Gimme Shelter

I’m not a big fan of the Rolling Stones song “Gimme Shelter,” but it’s a good notion. We all need it, right? The safety of a roof, or a tent, or a cave. A warm radiator or open (and controlled!) fire. My version of shelter includes plumbing and snacks, but the more primal and necessary need that shelter affords us is safety. Safety from the elements. Safety from predators. A kind of sanctuary.

This is the time of year when we need to think about the strays and feral colonies out there, of which there are plenty. People often feed strays but they can’t welcome every stray cat into their homes. The answer is to build a structure, and outdoor shelter, for the cats that need them.

These outdoor shelters need to be big enough that the cat can stand up, turn around, and lay back down, but small enough that it retains their body heat. Also, it doesn’t need to be warm or hot for it to be worthwhile, it only needs to be as warm as they are.

Most of the materials needed are easily acquired from a hardware store if not already in your home. Most important is the plastic bin which houses all the rest. It should hold a volume of 32 – 64 liters which is approximately one to two cats.

The entrance should be six inches wide and can be made using a box cutter and determination. Warm up the area to be cut with a hair dryer if you have it. This helps soften up the exterior making it easier to penetrate with a blade.

You’re going to be wielding a boxcutter and making sharp edges as you go, so be sure to wear suitable gloves and use all the duct tape you see fit, and do not skimp on the tape either. That would be a mistake. It’s important to smooth every edge that you create to minimize chance of injury.

You’ll need another smaller bin with another 6″ entrance to put inside the outer shell. This is where the insulation happens. Put lots of straw on the bottom of both bins, and surround the inner bin as well.

One bale of straw should be more than enough as long as it’s fresh and not mildewy, however, one bale of straw is a lot for one person; it’s a good idea to contact contractors to see if they have extra materials to donate. Try your local Facebook Buy Nothing group, too.

Below is a helpful video to guide you step by step on how to construct an outdoor shelter for cats. Happy building!