Two weeks ago we had an unexpected snowstorm. The snow melted in a day but it was a wake up call. I live in an area with a lot of stray cats. We have been feeding them. Our humane society is overrun with cats and won't take them in; they will be outdoors for the winter. We decided to try and make them some kind of winter shelter. I have never built anything in my life and do not own any power tools. We used materials we could get for free (boxes from the supermarket), materials that could be bought cheaply (space (emergency) blankets, hand warmers - a buck at the dollar store), Styrofoam wrap, plastic wrap and a tarp (which we already had). We were also given 2 bales of straw. Straw is one of the best insulators but unless you live in a rural area, it can be hard to come by. Ask at your local humane society, animal rescue organizations, riding stables etc., they may know where you can get some. So this is what we did.
1. Prepared the Boxes.
Taped the boxes shut and cut an entrance hole in the side.
We covered them in the Styrofoam wrap for insulation. (If you have those blocks of Styrofoam that electronics usually come packed in, use it.) Just secure it to the outside of the boxes.
Next we covered the insulated boxes in heavy duty plastic to keep them (boxes and cats) from getting wet. Large heavy duty garbage bags could be used instead.
A space blanket was then taped over those two layers to help keep in their body heat.
A thick layer of straw was put on the floor inside the box. On top of that is a self-heating cat blanket. You can make your own by folding a small blanket and putting a space blanket in between the layers.
2. Made the enclosure.
There is a shed in the yard with an overhanging roof close to the house, which made a natural place to set up the boxes. We will be able to clear a route out for them and easily put in food and water. Any semi-protected area in your yard - against a garage, the fence etc. will help against the high winds that come with a snow storm.
We made a platform to set 2 boxes on. You want the boxes to be off the ground. We put the straw bales at each end of the platform, up against the boxes.
After that I screwed some hooks into the side of the shed and hooked a heavy duty tarp over the whole thing.
Heavy rocks and cement blocks from an unused pond were put on the bottom of the tarp to hold it down.
It's not a pretty site, and until the first big snowstorm hits we won't really know how well it will hold up. But its already being used, so the cats know its there and we hope it will afford them enough protection when the worst of winter hits.
We enclosed one other area. On the back steps landing there is bench area with just enough space for one box. We put a sheet of wood over the benches to form a roof, put a tarp over the sheet of wood and secured it to the floor with cement blocks and then put heavy duty plastic all around the railing to keep out the wind and snow.
One big purchase was made, a microwave disc that can be put under the blanket and will give heat for up to 10 hours. That's in case we get hit with some really low temperatures and the straw and hand warmers just aren't enough. It did go down to -30 C a few times last year.
My blog about my cats: http://beautifulfelines.blogspot.com