Several years ago, we set up a shed to use as an outdoor cat shelter for the 3 cats in the backyard. At least two of the cats (Midnight and Charcoal) seem to stay in the yard most of the day.
Pork Chop may have only been coming for food at first. But during the winter of 2020 he used the shed.
Before showing you the shed, I will discuss the storage bin shelters and the straw fort we used in a previopus winter.
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The Storage Bin Cat Shelters
Last winter, we set up a small temporary fort made out of straw and two of the shelters made from storage containers.
There are many videos on YouTube on how to use storage bins for cat shelters. I suggest you watch several to see which style you would like to make.
My biggest recommendation for storage bin shelters is to buy a bin of high-quality plastic and a flat lid.
The yellow lids on the storage bins in the picture below cracked from the cold or maybe from water freezing and unfreezing. Since then, we put a plastic bag around the lid so that the shelter could still be used.
The straw fort as an outdoor cat shelter
Below is the straw fort. It was made using our outdoor table, chairs, and straw. Then we covered it with a tarp. We used flower pots from a long-ago forsaken attempt at gardening in the pots to hold the tarp in place.
The straw fort worked well for one winter and was very cheap since we already had all of the items other than the straw. And the straw was only $4 a bale from our farmer.
But by mid-summer, it was clear that the fort was only temporary as the tarp had started to break apart from the sun and weather. And then the straw was getting wet. And it wasn’t safe to keep using for the cats as the straw across the top was caving in.
We used a straw fort for the first time in the winter of 2013 when we were feeding Other Buster, a neighborhood feral cat that we were feeding. His story can be read here (he disappeared in February 2014 but the food we were putting out for him attracted Violet to our yard).
The shed for the outdoor cats
So, this year we decided to upgrade to a longer-lasting and safer set up for the cats.
Midnight is a big cat (he weighs more than 16 pounds), and we never saw him use the smaller shelters. He used the straw fort, and sometime during the winter, Charcoal showed up and began to use it.
We ordered a small resin shed that we could place on our deck. And, my husband was able to assemble it by himself. He said it would have been easier with two people! We ordered it from Lowe’s, but I noticed today that Amazon sells the same one.
I like this shed for three reasons:
- It has a window. I didn’t want the cats not to have any light if they spent long winter days inside the shed.
- This shed has two vents. You can see one in the picture below, and there is another one on the backside. I don’t want air to be too stuffy for the cats or moisture not to escape and cause mold.
- It doesn’t look like it’s for cats. If someone were to look into our yard, that would not know that it was being used for cats (not everyone in my neighborhood likes having the feral cats around).
Setting up the shed as an outdoor cat shelter
We did several things to make the shed work as a shelter for outdoor cats.
First, two entrances were cut into the sides of the shelter. The size of the opening should be big enough for a cat but not big enough for a large predator such as a large dog or coyote.
Possums can pretty much fit anywhere a cat can, so they may be using the shelters as well as smaller raccoons.
After cutting the plastic, the edges seemed rough, so we used tape to make it smooth.
Second, the inside of the shed was lined with Reflectix insulation. The insulation will help keep the cats warm. What I like about Reflectix, is that it can be cut with regular scissors and then taped to the walls.
Third, we put in some shelves. Since we have the 3 cats, we put in 3 dog houses lined with Reflectix (steps in the video below). One of the dog houses was placed on the shelf (pictures below).
Neither of these cat houses would be suitable to be out in the elements. If not inside shed, they will not protection from rain and snow somehow (like on a porch or other covered area).
Fourth, we taped shelves to the outside of the shed to cover the entrances to help keep rain and snow out.
The Final Step was putting the straw in the dog houses and around them.
In 2021, we moved the shed to the deck. Then we had an electrician install an outlet for the heated cat houses right inside the shed. You can watch the video below.
How to use a dog house as an outdoor cat shelter
I made a video with all of the steps to make the dog house a feral cat shelter. I choose to use a dog house because the opening is big and then I also didn’t have to do any cutting of the plastic. It just snapped together, and I was able to tape in the Reflectix easily.
(Reflectix rolls come in different dimensions, you will obviously need much less for a dog house than a shed so be sure to order the size the meets your needs.
In some of the comments on Amazon, people mentioned that they are using the dog house as a shelter. I am assuming they aren’t placing them into a shed.
Given it’s lightweight and the opening as on the larger side, you would want to secure it in some way and maybe come up with a way to prevent rain from going in.
Pictures of the shed converted to a cat shelter
Below are photos of the completed shed project. I am also very happy to report that at least two of the cats are using the shed!
We had the trail camera placed inside for a few days and Charcoal is seen sleeping in one of the dog houses. Also, in all 3 of the dog houses, the straw has been matted down by the cats.
You can watch a video showing the the inside of the shed as of May 2021 here.
More tips and resources for outdoor cat shelters
- Not all cats will want to go into a shed. Maybe they have sharing issues. You may want to provide alternative shelters.
- Alley Cat Allies has a long list of feral cat shelter options which you can read here.
- If you don’t want anyone to know the shed is for cats, put the entrances on the sides of the shed that are not visible to those passing by.
- Only use straw in shelters. Don’t use hay (it doesn’t dry, you don’t want the cats to be cold and wet)
- If you are using an existing shed and leaving items in it, make sure the items are cat safe. Don’t have anything sharp or toxic in the shed.
- I got the idea for a cat shed after seeing Kolony Kats set up a shed for some of the cats they care for. Their shed is much larger than mine. You can pick out a shed based on the number of cats you think will be using it.
- If you decide on a wooden shed, be sure to shop around for the best price. We found a local place that has a contract with Amish families to make sheds, and the price was significantly less than the wood sheds at locals stores.
- I don’t know if a wooden shed is better than a resin (plastic shed) since I don’t have both. I suppose wooden might be more sturdy. And you could attach shelves to the walls.
- It’s not recommended to put food and water inside of the shed as you don’t want to attract predators to the shed.
- Local shelters/rescues or clinics that do low-cost spay/neuters for outdoor cats, may sell premade shelters in late fall or winter.