A winter warming shelter/den for feral and community cats

It’s that time of year when big-hearted volunteers like to make little dens for feral cats to keep warm. Some parts of America are incredibly cold in the winter. The organisation Watching over Whiskers (WOW) has an ongoing programme of making cat shelters for their community cats.

The picture is from the Watching over Whiskers charity which I dressed up a little bit. This particular one is not off the ground. It is preferable to ensure that the polystyrene community cat shelter is positioned off the ground for added protection and warmth.
The picture is from the Watching over Whiskers charity which I dressed up a little bit. This particular one is not off the ground. It is preferable to ensure that the polystyrene community cat shelter is positioned off the ground for added protection and warmth.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

It seems that a lot of charities concerned with providing help to feral cats make these shelters. And I like the way they go about it. For me the shelters that they make tick the boxes for a good quality product. But is a little caveat (potential downside) which I discuss in a related article (see link below).

Making community cat winter warming dens

They say they cost $10 each to make and below is a list of the important aspects of the shelters:

  • They are made from polystyrene coolers which have been discarded. I guess you could buy them as well if you wanted to but this charity seems to find enough of them available for free.
  • They cover the finished product – a compact feral cat winter warming home – with “contractor grade trash bags 42 and 55 gallon”. I presume that they use these strong trash bags to cover the polystyrene coolers to protect them against the weather and to keep them dry. It must extend the life of the finished product.
  • They also employ catnip, which I will also presume that they place inside the shelter to encourage the cat to go in and make it their home.
  • They fill the den with straw which helps to keep the cats dry and warm. It’s a good bedding product because you’re going to get air pockets trapped within the straw which when warmed up helps to keep the den warm. That’s how I think it works.
  • And they add to the shelter food grade diatomaceous earth which is a fine white powder-like substance made from shells which cuts the exoskeleton of fleas, killing them in a physical and safe way. It’s a very safe product because it is food grade and therefore can be eaten to kill parasites inside the digestive tract. This is how it is used on farms for livestock.
  • Duct tape is also used to manufacture the cosy shelters.
  • As you can see in the photograph, they cut a hole in the side as an entrance and exit ‘port’.
  • The finished product is placed on the ground, but off the ground by a few inches at least. This is to protect against water ingress into the shelter and it helps to keep it in good condition and warmer. I would suggest a couple of offcuts of wood to do that job. But I guess almost anything could do the job such as used bricks.

All-in-all this would result in a good product which would be quite durable. I would think it would last several winters if not longer but the charity might tell me more about it.

They look for volunteers who are good with their hands to make them. They are part of their ongoing TNR program to help community cats. You can contact them if you are interested by email: whiskers.fund@gmail.com.

RELATED: Are Styrofoam feral cat shelters a good idea? Click on the link to read about the potential downsides of using polystyrene as a shelter for community cats. The product emits chemicals which may be an issue.

RELATED: Are tires safe as DIY feral and stray cat shelters? Old vehicle tires (tyres) are sometimes used a community cat shelters. Click the link to see the downsides of this idea. I think tyres should not be used as shelters. But this is a balancing act between benefits and downsides.

Cold climates

The charity is based in Springfield Missouri where the winter temperatures drop to around -5°. That’s not as bad as it can be in other parts of America, in the North, where temperatures can drop to -40 Celsius on occasions.

Some parts of America have very low average annual temperatures. For example, Mount Washington, New Hampshire has an average temperature of -2.2 Celsius. The mean annual temperature of Allagash, Maine, on the east coast of America is, I’m told, 3°C. These are the places where the kind of shelters I am referring to would be incredibly useful, indeed vital to the survival of community cats.

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