DIY: Warm Winter Cat Houses

Pet cats living outside and stray & feral cats have a really hard time in winter—those low temperatures can be deadly.  If your neighborhood has cats living outside and if your living situation allows, here are some inexpensive, DIY shelters you can make to give them a warm, dry place to sleep.

Obviously, don’t place the house where a dog can get to it, or where your indoor cats can see it, if your cats are threatened by strange cats in their territory.  Seeing a strange cat outside can disturb indoor cats and trigger redirected aggression where they attack other cats in your house.  If there are predators like raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, etc. in the area, cut a hole in the front and the back of the shelter so cats have a way to escape.

styrofoamshelterThe Urban Cat League has several designs for easy, low-cost shelters.  The styrofoam cooler house is probably the easiest and cheapest shelter. (Find instructions & materials needed here.)  The shelter intentionally tilted so that in case any water gets inside, the high end stays dry for the cat.


igloocoolershelterThe picnic cooler house is also pretty easy and used coolers can often be found at thrift stores and garage sales.  (Find instructions & materials needed here.)  This shelter will be quite durable.  It’s also tilted to the high end stays dry even if water gets inside.


largetubshelterThe insulated storage bin house is lined with foam core insulation that’s moisture resistant and has a foil covered side to reflect body heat back towards the cat.  (Find instructions & materials needed here.)  This shelter has drainage holes for any water that might get inside.


foilbackedinsulationshelterThe foam core insulation house is made by bolting together the rigid foam insulation using large washers.   (Find instructions & materials needed here.)  This design places the entrance higher to keep bedding inside.  It also has drainage holes.


2tubshelterThe Ian Somerhalder Foundation (yes, that Ian Somerhalder) has a design for an insulated 2 bin house.  This is another easy one that doesn’t take much work or require many tools.  They also suggest lining the inner compartment with a mylar blanket to reflect the cat’s body heat.  These blankets are found in the sporting or camping section of discount stores.


insulatedcondoshelterThis insulated condo won’t win any beauty contests, but it is clever, low cost, and easy to make.  The exterior is rigid foam insulation glued together with heavy-duty construction adhesive.  Two storage bins serve as the inner compartments.

19 Replies to “DIY: Warm Winter Cat Houses”

  1. This is a fantastic idea! I have 2 wonderful kitty girls who HATE each other with a vicious HATRED!! One of them must live indoors; the other does very well outdoors. I will make one of these great shelters for that one! All winter long I stress about her getting too cold. Once she gets a house like this, I’ll be able to relax. Thanks!

  2. Great idea! We have lots of feral cats at the office. We have fixed them all, but I want to protect them in the winter.

  3. These look wonderful but how practical are they in areas where there’s 12″ of snow is the norm? Thank you.

  4. We have a feral kitty who has been around for five years. Having a few (4) of her abandoned kitties plus 3 more inside keeps us in cats, as the indoor ones NEVER go out. During the winter we have arranged one of our potted trees to become her home. It’s tucked up on the porch, has a blanket attached to PVC poles with clips, and the inner liner is a mylar blanket, and warm fuzzy towels to sleep on. To keep her toasty, a 40W bulb in a reflector globe is attached to one of the branches, and aimed down at her. Yes…she sleeps with the light shinning on her, but she’s smart, and stays warm!

  5. I used a storage bin turned it upside down,filled the bottom with leaves and then hay and stuffed it with straw,I use an old rabbit hutch on legs put it over the bin and then wrapped in tarp,and made an opening for the cat.She is a wild cat and she sleeps in it all the time, I blocked the back off with small pieces of wood and leaves which has kept it dry.I used what I had and it worked with the single digits temp we have had.

  6. Wonderful ideas everyone of them!! I have a set up now that allows me to sleep well on a cold wintery night, knowing that I have heated pads and a heated cat house plus straw, I don’t use blankets because they get wet and stay frozen and then the cats get stuck to them, no,straw is the very best because it also retains the heat around the cat, the cat is able to burrow into the straw, and it drys with the warmth of the cat therefore warming the cat. I hope that alot of people/animal lovers out there that will do this DIY warm house for the outdoor strays so none have to suffer at all!! God Bless those of you who do ‘ go the extra mile’ for our un- loved and un-wanted cats and kittens!

  7. I love this idea we have feral cats which we have fixed and we have made several bins with warm fuzzy blankets and thick blankets that we drape over the bins works great. God bless you all for caring💕 praying there would be more people like you all🌟

  8. We have brought in 20 cats that people have dropped off.Seems as if people just don’t care anymore.We also have 8 ferel cats that live on our other lot with the garage on it.I have built them 2 insulated houses but they seem to lie staying under anther building on the lot.I have 2 heated water dishes for them. The other day one of t dishes was empty and there was a kitten laying in it.I feel so sorry for the little things.We ae about to retire and I don’t how much longer we can keep this up.It sure is nice to here there is other people out there that still care about these little animals.

