How to Build a Cheap Outdoor Cat Shelter for the Extreme Cold

Outdoor cats need a warm shelter during the cold winter months.

Cats that live outdoors in cold climates need protection during the chilly winter months. Whether you have a pet cat that prefers its freedom, or are caring for feral cats that won't come close, you need to ensure that they have a warm, safe shelter set well out of the wind and rain. According to Indyferal, an Indiana non-profit organization that works to help feral cats, shelter is more important for stray and feral cats than food. Cats can suffer from hypothermia when their coats get wet and they aren't able to get dry. Several states issue regular reminders to pet owners to provide shelter for their animals.


Step 1

Cut an opening in one side of the storage bin near the corner using the box cutter. The lower edge of the opening should be at least six inches above ground level to prevent water entry. This opening forms the "doorway" to the shelter.

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Step 2

Cut the Styrofoam into sections the same size as the walls and floor of the bin. Glue the sections to the inside of the bin walls and floor to create an insulated lining. End the lining one inch before the top of the walls to allow space for the lining of the lid.


Step 3

Cut a section of Styrofoam to fit the inside of the bin lid and glue it, ensuring that the lid is still able to close securely.
Ideally the Styrofoam lining of the "roof" should fit either inside or on top of the lining of the walls.

Step 4

Cut an opening in the Styrofoam that lines up with the entrance cut in the side of the bin. Seal the edges of the entrance by putting duct tape from the outside of the storage bin to the inside of the Styrofoam. This will prevent moisture seeping in between the bin and the lining, and protect the edges of the Styrofoam from breakage caused by the cat going in and out.


Step 5

Cover the base of the shelter with a thick layer of straw, which is insulating and dries easily if a wet cat enters to keep warm.

Step 6

Fasten the lid of the storage bin using two strips of duct tape at each end of the bin, putting the tape all the way around the lid and the base of the bin to ensure that the wind cannot blow the lid off. Wrap the whole bin in bubble plastic, leaving the entrance open. This will help to waterproof it and provide added insulation.



Step 7

Place the shelter in a secluded area with the entrance facing away from the wind and rain, if possible. Raise it on bricks or blocks of wood to create a cushion of air between the box and the frozen ground. Weight the shelter down with a heavy stone on the lid, to prevent it from blowing away if it is not occupied during a strong wind.


Step 8

Clean the shelter periodically by unwrapping the plastic and removing the lid, and if possible stand the open box in the sun to dry out any dampness. Replace the straw inside with a clean, dry bundle.

Things You'll Need

  • Large Rubbermaid storage bin

  • Box cutter or utility knife

  • 8’ x 2 sheet of one-inch thick Styrofoam

  • Glue

  • Duct tape

  • Straw

  • Plastic bubble wrap

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