Cats don’t need a lot of space, just a space that is large enough for them to stand and move about and stay safe from the harshest outdoor elements. When the weather is at its coldest, the cats will be relying on each other for warmth, and will create their own tight spaces within their shelter. With that in mind, you can use whatever space and materials available to you to create a small haven.
Homemade shelters can be crafted out of nearly anything: from a sturdy cardboard box (think of the heavy cardboard used for packing television sets) to an anchored plastic garbage can to a few pieces of scrap wood that have been arranged as a buffer against the wind and snow and rain. The shelter should be large enough to accommodate several cats comfortably, but not too wide or tall. In fact, the smaller the size, the better the space will be equipped to retain the cats’ body heat.
When creating the entry opening into the shelter, keep in mind that the opening should only be large enough to allow a cat to enter, so that as much of the wind and snow stay outside of the shelter as possible and the interior of the shelter remains dry. If space allows, you can create an awning or plastic “curtain” to shield the entry. Plastic sheeting or heavy garbage bags are quick and inexpensive options for this. If it is not possible to cover the opening, you can try placing the shelter close to a wall, with the entry facing the wall.
If you are able to put a little more work and material into the shelter, try adding insulation to the interior roof and walls of the structure and line the seams of the shelter with caulk so that it is as draft free as possible. Also, elevate the shelter off of the ground to prevent ground moisture from seeping into the floor of the shelter. Of course, you do not want the shelter to be entirely sealed. Some amount of ventilation is necessary, perhaps as some small holes along the bottom of the structure. Bedding material can be added, but blankets and towels are not a practical idea, since they can get wet and moldy and can even freeze, making them unusable. Straw is an excellent material, since it does not hold onto excess moisture, and helps to retain heat.
Finally, be sure to locate the shelter in a safe, concealed spot where the cats feel securely hidden from predators and can watch their surroundings.
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