A few tips: Use only straw bedding (never towels, blankets or folded newspapers). Check on your shelter periodically to make sure it isn't getting wet, which could result in seriously ill cats. If you do find water getting inside, you can wipe out moisture and replace the straw, move/rotate the shelter so wind and precipitation don't blow directly into the tunnel (placing it alongside a building or another structure is a good idea). You can also drill a small drainage hole in a back corner and make sure the perimeter of the lid is sealed with duct or Gorilla tape.
Supplies (pre-tax prices in Toronto area as of Fall 2010):
-Rubbermaid 189L bin (exterior bin - $23 CAD at Walmart), tan colour is best for camouflaging shelter into landscape
-Sterilite 85L bin (interior bin - $14 at Walmart), clear
-Gorilla Tape ($10 at Walmart). This tape is very strong and weatherproof. I find regular duct tape is not weatherproof (rain will loosen it) and is too weak for this job. I can make about four shelters per roll.
-Reflectix 1.33' x 25' roll Staple Tabbed (item ST16025, $24 at Home Depot), foil-faced reflective insulation. Each large shelter will use about 6', so you can make about four shelters per roll.
-Tuck Tape (high tack red translucent Canadian Technical Tape, see Step 11's photo, I think about $10 at Home Depot), which is really good for binding Reflectix panels to each other and to the bins. I've made at least thirteen shelters with the same roll, with plenty left.
|Cutting 6"-7" strips from a laminated poster |
I got for free from the LCBO to make tunnels
-Circular item of 6" diameter (e.g. small saucepan), for tracing
-Bale of straw (i.e., animal bedding - not hay, which is animal food and won't keep cats warm and dry). I get this from my cousin's farm outside Toronto but you can get straw from a garden supply or farm supply store, or horse barn. Call around. Interestingly, vendors in Oshawa and Mississauga have bales of straw listed on Kijiji for $2-3 per square bale. In my experience, one large rectangular bale yields enough straw for about six shelters. I don't know about square bales.
|Step 2: Trace a 6" circle (easier when bin |
is stood on one end - not horizontal as shown)
1. Stand large bin (Rubbermaid 189L) vertically on one end.
2. Draw a 6" circle. Using permanent marker and the circular item of 6" diameter for tracing, trace a circle onto top end, centred. This will be the entry hole, which should be large enough to allow cats in/out but too small for raccoons to squeeze through.
3. Cut out circle. Bin still vertical, use hair dryer, set to "hot", to soften plastic (I hold it in my left hand) while cutting (using my right hand) the circle with the linoleum knife, making many little downward cuts all the way around. Be patient for plastic to soften first to avoid making cracks.
|Step 4: Large bin, flat on coffee table, lined with straw|
5. Place small bin inside large bin, on top of straw.
Reaching through the hole in the large bin, trace a 6" circle on the small bin (Sterilite 85L) directly behind the first hole.
6. Remove the small bin, stand it on its end, and cut out hole from small bin using hair dryer and linoleum knife.
|Step 7: I've cut a hole in the small bin and |
placed it back on top of straw inside large bin
|Step 8: Make a tunnel|
|Step 8: Interior view of the tunnel-taping process|
|Step 9: Ensure a good seal to keep out enemy #1: moisture. |
Go over any missed spots with Gorilla Tape
|Step 10 & 11: Line interior bin with |
panels of Reflectix
|Step 11: Cut about 4" off the length of panel that will |
cover bin walls. Affix panel to both sides of tunnel area
For other models of winter shelter you can make yourself, see this Neighborhood Cats page: http://www.neighborhoodcats.org/HOW_TO_FERAL_CAT_WINTER_SHELTER
Here's a simple and affordable shelter that has great instructions and uses one plastic tote, a Styrofoam cooler (which you might be able to get for free from a restaurant [meat and fish are delivered in these] or grocery store, or buy at a hardware store) and straw: http://www.torontohumanesociety.com/pdfs/out_cat_shelter-1.pdf
Thanks for reading & good luck to you and your kitties.