How to Construct a Weatherproof Shelter for a Feral Cat Colony?

April 16, 2024

Regardless of our affection, cats, particularly feral ones, face countless threats in the harsh natural environment. As winter approaches, these outdoor creatures have to deal with frigid temperatures, snow, and icy conditions, which can lead to severe health problems or even death.

While it may not be feasible to bring every feral cat indoors, creating an insulated, weatherproof shelter can provide them with a warm sanctuary from the winter cold. It can also offer a safe space for them to hide from predators. The process is straightforward and only requires materials like straw, Styrofoam, and plastic.

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This article intends to guide you through the steps of creating a secure, weatherproof shelter for a feral cat colony. The guide is easy to follow, and the construction process is simple enough to be done by anyone.

Identifying the Perfect Location

Before constructing the shelter, it’s crucial to identify an appropriate location. The ideal place should offer privacy for the feral cats, shield them from harsh weather conditions, and provide easy access for you to check on them and replenish food and water supplies.

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Ensure the chosen location is not in a flood-prone area. You don’t want the shelter to become a floating box during a heavy downpour. Also, the spot should be somewhat hidden to keep the cats safe from predators and people who might not appreciate their presence.

Materials Needed for the Shelter

The construction of a weatherproof cat shelter requires few materials: a Styrofoam cooler or a plastic storage bin, straw, and a box cutter. Styrofoam has excellent insulation properties, hence its use as the main shelter material. The plastic bin serves as an additional layer of protection against wind and moisture.

Straw is the ideal choice for bedding due to its insulating properties. Unlike blankets or hay, straw does not retain moisture, and it will keep the cats warm even on the coldest winter nights. Moreover, straw is cheap and easy to replace, making it a more practical choice.

Constructing the Shelter: Step by Step Guide

Cutting an entryway is the first step in the construction of the cat shelter. With the box cutter, cut a hole in one of the shorter sides of the Styrofoam cooler. The hole should be big enough for a cat to fit through comfortably, but small enough to keep larger predators out.

After cutting the entryway, line the bottom of the cooler with a generous amount of straw for bedding. Then, place the lid on top.

Next, put the Styrofoam cooler inside the plastic bin. The bin should have a hole cut in the exact location as the cooler’s entryway. This will create a barrier against wind and rain. Fill any remaining space in the bin with straw for extra insulation. The final step is to secure the lid on the plastic bin.

Maintenance and Care of the Shelter

Maintaining the cat shelter involves regularly checking the straw bedding for dampness or dirt and replacing it as necessary. If the shelter becomes too dirty or smelly, cats may avoid using it.

In winter, check the shelter daily to ensure no snow or ice is blocking the entryway. Food and water should be provided nearby, but not inside the shelter as cats prefer their dwelling and dining areas to be separate.

Remember, the best way to help a feral cat colony is not only to provide shelter but also to engage in a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. This prevents the population from growing and helps keep the cats healthier.

Creating Multiple Shelters

If you are dealing with a cat colony, it’s advisable to create multiple shelters. Cats, like humans, need their space, and overcrowding can create stress. Having several shelters also allows the cat colony to spread out, reducing the risk of disease transmission.

Building a weatherproof shelter for a feral cat colony is a simple yet effective way to help these often misunderstood creatures. With a warm, safe place to sleep, these feline friends can weather the harsh winter months and continue their feral lifestyle with a little more comfort and security.

Ensuring the Shelter’s Effectiveness

A cat shelter is more than just a structure; it needs to be effective in its purpose. The primary goal is to protect the feral cats from adverse weather conditions and predators. However, for the shelter to be effective, it needs to be warm, dry, and safe.

The warmth in the shelter primarily comes from the body heat of the cats. Therefore, the shelter should not be too large. A space that is just big enough for three to five cats to huddle together is ideal. A smaller space can trap more body heat, keeping the cats warm during the coldest winter nights.

Dryness is another critical factor to consider. A wet shelter can lead to health problems for the cats, including hypothermia and respiratory diseases. Hence, it’s essential to avoid materials like blankets or hay that can retain moisture. As mentioned earlier, straw is the best choice for bedding as it doesn’t hold moisture and can provide the cats with a dry, warm place to sleep.

Lastly, safety is a top priority when constructing a shelter for feral cats. The shelter should be located in a hidden spot, far away from heavy traffic areas. The entrance should be small enough to keep out larger predators but big enough for the cats to enter and exit comfortably.

Winterizing the Cat Shelter

While the basic construction of a cat shelter can provide a safe space for community cats, it’s crucial to take additional steps to winterize the shelter. Winter shelter needs to be windproof, waterproof, and well-insulated to keep the cats warm and dry throughout winter.

Sealing the seams of the plastic tub with duct tape can prevent the cold wind from entering the shelter. The bottom of the shelter can be raised a few inches off the ground using bricks or wood pallets to prevent the cold from seeping in and to protect the shelter from snow and rain.

Covering the shelter with a heavy-duty tarp can protect it from snow and rain, ensuring it stays dry inside. Remember, a dry shelter is vital for the cat’s health and comfort.

Regular checks on the shelter are also essential during winter. Clear any snow or ice blocking the entrance and replace the straw bedding if it becomes damp.


Constructing a weatherproof shelter for a feral cat colony is a simple and rewarding task. It not only provides these community cats with a warm and safe place during harsh winter months but also protects them from potential predators.

Remember, the effectiveness of the cat shelter lies in its warmth, dryness, and safety. Using materials like Styrofoam, straw, and plastic, in conjunction with winterizing steps, can help keep the cats comfortable and healthy.

While providing a shelter is a great help, participating in a Trap-Neuter-Return program is also essential for managing the feral cat population and keeping the cats healthier.

In the end, these efforts contribute to a better life for our feral friends, the alley cats. They can continue their free-spirited lifestyle with a bit more comfort and security, knowing they have a safe place to return to each night. Remember, every small act of kindness counts, and this simple initiative of building a cat house provides immeasurable relief for these lovely creatures.