Build a Community Cat

Outdoor Shelter

Providing outdoor shelter is an important part of TNR. After cats are sterilized, vaccinated and ear tipped their caretaker will continue to offer regular food, water and shelter to the colony.

Shelters come in many different shapes and sizes. They can easily be built using many materials you may already have and for very low cost. Follow our step-by-step guide and video tutorial to build your very own Outdoor Shelter for a Community Cat that you love.



<-- Download our step-by-step guide for Building a Community Cat Outdoor Shelter

Watch our step-by-step instructional video starring Sharon LaPenta.


Providing a purpose-built shelter for cats means they will not have to go looking in neighbors’ crawl spaces or porches for a warm, dry place to rest. It can keep them safe from the elements, and it will help you control their location and deter them from seeking shelter where they are not wanted. An insulated cat shelter may save your cats’ lives in the cold weather. Cats generally use shelters during winter months more than others, but they also provide shelter from rain and sun in warmer weather too.


It is important that the walls of the shelter are insulated to retain the cats’ body heat. One-to-two-inch-thick foam insulation is an effective material that is easy to find.


It is important that you put proper bedding inside. Straw is the best bedding; it repels moisture and provides insulation, making it ideal for keeping cats warm and comfortable all winter long. Be sure that you buy straw, which is bedding, and not hay, which is feed.


Blankets, pet beds and towels should never be used as bedding in an outdoor shelter — they do not insulate and can actually steal heat from the cats’ bodies. Blankets and similar items also retain moisture, freeze when wet and can become moldy.


Make sure the shelter stands firm on the ground and does not wobble. If needed, add wood shims or rocks underneath to make the shelter sit securely. The entrance of the shelter should be facing away from the prevailing winds. Placing shelters with the entrance facing a wall, fence, or other windbreak is a good idea. This strategy will also help protect the cats against possible intrusion by other neighborhood animals and give the cats an emergency evacuation route.

If there is a risk of tampering by humans, camouflage the shelter(s) as well as possible using paint and surrounding vegetation. A shelter that stands out from its surroundings could be mistaken for trash and could bring unwanted attention to the cats.