How to Build Winter Shelters for Stray Cats

Quina Baterna

For many animal lovers, we can’t help but feel sorry for the stray cats. Many poor cats find themselves stuck in dangerous situations outdoors, especially during the winter season.

Despite wanting to bring outdoor cats inside the safety our homes, there are several reasons why people may not be able to such as cat allergies, safety concerns, or other pets such as dogs.

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Many feral cats may also carry communicable diseases such as cat scratch disease or ticks that are dangerous for people with compromised immune systems. They may also have undesirable traits such as destructive habits like scratching furniture or chewing on potentially toxic indoor plants.

Thankfully, there are other ways to give an outdoor cat a chance at life during the coldest seasons of the year. Aside from bringing home an outdoor cat, you can build them a winter shelter.

What is a Winter Shelter?

Most cats are attuned to their own body temperature and will instinctively search for warmer places when they feel cold. While indoor cats have it easy, outdoor cats may struggle to find safe places to snuggle safely during a storm.

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The absence of safe areas can lead to cats seeking shelter in dangerous places. For example, many outdoor cats like to hide in the hoods of cars. Car engines release heat for hours after use which makes them an attractive place for freezing cats. However, this can be lethal when unsuspecting car owners start their vehicle with a cat still inside.

A winter shelter is an enclosed area that outdoor cats can use to shield themselves from harm. With a show shelter, cat lovers can help outdoor cats avoid predators and freezing to death without having to touch them or putting them at risk.

Qualities of a Good a Cat Winter Shelter

Here are a few qualities that you should look out for when designing, building, or purchasing a winter shelter for your local stray cats:

Durability

For particularly harsh cold seasons, durability is one of the most important aspects of a good cat winter shelter. When designing a snow shelter for cats, wood, old tires, or strong plastic such as coolers or storage bins can be used as a stable structure.

Roof Slant

Heavy snowfall may trigger a collapse in weak structures, potentially hurting or injuring cats residing inside the shelter. If possible, create a slanted roof to keep rain or snow from piling up on top.

Weight

Winter shelters made with lightweight materials are prone to being blown away or toppling over during a storm. Adding heavy barbells, flat rocks, or cement blocks can prevent possible injury for possible animals inside. If possible, build the winter shelter with heavier materials to avoid this.

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Safety

Avoid placing a winter shelter for cats in an area where they are at risk of attack from predators. If possible, put it in a fenced area near your home or on an elevated platform. Not only does elevation keep predators away, but it also prevents the entrance from being blocked by snow and traps them inside.

Well-Placed Entrances

When creating an entrance, make sure that it is big enough for adult cats to enter but small enough so that predators cannot. Also, smaller openings make it easier to retain the heat inside the shelter.

You can opt to install a form of pet door that can simultaneously help warm the shelter and prevent snow or rain from coming inside. It is also good practice to put the entrance of a winter shelter facing a wall so that larger animals may find it harder to come closer.

Good Insulation & Drainage

To help improve the insulation of a winter shelter, put straw beddings. Straw beddings are commonly used in hamster and guinea pig cages and are available from your local pet store. Straw will help trap the body heat and help cats maintain a normal body temperature.

Unlike other materials such as blankets or newspapers, straw will also help reduce the dampness inside and not absorb rainwater. To keep winter shelters from flooding inside due to rain, create a small hole on the bottom or side for drainage.

Size

Winter shelters should have enough space for at least one adult cat to lie down comfortably. However, it should have minimal air space so that less heat will be required to warm it.

Quantity

Bear in mind that cats are territorial animals. If there is more than one stray cat in your area, it is best to have multiple, small shelters instead of just one large one. Having several winter shelters help avoid fighting and allows more cats to find a safe space to live.

Save Your Local Stray Cats

Winter can be a tough season for animals, especially for cats without a home. Storms can be brutal and cause several injuries with extreme cold can causing a variety of health issues like frostbite or hypothermia. While not everyone can bring a cat into their house, we are all capable of creating safe places for them to live outdoors.

Building a winter shelter does not have to be an expensive task. You may use existing materials inside your home, buy cheap materials from your local hardware store, or purchase a pre-made one online. You may also choose to retain them even when winter is over.

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Despite providing them a safe place to stay, many feral cats may not like unfamiliar humans approaching them. However, you may observe if they have any symptoms of injury or illness from a safe distance.

Unlike indoor cats, stray cats are at risk of so many things - predators, starvation, and even hypothermia. Once you have built a winter shelter, you may want to consider checking up on them now and then. If possible, leave food for them to eat and regularly check if they are okay.

Save your local stray cats by making a winter shelter today. Who knows, maybe they will even say thank you in their own way.

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Quina is a writer, cat mom and artist. Her greatest joys in life are creating remarkable experiences and writing about them.

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