Here in Milwaukee, we are used to the harsh cold of a long winter. The white sky and the snow-covered ground seem to work in harmony to form a globe of bitter temperatures. And, this winter has been particularly brutal with multiple weeks of sub-zero temperatures. So, we layer and we bundle. We turn our thermostats up. We snuggle with warm blankets. We cozy by the fireplace.
In many Wisconsin neighborhoods, outdoor cats – whether feral or stray – don’t have the option to curl up by a fireplace, and they don’t have warm blanket on which to sleep. The poor kitties are in real danger as they’re left to fend for themselves and try to be as resourceful as they can with what Mother Nature has provided.
We can help. We NEED to help. And, it’s easier than you think.
It’s simple to build an effective shelter for outdoor cats. Just remember two things:
1) Make sure the shelter has strong insulation.
2) Ensure the shelter has minimal air space.
The insulation will keep the cat’s body heat enclosed in the shelter, keeping her/him warm naturally. Kitty, in effect, becomes her/his own little heater. Having a small amount of air space minimizes the amount of space which needs to be heated.
You can build a simple shelter with a variety of materials. The easiest way to create a refuge is from a Styrofoam cooler available at any hardware store for a few dollars. My friends have had luck with local meat and seafood companies being willing to donate Styrofoam coolers, so ask around in your neighborhood for cooler donations.
• Attach the lid to the cooler and secure with glue or duct tape.
• Turn the cooler upside down and cut a hole in one of the short sides.
• Insulate the space with straw, hay or shredded newspaper.
• Put the shelter outside where you’ve seen feral or stray cats.
• Elevate the bottom off the frozen ground with wood or sticks.
A similar shelter may be created with a Rubbermaid or plastic storage bin. Follow the same steps. Be sure to insulate the plastic bin with polystyrene and straw/hay/shredded paper. If you’re feeling compassionate, a really great shelter can be built by placing a Styrofoam container inside a plastic bin, surrounding it with hay.
It’s better to build multiple, smaller shelters which can hold three to four cats vs. building one large shelter. Smaller spaces are more easily heated with the cat’s own body temperature.
Whether you are a full-time cat guardian or not, you can make a difference. For a few dollars and a small amount of your time, you can help homeless kitties make it through the winter. With just a little bit of effort, you can truly save a life.
Thank you for your compassion. Stay warm and be well.