a real impact on the wellbeing of feral cats in your community. So why wait? Start gathering your materials and give a feral cat the gift of warmth this winter.

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