November 12, 2013

Operation Winter Cat Shelter - Part Two

Jesse demonstrates tub house

Providing shelter for my formerly stray outdoor cats is a priority for me. As I mentioned in Part One, I put aside items throughout the year that I think will come in handy for the shelters. I make two sets: one inside my fenced yard where Chauncie Marie lives, and the other overlooking the open yard where a larger fur family of 5 resides. Let me preface the following by saying up front: It ain't pretty, but it does the job.

We begin by framing the back patio with extra large construction tarps, ceiling to floor. The north winds are strong, and create a whole lotta misery for me and the cats when they tear down tarp walls in the middle of the night. We now buy the kind with grommets and both tie and nail them into place. We also anchor the bottom with cider blocks, also tied into place.

This year we sectioned the porch in half, and gave the cats the right side to allow us to have a view from our living room window into the yard instead of into the camp. The patio is still open into the yard and as you can see, today's lunch was kibble with bits of leftover chicken.

This is inside the camp. The paneled roof allows light, the tarp sides protect from the elements. I added a carpet remnant where the cats prefer to dine at dinnertime, especially when the patio is cold enough to freeze sensitive toes. Notice the cinder block. Ray will secure the blocks to prevent them shifting during a windstorm.

Ray placed a huge plywood board across two saw horses and I added two small tables on either side, then covered it all with leftover carpeting.

This year I took $6 storage bins, cut out a hole in the lid, and stuffed with blankets. The outside of the bins will be wrapped with another blanket. I thought Nik and Patsy, father and daughter, might share the larger dog house, or maybe Jesse and YumYum, who shared the house last year. But nope! This year, they all want their own digs.

Next I clip several brooder lamps to old cat trees and position them around the table. There is a lot of rearranging over the next few days as the cats jockey for position. Which cat will take what house? The blanket-wrapped red house originally belonged to Patsy, but then YumYum commandeered it for herself.

Then there was what to do with Charlie. He's an intact feral that has hung around for two years. He's smart. He knows what a live trap is, therefore he's yet to have "the operation." However, he isn't a fighter and spends most of his time hanging out with Patsy, who adores him. Jesse, however, barely tolerates him, therefore I needed to have options available in case the two boys refused to share the top of the table.

It took a few days, but Charlie eventually showed interest in the cat tree at the far back of the above photo. When I discovered him asleep in the tree without any comfort, I repositioned a lamp toward this tree, and draped a freshly washed blanket around it. This morning I peeked through my window to see him asleep and toasty warm.

Beneath the table I placed an old cat carrier that was sacrificed a couple years ago to the welfare of the homeless who inevitably show up during winter.
Winter 2011, the "homeless house" was appreciated
Covered with a blanket, this year I added a cup bed that no one wanted. Last night I discovered Nikolas has claimed that bed, if only temporarily until it gets cold enough to warrant a heat lamp house.

Beneath the table I also added the bin bed-- used in Part One by Chauncie. After Chauncie's winter camp was all set, Hurricane Ray blew through and came up with options that released the bin bed for someone else to use, namely Patsy:

Patsy getting comfy in her new bin bed
As the winter progresses and permanent cold sets in the cats may huddle together for shared body warmth. I have enough heat lamps that four out of five could claim one for themselves alone, as demonstrated by Nik in the below photo:
Nik demonstrates his purrsonal heat lamp technique
I keep an extra lamp bulb on hand in case one burns out. I buy the bulbs from Lowes along with the brooder lamp. The bulbs are the kind specific to put out heat. They should be used with a wire cover in case the lamp gets knocked and falls. I use bungee cords to secure the lamps in place when I clip them to the cat trees, or to a chair.
Like I said before, it ain't pretty, but it does the job.

I'm interested in what you've done to provide shelter for your outside strays, so feel free to leave a comment. And if you're a newbie when it comes to kitty camps, I'm willing to give advice on options for your own unique situation. Thanks for stopping by!

Jesse, the wonder cat


  1. It shelters them and that's all that's necessary. We don't have strays in our neighborhood. Maybe they are caught by animal control because we don't see any walking in the neighborhood, but see owners walking their pets near the park!
    Great Job!!
    Purrs, Miss Kitty

  2. Anonymous2:19 PM

    #cammiesstar twinkles to keep all the kittehs warm. Especially Nik, who looks (and lies down) a lot like me! * * *

  3. Wow - I'd say those kitties have deluxe accommodations. Bless you for doing all this. We don't have any feral kitties in our neighborhood, so we have never had experience with having to build a shelter.