Simple Winter Shelter

Here is an article submitted by Kyle Smith about making warm shelters for feral cats using simple, cheap materials.  I thought the design was so simple and effective that I agreed to post the article to help spread this information.

Make a winter shelter for feral cat colonies. The winter and summer seasons are the hardest for feral cats. Cold temperatures, wind, freezing rain and snow can lead to frostbitten paws, noses, and tails. Food and water become scarce and braving the elements makes finding food harder. Feral cats exist in every city and small town. They number in the millions and mostly go unseen and unprotected. ASPCA recommends implementing a TNR program in any area where feral cats roam. This program helps capture, neuter and return cats to the colony, which in turn reduces the population and helps maintain the cat’s health. Most animal rescue organizations are willing help you join or set up a feral cat program in your area. If there are feral cats nearby you can help them have a warm place to hide out this winter by creating a “Roughneck Home”. Erubbermaid has created a not-for-profit program called “Roughneck Homes” where you can purchase or donate an 18-gallon Rubbermaid tote at wholesale prices. Spend a little time, today, to help your fellow feline this winter.

Cat Shelter

What you need to build a Rubbermaid Roughneck Feral Cat Shelter.

  • Rubbermaid Container (the 18-gallon size is pictured)
  • Styrofoam Cooler
  • Straw
  • Duct Tape
  • Exacto or box knife
  • Eight inch diameter pot lid or plastic lid
  • Marker of pen
  • Nail file

Make a hole in the front of container by using a marker to trace around the lid then carefully cut out hole with Exacto knife. File down any sharp edges. Place the Styrofoam container inside the Rubbermaid container. Mark inside hole by tracing around outside container with a marker. Cut out Styrofoam hole. Pack straw into the gap between the Styrofoam container and the Rubbermaid container. Place the straw inside the inner container. Place the lid on Styrofoam cooler and tape edges with duct tape then do the same with the lid on the Rubbermaid container.

For more information, step-by-step instructions and photos go to the Roughneck Feral Cat Shelter site.

The shelter pictured is an 18-gallon container, suitable for one cat or two small cats. For a larger shelter, use the 36-gallon Roughneck and a bigger Styrofoam cooler.

Getting feral cats to use the homes isn’t too difficult if you think like a cat.

Cats are cautious, like small spaces where they can hide. Place your home in a secluded quiet area where you’ve seen cats. Avoid open spaces, noisy populated areas, away from car fumes and chemicals and away from dogs.

Entice cats with food and water. Never place food inside a shelter that’s meant to be ‘slept’ in. Cats don’t like to sleep with food near them. Place a dish of food near the shelter to draw cats closer and boost their curiosity. If using food only visit shelter once or twice per day. Feral cats get nervous and will avoid something that attracts too much human attention. You can also create a separate shelter for food using just the outside container with no cooler in it. Place ‘food’ shelter in the same area as but not close to ‘sleeping’ shelter.

Patience. It may take a few days to a week for feral cats to trust the new shelter. If there have been no signs of habitation after 2 weeks consider changing the location of the shelter.

Additional modifications: Often, feral cats will be hesitant to enter a shelter with only one exit, since it leaves them vulnerable to predators. You may need to cut a second hole on the opposite side to encourage ferals to use your roughneck home.

For cold windy areas added protection from wind or other elements may be needed. Installing a door flap made of heavy plastic, vinyl or canvas to each entrance of your roughneck home easily does this. Cats don’t like change so its best to start your shelter with flaps rather than installing them later.

  1. Very helpful advice.
    Any more advice on working with 8-12 kittens?


  2. Size of entrance hole in cooler? Mine is 5″ diameter and my feral won’t go inside. We have a program in Indianapolis where ferals are spayed, neutered and ear tipped so they can remain feral. Thank you for caring.



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