/ / Winter is Coming! How to Build Your Own DIY Cat Shelter

Winter is Coming! How to Build Your Own DIY Cat Shelter

| by John Ceranic |

Do you have street cats that you see wandering around your neighborhood? Do you worry about their well-being as the weather gets colder in the winter months? Well, you can help out by building a DIY cat shelter with some supplies you can get at any home, hardware, garden and/or pet store! Le Cat Cafe and Green Street Rescue have provided hundreds of shelters over the years using these tried and true methods.

*The Ontario SPCA has a great video showing a build of a DIY cat shelter

Anatomy of a Cat Shelter

There is a couple of different methods to made your own DIY cat shelter, but the basic idea comes down to three parts.

1) Cat House 

The main cat house/shelter can be any plastic tote/container. Rubbermaid is a popular brand that everyone knows, but you can use any brand as long as it has an 18 gallon capacity for one cat (possibly ok for two smaller cats) or a 36 gallon capacity for two cats.

Choose a color of tote that won’t stick out like gray, brown or black.

2) Entrance

The entrance can be made with corrugated plastic tubing or the entrance can be protected by a metal or wood awning. The entrance must be around a diameter of 6 inches.

3) Insulation

The cat house can be insulated by Durafoam, regular Styrofoam (or a Styrofoam cooler), and/or straw.  

Other Supplies Needed to Construct

  • X-acto knife and/or box cutter
  • Measuring tape
  • Weather resistant duct tape
  • four 2 x 4 pieces of wood to put the shelter on

First - Create the Igloo Opening

Start by cutting the 6 inch diameter corrugated tubing to the purrrrfect length with your knife, which is to the size of 6 notches of the tubing. The 6 inch diameter gives it a large enough opening for the cat to go through, but small enough to keep out predators and the elements (think igloo).

*Tip Use a blow dryer to soften the plastic before cutting.

Trace the tubing with your sharpie and then cut out the plastic with your knife or box-cutter. You can put the opening on either the longer side or on the shorter side on the front. Wherever you decide to put the opening, put it at the end so the cats can stay on the other side away from the cold. Also, make sure the entrance is elevated a few inches off the ground, which also helps keep the elements out.

*Don’t attach the tubing just yet- that will be later.

Second - Create the Warm Interior

Again use your knife to cut your Styrofoam or Durafoam to the appropriate lengths to fit inside the tote. Two for the longer sides and two for the shorter sides and one to go across the top of the other four. If using Durafoam, which is a specialized insulating material, make sure the shiny side points to the interior of the container to maximize the insulation. Use the duct tape to attach all of the pieces of foam together into a fencing around the box.

Alternatively you could purchase a disposable Styrofoam cooler and use it as the insulation. Just make sure that it is the proper fit for the tote.

*Don’t attach the top piece of foam or cooler just yet.

After putting in the Styrofoam, you will realize that there is no way for the cat to get into the shelter as it is blocked with the foam. Simply use your knife and cut through the foam, using the circle you cut through the plastic tote as a guide.

Now its time to attach the tubing over the entrance. Connect to the tote with the weather resistant duct tape on the outside so that five notches of the corrugated tubing are exposed to the elements and the other notch is pushed through to the interior of the shelter. Also attach the tube on the interior using duct tape.

Last - Finishing Touches

Fill up the tote with about 75% straw and then tape down the top of the foam pieces or cooler so it is now an enclosed box. Make sure to use straw and not hay. Hay will hold moisture, while the straw will keep the shelter dry.

Put a note on the top that indicates that this box is a cat shelter! That way if anybody sees it that will not think it is trash or something else.

Now, put on the lid of the tote and your cat shelter is ready to go!

Where to Put Your DIY Shelter

Make sure to keep the shelter out in the sun, but at least hidden to a certain extent. Against a building, tree or bush is a good place to start and away from anywhere where there will be a lot of people.

Also, it is ideal to place the shelter on a couple of 2×4 pieces or wood or something else to elevate the the tote slightly off the cold ground.


John Ceranic is a content creator, digital marketer and cat expert and has been working at Le Cat Cafe for the past four years.