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build an outdoor shelter for cats

materials list

  • rubbermaid container1 large Rubbermaid storage container (I use the 29 gallon size "Roughneck").
  • 1 medium Rubbermaid storage container (I use the 18 gallon size "Roughneck"). The medium container should fit inside the large container with about 1 inch of space on each side, top and bottom.
  • Straw BaleSmall straw bale (available at craft stores, Michael's has them year-round); or a portion of a large straw bale.
  • Foam insulation board (available at Home Depot or Lowe's) OR additional straw for insulation
  • Duct tape
  • Utility knife
  • Marking pen
  • 6-8 inch circular item for tracing
  • Optional: Small piece of solar pool cover material


  • Cut insulation board into pieces to line the inside bottom, top, and sides of the large Rubbermaid container.
  • Place the insulation board on the bottom of the large container (or lay in a layer of straw) and place the medium Rubbermaid container into the large one.
  • Insert the insulation board along the sides between the two containers (or fill the space with straw after cutting the hole in the next steps).
  • Trace a 6-8" diameter circular entrance hole about half way up on one side (I put the entrance on one end of the long side).
  • Cut through both containers and insulation board to create the entrance.
  • Place duct tape around the entrance to hold all the layers in place and smooth any jagged edges.
  • Place straw in the inner container (enough for the cats to burrow down in it (don't use blanket, towels, etc. as these tend to retain moisture if they get wet.)
  • Put the lid on the inner container and top with more insulation board or straw.
  • Put the lid on the outer container.
  • For additional warmth you can cover the shelter with a piece of solar pool cover material.

finished shelters

cat shelter cat shelter
This shelter, located in a covered outside area of an office building, is usually tucked away under the shrubbery.
Shelter on a pallet in an industrial area
cat shelter cat feeding station
Two shelters, of a group of three. The white shelter is made from a styrofoam meat shipping container, filled with straw. Small disposable styrofoam coolers will work as well.
A Rubbermaid container turned on its side as a feeding station works well to shelter food and water from the rain and snow.