FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About Winter Shelters for Community Cats
Repurposing simple foam cooler bins into affordable and convenient winter shelters for community cats in your local area is not as challenging as it may seem. The foam cooler, with a thickness of approximately two inches, possesses both waterproofing and insulation capabilities. By using a knife or box cutter, it is easy to fashion a doorway in the foam cooler. Another viable option, as shown in the image below, is a Rubbermaid bin. These bins should have double insulation, and you can add weights to the bottom to enhance stability.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the cost of these shelters, and where can one acquire them?
A: These particular bins are normally utilized for transporting perishable food items and medical supplies. After use, restaurants and medical offices typically discard them. You can approach these establishments and request that they save the boxes for you. Alternatively, you can search for these foam boxes by scavenging through trash. Certain shelter, rescue, and TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) organizations accumulate foam boxes to distribute among community cat caretakers. In your organization, you might want to consider adopting this strategy as well. Furthermore, websites like the Freecycle Network offer free giveaways where you might be able to find them.
Q: How can I ensure the cats are protected from potential dangers?
A: The placement of shelters is crucial in safeguarding cats from predators. If there are unleashed dogs in the vicinity, position your shelter behind a fence that prevents the dogs from gaining access. Alternatively, position the entrance of the shelter towards a wall, allowing only the cats to enter and exit. Additionally, ensure that the shelter is weighted down and difficult to move. Constructing a small cat-sized doorway will also discourage larger predators from entering. Alternatively, you can create two doorways to provide an escape route. However, keep in mind that having two doorways may reduce protection from the cold. To counteract this, remember to cover the doorways with flaps. During periods of heavy snow, it may become necessary to clear the doorway to prevent the cats from being trapped inside.
Q: Why should the bin be elevated off the ground?
A: Elevating the shelter off the freezing ground enables the cats to warm the interior using their body heat. To further improve insulation, you can place straw underneath the shelter. Raising the shelter and positioning the doorway several inches above the bottom also prevents inclement weather. Rain will no longer splash up and infiltrate through the ground, and snow is less likely to obstruct the entrance.
Q: Will these shelters attract other animals, such as rats?
A: Regular use of the shelters by cats will discourage other animals, like rats or opossums, from inhabiting them. Additionally, cutting the doorway as small as possible will deter larger, more audacious animals, such as raccoons, from taking control. Cats do not require a large opening; a diameter of approximately 5-1/2 or 6 inches, equivalent to the width of their whiskers, is sufficient. Reducing the size of the opening also aids in retaining heat.
Q: Would cats attempt to chew on the foam where the opening is cut?
A: If chewing becomes an issue, you can frame the doorway with duct tape. Alternatively, if you decide to paint the shelter for camouflage, applying paint to the doorway will make it unappealing to those inclined to chew.
Q: Which bedding material is the most suitable?
A: Blankets and towels are not ideal as bedding material since they lack insulation and can retain moisture. Straw serves as an excellent choice, as it repels moisture and provides warmth for cats and other animals throughout the winter season. For further information, consult the fact page on Alley Cat Allies.
Q: Why is the bin positioned at an angle?
A: Placing the shelter on a slant prevents rainwater from accumulating on the roof or snow from piling up. In the photo provided, there is a small hole in the side of the shelter that allows water to drain if rain enters through the front door. A slanted roof may also discourage predators from resting on the roof to stalk.
Q: Won't felines tear apart the foam?
A: To prevent the foam from being destroyed by cats as they settle into the cozy sleeping area, it is advisable to place a vinyl floor tile, thick adhesive paper, or a sturdy piece of plywood underneath. It is unlikely for outdoor cats to use the exterior of the shelter as a scratching post, as they tend to prefer wooden fences and trees for scratching.
Q: How can we prevent these items from being blown away by winter winds?
A: It is crucial to secure these lightweight shelters against strong winds. Consider the following suggestions:
- Place a few 5- to 10-pound flat barbell weights on the shelter floor beneath the bedding.
- Use heavy, flat rocks or pavers/bricks on top of the shelter lid (some individuals use adhesive to secure the rocks).
- Position two shelters facing each other and place a large board on top of both, serving as weight and creating a protected entrance.
Q: Can old dog crates be used instead?
A: It is not recommended to utilize dog igloos, dog houses, or pet carriers as winter shelters for cats. The doors are too large, proper insulation is difficult to achieve, and the ceiling height is often too high in igloos and dog houses. Remember that heat rises. The key to providing warmth in a cat shelter is having a small opening and a low sleeping area, allowing the cats' body heat to remain close to them.
Q: Is it beneficial to paint the exterior with brown or camouflage colors?
A: Painting the cat shelters in camouflage or earth tones is a wise idea that can deter unwanted attention. You can find images of foam shelters painted in camouflage by scrolling to the bottom of this page.
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