Monday, March 14, 2011

Last time I checked, there were a lot of cats around here...

Yep, they're still here. I just checked again. We have a lot of cats... How many? So many... it's just crazy! Anyways, true to the immense suckers that we are, we've also somehow managed to come to support a small contingency of outdoor neighbourhood cats as well. While my own unholy feline army is safe indoors year round, the two (hideous) Tom cats that roam my neighbourhood have to brave the winter weather, and it was getting REALLY cold around here a few weeks ago. The solution? An emergency DIY outdoor cat shelter!

You can find a bunch of different designs for outdoor cat shelters around the web as I discovered when I began my research for the project. One idea that immediately stood out was this kind of design made from a large Rubbermaid storage bin. While I had originally planned on building my shelter out of wood, I found that a bin would be ideal since I have so many of them already from all of the cat-ruined clothes that I have in storage. These bins work really well for a shelter as they have no seams, and are thick enough to withstand the winter weather. Honestly, the bin should be pretty self-explanatory, so the majority of the work is simply insulating the crap out of it, cutting a "cat approved" hole, and making it comfortable for your guests.

Step One: Gather your parts

  • One large rubber storage bin.
  • Styrofoam insulation/regular Styrofoam is also acceptable.
  • 2 large garbage bags.
  • Some blankets/old soft towels that you're okay with parting ways with - they're probably not coming back, lol.
  • Bubble wrap (I know!) - The foil backed variety is preferable.

Step Two: Put it all together

First, I sized the Styrofoam insulation to fit the four inner walls and "ceiling" of the bin. The give between the Styrofoam and rubber bin made it relatively easy to get a good fit around the inside of the shelter. Hot glue easily secured the Styrofoam in place.

Next, I lined the inside "roof" with a garbage bag, and then added a layer of bubble wrap on the inside, covering the Styrofoam.

While the original design that I based my own upon used the lid of the bin as its roof, I decided to do it the other way around - I simply wanted it to be wider at the bottom. If you're really in doubt, just ask the preference of the cat that will be using it.

(Exhibit A: 1/2 of the Gruesome Twosome.)

To prepare the lid I began by lining it with another piece of garbage bag, and then a layer of bubble wrap. The garbage bag helps to seal the bin when you finally attach the lid (be it floor, or ceiling). I also added a towel and an old blanket to really spice things up.

What’s with the bubble wrap? Well, it's supposed to act as an insulator, or specifically, like a cluster of tiny thermal pockets. If the wrap is exposed to a enough sunlight, the air inside the bubbles will heat up, and can be retained for quite some time – at least, so I’m told. I had a little extra after finishing the inside, so I decided to wrap the remainder around the top of the bin as well.

Lastly, I had to cut a hole big enough for the cats to use, but not quite big enough for the raccoons, skunks, breath-stealing trolls, or anything else in your backyard that may want to get inside. Also, since this is supposed to protect from the cold, it is desirable to have the entrance as small as possible.

I started with a way too small hole, and then slowly cut more away using a jigsaw after testing each iteration with a feline volunteer of approximate size to my outdoor friends. I also wanted the entrance a little high so that when a cat is inside the shelter, the hole is a little higher than they are (also in an effort to minimize the effects of cold winds). My faithful feline test subject jumped right inside the shelter once the hole was the right size. The trick to getting the entrance right is mostly making sure that its tall enough - your guests need to be able easily step into the shelter.

Step Three: Deploy the shelter!

You may want to experiment with where you place your shelter - some recommend avoiding places where the outdoor cats like to eat, as the shelter could potentially attract rivals. However, regardless of where you place it, you may want to consider putting some dry food, or treats in it when you deploy it for the first time in order to let the outdoor cats know you mean business.

So does it work? To tell you the truth, I had my doubts at first... I would see the (horrible) Toms checking it out, but they never seemed to want to take the plunge.

But then, on one particularly rainy morning I noticed something...

Holy crap!

Until next time,

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posted by Marcus at 10:58 PM |


At September 2, 2012 at 3:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said........
a little food for thought: you should not use towels or blankets etc. for your outside cat home, they can get wet and freeze. Hay doesn't retain moisture like towels and cats will burrow into it making a nice warm bed.
I hope the neighborhood cats love what you've done for them (I'm sure they are thankful). It is really wonderful that you've done this :)

At February 24, 2013 at 1:10 AM, Anonymous Marcus said........
Thanks so much for your comment - I'll amend the post to include your most useful recommendation. Thanks so much!


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