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Feral cat shelters spotlighted at D.C. event

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To raise awareness about feral cats and ways to help them, architectural firms in Washington, D.C., were enlisted to design and build creative winter shelters to keep the outdoor felines warm and dry. And on Dec. 5, the fruits of their labors were unveiled to members of the cat-loving public.

A total of nine shelters were displayed at an art show-like reception at the American Institute of Architects in Northwest D.C. One firm made a wooden box-like structure insulated with builder’s foam, while another joined together thick styrofoam containers to create four kitty compartments, each with its own entrance.

Matthew Horn of Hickok Cole Architects said his team built its shelter by stacking layers of rigid insulation foam, used to build human houses, and lining the inside with mylar blankets.

“It should hold the heat very well,” Horn said.

The project is the brainchild of Leslie Farrell, an animal rescuer and founder of Architects for Animals. Farrell’s group has organized similar projects for outdoor cats in New York City, where she lives, and decided to expand its activities to other cities, including Washington and Los Angeles. Money raised from the D.C. reception will benefit the Washington Humane Society (WHS), which holds spay/neuter clinics for feral cats.

“Community cats have the skills and support from residents to live successfully outdoors,” said Danielle Bays, WHS community cats manager. “But as the temperature drops, D.C.'s vibrant populations of free-roaming cats are looking for places where they can stay warm at night. Kitty cottages, when placed on a deck, under a porch, or nestled in the garden, give cats a warm, dry, safe place to sleep, out of the elements.”

Anyone interested in building feral cat shelters can find instructions for a variety of designs online, including here.

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