How do I build an inexpensive shelter for the feral cats on my property?

Becky Robinson, CatChannel expert on feral and stray cats, gives instructions for building a feral-cat shelter.

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Q: There are two feral cats on my property, and I want to build them inexpensive shelters. What do I need to know?

A: A feral cat shelter does not have to be elaborate. It can be as simple as a nice polystyrene box lined with straw or hay. Wrap the box with heavy plastic, and secure it with duct tape. Camouflage the shelter so that the cats are inconspicuous and as safe as possible.

The key is to refrain from placing anything in the box that would hold moisture. Thus, don’t use old blankets or towels. I use straw for my feral cat shelters, but wood shavings work and are easy to find in pet stores. The shavings are condensed in small bags, and when you pull them out, they fluff up immensely. One bag will fill several shelters.

Smaller is better when building a feral cat shelter. The shelter should be only slightly larger than the size of the cat or cats. It should be big enough to house one to three cats at the most, but small enough to retain their body temperatures to heat the area. Many people choose to use dog houses; however, dog houses usually are inappropriate because they are too large.

Consider incorporating an electric heater if you have access to electricity. Heaters made for outdoor use are safe. I have used them for my local colony, and I was glad the cats could stay warm – even when the temperature dropped below freezing. Waterproof, electric heating pads manufactured for outdoor cats and dogs also are a great option.

If you have a large colony of cats, provide shelters in a variety of sizes and options. Survey the area to make sure that the shelters are protected and face away from the wind. Place the shelters in a dry, level spot where the cats can get in and out easily, even if there is snow or ice on the ground. Always make sure the cats have access to food and water outside their shelter.

You can find step-by-step instructions on how to build an inexpensive shelter at the Alley Cat Allies website. Good luck!

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Reader Comments

Jesse    Kensington, MD

9/5/2012 9:56:58 PM

Great article. I am getting ready to build some feral cat shelters before the weather gets cols.

Lin    Van Nuys, CA

7/27/2010 11:14:20 AM

Good article. Cedar chips work great and help to keep some of the bugs out

n    n, NE

6/16/2009 2:46:25 PM


Beverly    Raymond, MS

11/18/2008 10:27:11 AM

I have an old rabbit hutch that a group of cats use for shelter. I have put a lot of hay in the open area as well as in the "nesting" area with a 5 gallon bucket and a plastic tote turned on their sides, with hay in them. This gives them a block from the wind. The residents are a litter of 5, born this past spring. They all seem to be staying in it, even during the day. The mom cat has just had a litter somewhere, and I am feeding her, but have no idea where the kittens are at this time.

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