January 8, 2013

Outdoor cat shelter

still trying to lurch myself into 2013. it's slow going, so here's a little story about how we became obsessed with someone else's cat and i spent a couple weekends on an "addition" in the backyard.

i recently realized that i know more about the social dynamics between the neighborhood cats than i know about my actual human neighbors. there's Bad Cat, the feral who lives under the vacant house next door, Pudge, the orange cat who comes to our front stoop and meows in this disturbing low register, and the one who's stolen our hearts- Caspian.

Caspian isn't a stray- he's owned by some neighbors down the street. i returned him to his house back in the spring when we first started seeing him and thought he was lost, and they were like, "oh yeah, thanks. yeah, we just let him out to roam." which is whatever, a lot of people do that. BUT, it's now the dead of winter and poor Caspian is still "being let out to roam" in sub-freezing temperatures. (fun fact- we once kept him for 6 days during a brutal cold snap when we could not get in touch with his owners and thought they had moved and abandoned him. when we finally got a hold of them and returned Caspian, they had no idea he had been gone for 6 days. so, not winning any awards for pet ownership.) he's also become increasingly skinnier throughout the year, so at some point we also started sneaking him some food in our backyard. which of course now makes him a regular on our property and i realize this actually encourages him to leave his house and not stay put where it's warm... we helped create that problem. but he clearly wasn't getting fed (enough) and if he was going to be outside i wanted enough meat on his bones to survive.

so, fall arrived and the weather started getting colder, and i began to worry about where he was going to hunker down if he found himself outside on some really cold days or nights. i did some Internet research on outdoor cat shelters- ones you can buy and ones you can built yourself. i realized that i had almost all of the supplies for one of the homemade versions, so i set out to make this:

the actual cat shelter portion was really simple. you can see in the photo above that i went over the top and then created a 3-sided wooden lean-to shelter for the shelter... sigh. what can i say, i had roofing supplies burning a hole in my... garage? here's the nuts and bolts of what i did, just in case you've also got a special outdoor kitty who needs a little place to get warm.

large Tupperware container
styrofoam cooler or 1" foamboard insulation (comes in big sheets at Home Depot)
straw (NOT hay. the websites were very adamant about this. animals eat hay, sleep on straw. i was able to buy a bale from a garden center about 9 blocks from my house for what i will politely refer to as "city prices")
duct tape
power drill
sharp knife
a couple bricks or large rocks

1. measure and cut your styrofoam/foamboard into pieces for the bottom, 4 sides, and top of the tupperware container. (the top piece should be big enough to rest on top of everything)
2. cut a 6" hole on one of the wider sides of the container. it should be about 5" from the ground and off to the side.
3. put your styrofoam in the container and trace the hole onto the foam piece. then cut the same hole into the foam.
4. put your bottom & side pieces in the container, and then start stuffing it with straw. fill in any extra spaces between insulation pieces with straw, creating a nice cozy nest for your kitty friend.
5. place the top piece of foam over the nesting area. it should be cut big enough to just sit on top.
6. place the container's top back on, and place the bricks on top to keep it weighted down.
7. duct tape around the hole so the container and foam are connected and your kitty friend doesn't run the risk of getting cut by the rough edge.
8. you can also sprinkle a little catnip inside to entice him/her to check it out, but Caspian immediately crawled right inside like he knew it was just for him. awww.

with the lean to, i bought a 10' 4x4 post and cut it into 4 pieces, totally guessing on the angles. (yes i had to re-cut) then i cut & screwed the plywood roof onto the posts, stapled down that paper stuff that goes under roofing shingles, then secured the shingles with roofing nails. i also had leftover cedar planks in our garage, so i cut and screwed them around the sides to block the wind. i would like to add a floor of some sort, as water tends to pool on our patio in that area. maybe just some paver stones or something? we shall see...

(i should also add that on the really, really, really cold nights, we just scoop Caspian up and bring him inside to sleep in our guest room. he totally sleeps like a human- on the bed nestled up against the pillows. and again.... awww.)

1 comment:

Regine Karpel said...

Cute cat!