Gimme Shelter: DIY Cat shelters for community cats
Every cat deserves a warm home, a family to love, a bed to sleep in, and toys to destroy. But as we well know, unfortunately, we live in a world where that’s not always possible. You can still help homeless kitties by building a shelter for those who go without.
By building a cat colony refuge, you will help keep community cats safe from predators and outdoor elements. When the weather gets unbearably cold, rainy, or hot, your shelter will offer them much-needed reprieve, promote their health, and give them a secure place to go. You will also be able to more easily monitor their well-being.
Ideally, the shelter should be located in a place that you have frequent access to; however, it should not be visible to the public. This is a key component when it comes to choosing the right area so that feral cats can feel safe coming and going. By hiding the shelter, you will be gifting them with a sense of protection.
In terms of size, your shelter should have room for at least two cats, plus food and water. Coverage is most important in order to provide these felines with a roof over their heads. Something as simple and inexpensive as a wooden box with one side completely open could work well. Ideally, the shelter would be slightly elevated off the ground, perhaps using small blocks, but be sure that it is stable. By sealing the wood with a couple coats of deck paint, you can keep it in good, lasting condition despite weather changes. If you are extremely handy or have a carpenter friend, this would be a great project to enlist help on! Make it as roomy and nice as possible with straw or old bedding material.
Another DIY solution to a makeshift cat shelter is to use a basic Rubbermaid storage bin. A box cutter will allow you to create a large opening in one of the long sides, which would be best made a few inches off the ground in order to prevent flooding. Include another opening on the opposite side, as cats often need an escape route in case predators or bully cats try to trap them in their homes.
However you choose to assemble your shelter, it will certainly be appreciated by homeless cats with nowhere else to turn. If you’re able to feed a cat colony consistently, make sure to visit the shelter on a regular schedule. This will train the kitties to show up at the same time every day or week, making it easier for you to track their whereabouts and identify when new cats have joined the colony. Plus, this constancy will become useful when you’re ready to set up traps and catch even the savviest of cats for your Trap, Neuter, Return program.
Lastly, be sure to maintain and clean up your shelter, especially if you’re also a feeder. We’re so grateful for your generous spirit as a cat colony caregiver, and we do not want any neighboring hostility or adverse challenges directed your way. By keeping the area clean and trouble-free, you’ll be acting respectfully towards your community. Most importantly, this will ensure your ability to continue helping feral cats.
There are many options when it comes to feral cat housing. Websites like Neighborhood Cats and Spay and Stay provide straightforward how-to tutorials for building your own safe haven. If you’re adding a feeding station too, Forgotten Felines Of Forsyth’s article has some great ideas for deterring raccoons from entering.
If you’d like to see some truly inspired cat shelters, visit Architects for Animals, which is an organization that works with architectural firms to create unique and innovative cat shelters to raise awareness of homeless cats. See the slideshow from FixNation’s Architects for Animals “Giving Shelter” benefit in Los Angeles here.