The feeding station we made for the outdoor cats is intended to give the cats a dry place to eat, not for shelter.
They have a cat shed with straw, insulated dog houses (and heated houses) for shelter from the wind, rain, and snow. There will NOT be any straw or comfort added to this station as we want it to be for eating only.
And their water is outside of the station, so I don’t have to worry about spills (and birds can get a drink too). And the cord for the heated bowl doesn’t reach into the shelter anyway.
Providing food and water is one way to help outdoor cats.
We keep the regular water bowl in the same location as the heated bowl in the warm months. Before we had the heated water bowl, we used heat packs to delay the water from freezing (you can see those steps here).
Constructing the Outdoor Cat Feeding Station
The instructions below will be the general steps that we followed, and I mostly watched as my husband did all the work! And while this is what we did, this might not be what you want to do, as we worked with an existing structure in the yard.
The platform we are using used to be for a porch swing. We removed the swing several years ago and covered one side of it.
Last year, we used straw bales to block the wind and snow on one of the open sides, which mostly worked, but since the front was still open, the snow got into the area.
A few weeks ago, we extended the roof and put up two more walls. A cat entrance was added at the back. We had leftover shingles from when our house was reroofed.
After posting in a TNR Facebook group and getting suggestions, we decided to try two shower curtain liners to cover the front.
The liner was screwed into the top of the shelter through the eyelets of where shower curtain rings usually go. And then shingles were folded over the top.
The bottom of the right side was secured by wrapping the liner in wood and then screwing it to the floor. The plastic will not open on this side.
On the other side, a small metal plate was screwed to the front of the floor. Then the plastic liner can be secured with strong magnets.
Another entrance was cut into the liner for the cats to have two entrances. And on warmer, not rainy or snowy days, the flap can be opened to make a larger entrance.
And when the flap is open, I can crawl inside and pet the cats a bit. This should allow me to pet them a bit further into the winter or when it’s raining!
Spring Update – Shower Curtain problems
For most of the winter, the shower curtains worked out quite well. The feeding area was free of snow all season.
However, by spring, the shower curtain that opened and closed showed signs of wear and tear.
- A few times, when the flap was open, I backed into when stepping out of the shelter, which started a rip where the shower curtain.
- A cat or maybe a raccoon started pushing through the curtain where there was no opening, further stretching the curtain.
- The magnet used to keep the “flap” open or closed wore a hole through the curtain from the repeated opening and closing.
So, we decided it was best to remove the flap side. The other side is big enough that we can push the food back on rainy days.
Outdoor Cat Feeding Station Tips and Resources
We used what we had available in our yard. You may want to get creative with existing structures if you are feeding the feral or outdoor cats in your yard.
Most of our feeding station is blocked from view by a small clump of trees and overgrown bushes. Not everyone likes cats, and some people will intentionally harm cats. So, you may need to use feeding stations (and shelters) that blend into the surrounding environment or that can be hidden.
The feeding station can be simple, such as using a larger Rubbermaid container.
It may be easier to buy a dog house or a feral cat house to use for the feeding station than constructing something. You may still need to develop a way to prevent rain and snow from getting into the station (and the food).
Keeping raccoons out of the cat food can be tricky.
Here are three options:
- Provide enough food for all the cats and all the raccoons. I do not recommend this option since neighbors may not appreciate the raccoons, and sometimes raccoons will fight with cats. They have killed a few kittens in my neighborhood (the mom cats have since been TNR’d).
- Bring in the cat food at night, so the raccoons do not come looking for food. This is what I do most nights, and if done consistently, the raccoons stop coming around. I used to feel like I was depriving the cats, but they didn’t get to eat the food anyway at night since the raccoons ate all of it.
- Build a feeding station mounted on a pole. The cats can jump onto or into to, but the raccoons cannot. I do not know how to do this and wasn’t able to find reliable plans. You can see a video of how the high feeding station will deter a raccoon here. So, you may have to come up with your own DIY plan if you want to go this route.