D.I.Y. Shelters

Winter Weather Tips to help Community Cats from Alley Cat Allies: click here.

Shelter Tips: Click here for some simple tips for how to maintain your shelter (ie where to place it, how to entice cats into it, how to improve the environment around the shelter to keep the cats even warmer etc)


Toronto Street Cats has made our very own step by step DIY video demonstrating the very simple design we use to build our winter shelters (used to keep street cats warm throughout Toronto).

And here’s a hard copy of the step by step instructions of how we make our shelters.

Ontario SPCA has put together their own youtube video showing how they make their shelters (very similar to ours!).  They are available at their Newmarket location (click here for contact details).


Alley Cat Allies: Simple ‘how-to’ video – making shelters out of two plastic totes embedded within each other (materials: two plastic totes; a piece of styrofoam; some straw; a plastic plant pot; utility knife).  Click here to view.

More designs for how to build a shelter with tough plastic storage bin:
Design 1: click here
Design 2: click here
Design 3: click here
Design 4: click here
Design 5: click here
Design 6:  click here

For other MANY other excellent shelter ideas:

Still more ideas can be found on the Neighborhood Cats website (click here).


We all associate “warm and cozy” with blankets – but don’t use them in feral cat shelters. In damp or cold weather, once the blanket gets damp it stays damp – and in the REAL deep cold, it will freeze.

Use straw (NOT HAY) in the shelter. Straw is the best bedding:
> it reflects body heat back to the cat
> it repels moisture (hay absorbs moisture and will remain wet/damp).

Quick farming lesson for the day: Hay is basically grass and is used as animal feed. Straw is the dried stalks of wheat or other cereal plants. It’s not animal feed, but is used as mulch or bedding. Who knew!

Straw not hay

Shelter entrance:  it’s not necessary but the following will help prevent wind from getting into the shelter

  • Find a tube like container (a clean plastic flower pot, margarine tub, ice cream tub etc) that is the size of the hole you’ve cut into the shelter (which should be, at minimum 6 inches in diameter)
  • Cut the bottom of the container out, trim off any sharp edges (leaving the edges smooth)
  • Tape it into the entrance hole of the shelter (after you have already lined the inside of the shelter with styrofoam)
  • Make sure to you all-weather tape (ie black Gorilla Tape) that will withstand the elements

Flower pot instead of plastic tube for shelter entrance Sep2020

Or just keep it simple: cut a hole in a Styrofoam box, place straw inside, and voila – simple but effective shelter.  For the Styrofoam box, call pet stores that sell fish – the fish are transported in Styrofoam boxes – the stores are just going to throw the boxes out so offer to take them off  their hands!

One shelter entrance?  Two entrances?

Toronto Street Cats builds feral cat shelters with one entrance. Numerous times we’ve been asked why only one entrance and would it be better if we had two entrances (so that a cat could escape if cornered). Good question.  Read this interesting article by an individual who has been involved in TNR for many years and who now builds cat shelters/condos. http://www.feralvilla.com/The-Myth-of-the-Emergency-Exit_ep_43.html