I am obsessed with shelter. Mine and the feral cats we watch over. Luckily, my house, however unkempt and run-down, is pretty sturdy. I get antsy when I worry that the skylight may not be watertight, or the cellar may be taking on water. But so far we've been lucky (well, we did have a bunch of plumbing work done to ensure the cellar won't flood).
So my attention ends up mostly being about the cats' shelter.We already have a number of shelters out back, but some are starting to fall apart and will need to be replaced. I built most of them, so I'm always trying to figure out how to build a shelter that will last forever and need zero maintenance. In the past couple of months, I built a few types of cat houses, as well as purchased a ready-made shelter.
The ready-made one is a FeralVilla, a particularly handsome and resilient shelter. Made of plywood and shingles, it looks good in the yard and last years without much maintenance. We got one several years ago and it's still going strong, so we thought it a wise investment to get another one (they cost around $100). It's probably overkill, but I like having some houses to spare in case others need them.
I built a few shelters out of Rubbermaid containers I bought from Sears, these containers are great for shelters, they have a rounded roof which is latched for easy opening. The inside is lined with rigid insulation and Styrofoam, the floor is covered with vinyl tiles to protect the foam, and a 6" hole is cut for entry using an unwieldy drill attachment. I'm able to grind these out pretty quickly; ultimately I'd love to be able to sell these to other feral cat advocates to use with their own colonies, but it's hard to have enough time to build up an inventory.
Last month I purchased a bunch of plywood and rigid insulation and set about building my own shelter inspired by the FeralVilla. I didn't really know what I was doing, I just started cutting the panels and figuring it out as I went along. Now that it's complete I can take the measurements to make them with greater precision. But all told it's not a bad start.
Like the FV, my shelter has a pitched roof to drain water (a serious issue for flat-topped shelters made out of storage bins), has 'feet' to keep it off the ground, and has 2 levels inside. The FV's ground level has no floor and is really more of a wind-break. I decided to build an actual ground floor to give cats the opportunity to stay there if they don't want to brave the penthouse. The house has 2 entrance doors, although there's only one entrance to the upper level. I would like to add a second entrance to the top but this will compromise its insulating abilities. Each level is lined with rigid insulation and I included one of our Holofil cat pillows to give the cat something to nest on.
I covered the top in roofing material and painted the whole thing with gray exterior paint. I would have like a more jazzy color but the neutral gray is good for not attracting attention. When I set it up my neighbor thought it was a compost bin. I think that's a good thing, since I don't want anyone messing with it. I put the shelter out front since we didn't have any there (and it looks better than a plastic storage tote). So far there's only been one regular visitor, a new cat to us. She's a tuxedo cat with a collar on, and has outsmarted our every attempt to catch her thus far. She's probably an abandoned pet, so we're hoping to win her over soon.
I know most of our regular ferals have roosts elsewhere but I hope they use this house if they need it. I think it will last us a long time so in time I hope the cats will see it as just another part of their landscape and not suspect it's another type of trap like they fell for before! Next up: building an incognito cat shelter out of our old garbage cans!
See all the shelters I've been building in my flickr collection: Feral Cat Outdoor