Posted on: December 28, 2021 Posted by: Lina Nova Comments: 0
black cat

All you need is a cardboard box, insulation, and plastic sheeting

According to PETA, countless stray cats die on the street every day as a result of wounds, infections, diseases, or accidents, and approximately 2.7 million dogs and cats are killed every year because cat shelters lack space to care for them or there aren’t enough adoptive homes.

In this article, we’d like to show you how to build a temporary, outdoor cat shelter quickly and easily for less than a dollar per piece.

Stray and feral cats can often find it difficult to find warm and safe places to sleep, especially during the winter months.

If you’ve encountered a cat on the street and you’re unsure of whether it has an owner, keep in mind that it might be a feral cat. According to Cats Protection UK:

Feral cats are less likely to appeal to human contact and might even display aggression if they feel anxious – try not to approach unless you need to.

Cats Protection UK

Building a temporary shelter for a cat during the winter season might save its life.

How to build a temporary cat shelter

You will need

  • A cardboard box
  • Styrofoam or any other form of insulation
  • Heavy duty plastic sheeting (you can also use some sturdy plastic bags you have left over, too)
  • A knife or scissors
  • Duck tape

All good shelter designs share two qualities:

  • Strong insulation – needed to trap body heat, which turns the cats into little radiators. Use straw, not hay or blankets.
  • Minimal air space – a smaller interior area means that less heat is needed to keep the occupants warm.

So, choosing a smaller box is crucial to enabling this design to be as efficient as possible. Smaller shelters can be heated by only one or two cats. Larger shelters with a single or a couple of cats inside will still remain cold.


  1. Measure the size and dimensions of the box and cut the insulation to fit each side of the box
  2. Attach the insulation to the box, using glue or duck tape or just put the insulation inside, pressing the pieces to the inside of the box
  3. Draw and cut out an entrance to the shelter using a knife or scissors 💡 try to keep the entrance as small as possible. Cats need an opening of only about five-and-a-half or six inches in diameter, or the width of their whiskers. A small door discourages larger, bolder animals, such as raccoons, from entering, and keep in the heat.
  4. Tape the box thoroughly from all sides to ensure it is sturdy
  5. Cut the plastic sheeting, based on the size of the box
  6. Tape the plastic sheeting to the box, ensuring it covers the box thoroughly from all sides – this step is crucial in ensuring that the box will last throughout the rainy days

Check out our video below which shows you how to make the shelter.

How To Make a Temporary Cat Shelter for Under a $1 and Less than 20 Minutes

We’d like to show you how to build a temporary, outdoor cat shelter quickly and easily for less than a dollar per piece. You’ll need a cardboard box, some insulation, and plastic sheeting.


  • This shelter is easy to build and takes no more than 20 minutes to put together.
  • There is no degree of skill required to follow the instructions from start to finish, making this shelter a fun activity, in which even kids can get easily involved
  • The necessities to build this shelter are found in every household
  • It costs less than a dollar to make, so its really affordable to make
  • The plastic sheeting provides protection from rain and snow in the winter months, making the shelter waterproof
  • Easy to transport to the needed location


  • Lightweight – ideally, a cat shelter will provide protection from predators, hence would be made from a more sturdy materials such as wood
  • Doesn’t provide an opening for easy cleaning
  • Open entrance does not keep out weather
  • Single entrance makes it difficult for cats to escape if there are bully cats or other predators
  • Can house only 1-2 cats maximum

What to put inside the shelter

While styrofoam insulation in the shelter will offer a warm space for the cat, it is important that these be changed regularly to keep it hygienic. Avoid using a towel or any other material, which can absorb moisture, as this can become dangerous for the cat, if she is laying there for a prolonged period of time, as it can cause sickness via the moisture.

Ideally, for additional insulation, you can use straw, or even dried leaves from trees nearby.

Food should also not be left in the shelter as the smell is likely to attract other animals.

Where to place the temporary cat shelter

Feral cats are typically not socialised to humans. Thus, they find people scary and threatening, making them unlikely to feel comfortable finding refuge in a shelter, placed in a busy street or location, where there is a lot of people passing through.

The best thing to do is put the shelter in a quiet, dry, shaded place so that the cat can approach it in their own time. This will give them a temporary area to rest, sleep or hide until a feline protection service can attend to them, or until the cold season passes through.

Ensure that the area you are placing the shelter in is not inhibited or frequently visited by any other predators, too. Don’t place the shelter directly on the cold ground, or add extra padding on the floor of it to ensure that its inhabitants will keep warm when resting there.

Ensure you care for the cat by bringing it water and food regularly, and ensuring their area is kept tidy. Replace the insulation regularly to avoid contamination and spread of diseases amongst the outdoor feral cats.

Additional reading

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