  9. There are MANY items that can be used for feral cat houses, love all of the ideas so far – here are two more: visit your local thrift stores, and look for old luggage (waterproof) and even old wooden cabinets – anything that is large enough for a cat to sleep in, and to insulate. The cabinets can be painted, the doors screwed shut, and the shelves inside make like a three-tier condo for the cats. Agree with using straw. There is foam board insulation, also, that can be glued to the inside of any cat houses for extra insulation. If you have snow, then raise the houses up on cinder blocks. You can put 2×2 wood posts through the blocks on all four sides of the house, to stabilize the house on top of the blocks….be creative, good luck, and keep helping our feral friends!

  10. I care for around 12 cats in our neighborhood. We feed them and allow them to sleep in our garden sheds and mudroom. Our region doesn’t get super cold – we only get snow maybe once or twice a year if that. It does rain a lot though. I put a large plastic bin with a hole cut in it in the mudroom with a blanket draped over it and a fleece blanket inside, thinking that should be warm enough, but a few days later when I checked the box I discovered the inside “walls” were wet from condensation. I realized I need to insulate as well. I will be following one of the tuts above even though cats have an indoor (but unheated) place to live. We’ve adopted several of the outdoor cats, but can’t adopt any more – unless they live outdoors. I want to start a spay and release program in my town.

  11. These are ALL wonderful ideas to keep our less fortunate furry friends warm during the winter months.I live in New York,so it gets quite cold here during the winter.In July 2014 my cat ( indoor) that I adopted 13 years earlier passed away,I was shocked and am still heart broken until this day,of course.Needless to say,a few months after the passing of my Precious,a very young Tom cat had somehow found me,or maybe I found him?It took months of feeding him,but slowly he got closer to me and now is tame enough for me to touch and pet him and all…The last couple of winters I’ve used the plastic tote ( bin) and made a pretty nice insulated shelter for him to get through the tough winters.However,just a few days ago,I found someone throwing out their ” end of summer” igloo cooler ( the hard shelled ones) like the one above.So,by all means,on garbage or recycle night,take a ride or walk around the neiborhood and you just might find one of these considering summer just ended and some people are throwing them away.Not only that,but you may even discover a Styrofoam one or a plastic tote bin someone is throwing out.Today I will begin to make the new shelter out of the Igloo thanks to the gentleman’s pictures and directions above..Thank you to all who have a heart,have a conscious to help out these poor guys.

  12. I have a ferral cat that has been around for 3 years. I used a plastic pet taxi filled it with straw (free from our animal shelter) wrapped the cage in heavy plastic. He hated the straw. Put in a packing blanket instead. A darn opossum moved in. Then a raccoon. I am going to make one of these and elevate high so maybe no intruders will take up residence. If anyone has any other suggestions on how to keep unwanted critters out please let me know. Thank you for your post. Thanks for helping God’s furry babies.

  13. Raccoons can climb but not jump. I have seen solutions where the “house” is placed on the top of a post where the house has been put on a square of wood. The post must be in the center of the square of wood and the wood must be wide enough for a cat to jump up on and land the walk into the house. The square must also extend family enough to that a raccoon cannot just reach out to grab it and pull itself up because they can do this. I’ve also seen a “skirt” of tin around the outer most edges of the square preventing thE raccoons from reaching up to the edge.

    I also see instructions saying to keep the opening small 6-8 inches maximum.

    I also know a possum can really tear up a cat that cannot get out so lots of sites recommend two doors. But two doors mean more heat loss….

  14. Elayne, it sounds like you have to put out more shelters — one for the possum, one for the raccoon and one for the cat. : )

  15. People are wonderful when they take care of feral cats. The real answer to abandoned animals is to have them neutered and unable to bring more pathetic animals into the world. Often vets offer low cost sterilization, especially if they understand the circumstances. The sterilized cats can then live a comfortable life with the help
    Of people who will feed them. Bless all of you!

  16. My local animal shelter has a limited number of feral houses that volunteers make and I have one for our little feral girl. She took to it immediately. The house has to be at least 6” off the ground. This one has four compartments so the cats can move away from the cold air. Also, I ordered a warming disk online and micro it twice a day and put it under her bedding. Stays warm for quite awhile. When given the opportunity to come inside our entry shed, she eats her dinner then goes back out. That is where she is happy.

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