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DIY Winter House for Stray Cats

With a little ingenuity and creative recycling, Krista made a cat house that can provide warmth and security even during the winter months.

A frugal and warm solution for outdoor cats—our cats gave the house their own approval!

A frugal and warm solution for outdoor cats—our cats gave the house their own approval!

Stray and Outdoor Cats Need a Warm Home

In our neighborhood, we have several outdoor and stray cats who visit our house each day for love, along with food and water. Although they may have their own house and family, we still worry about them and provide them with whatever they might need. When the weather turns colder, this includes an outdoor house for shelter.

Having very little money at the moment didn't stop us from making them a shelter of their own. With a little ingenuity and creative recycling, we made a cat house that can provide warmth and security even during the winter months.

Use What You Have at Your Disposal

We have seen different variations of this type of construction, but most required the outlay of additional resources than what we have used in our house. These can be considered general guidelines for a house and not necessarily definite instructions or rules.

Keeping this in mind, you can use what resources (and money) that you might have in building such a house. The main purpose is to create a house that provides insulation and protection from the elements. So as long as your house fits that description, then great! Your local cats will love you for it.

How to Build a Winter Cat House

In just seven easy steps, you can construct a fairly cheap cat house to keep your neighborhood friends warm during the colder months.


Here are the items that we used in constructing our cat house. We only purchased one of these items; the rest were things that we had on hand.

  • One large plastic bin (purchased on sale)
  • One box that can fit inside the bin with enough "dead space" in between the two
  • Styrofoam rectangles for insulation
  • Shredded paper
  • Duct tape
  • Cutting tools (knives, scissors, etc.)

Keep in mind that although kids could help with this project, all cutting should be done by an adult.

Choosing the Plastic Bin

Choose a large bin for this project.

Choose a large bin for this project.

Protecting Those Kitties!

Step 1: Deciding on a Plastic Bin

The stores offer many different colors and sizes of plastic bins for storage and other uses. Deciding on which bin to purchase—if you don't already have one at home—can be confusing. However, when you are looking down the aisles of possibilities, keep these things in mind:

  • Buy one that will be big enough to accommodate another box as well as insulation. (We purchased the largest bin that we could find.)
  • Purchasing bins around the holidays can save you money. Often the holiday-themed bins can be found on sale, saving you even more money.

Finding a Box

Choose the right size box for your bin.

Choose the right size box for your bin.

Step 2: Choosing a Box Doesn't Have to Be Tricky

If you don't already have a stash of boxes at home, then this part may take you some time. Looking at local stores and shipping places may provide you with possible resources for large boxes.

As you can see above, putting the box on top of the lid of the plastic bin may provide you an idea as to whether or not the box will be big enough and still allow enough space for insulation. Sizing the box ahead of time can save you time and energy in the following steps.

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Cutting Out the Door

Be careful when cutting the door in the plastic bin!

Be careful when cutting the door in the plastic bin!

Step 3: Cut Out the Door in the Bin and the Box

Choose one end of the plastic bin and cut out the door. This hole should be big enough so that cats can easily enter the house. Keep in mind that you will need to cut a hole about the same size in the box that will fit inside the bin.

Be careful as you make these cuts as the knife can easily slip when cutting the plastic bin. Always use caution and make sure that there are no children or animals around you when you are doing this part of the house.

Putting the Box Inside and Insulation

Make sure the house will be a warm one for those kitties!

Make sure the house will be a warm one for those kitties!

Step 4: Insert the Box in the Bin and Add Insulation

After you have cut the door in both the plastic bin and the box itself, then it's time to fit it all together.

Put the box in the center of the bin and use duct tape to close the top of the box. Then, take the styrofoam and insert it between the sides of the box and the bin. This will make sure that there is another added layer of insulation in the house.

After that, stuff the shredded paper in any areas that might be loose or open. This will make sure the house is tight and secure.

Adding the Final Touches

Adding the final touches will make the house snug!

Adding the final touches will make the house snug!

Step 5: Make Sure the Home Is Warm and Snug

As a final touch, we put the last styrofoam rectangle on top of the box before we closed everything up. This added layer of styrofoam will provide insulation between the box itself and the lid of the plastic bin.

As with the sides, any areas that are open or loose can be stuffed with shredded paper for added warmth.

Taping It Up

Taping Up the Opening and the Lid of the Plastic Bin.

Taping Up the Opening and the Lid of the Plastic Bin.

Step 6: Tape Everything for Added Security

To make sure that the house was secure, we taped the lid down on the plastic bin so that it could not be accidentally removed by a kitty or other animal. That tape should also prevent any weather—ice, snow, or rain—from entering the top of the house.

Additionally, the area of the door was taped, securing the box to the bin and closing up that "dead space" between the two. This should also prevent any moisture from causing the paper to mildew or otherwise harm the insulation. The doorway was further taped to make the cats' entry into the house as smooth as possible.

Step 7: Place Your House Outside

Once you have completed your house, where should you put it? Ideally, it would be an area where your neighborhood cats tend to congregate. Too, it should have some protection from the elements. (We placed ours under our carport.)

Finally, one additional thing to consider is raising the house up on blocks or some other secure support so that there is "dead space" underneath the house. This will prevent the house from becoming too cold in the winter when the ground is freezing. It can also discourage other critters from entering the house.

A Cheap and Easy Way to Make a Difference

You don't have to be super crafty or spend a lot of money to make a difference in your community. Constructing this cat house won't put a dent in your wallet, and in just seven easy steps you can provide some much-needed shelter for all of your local stray and outdoor cats.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Lilly on May 29, 2020:

Hi I have a cute stray kitten but how do I know if she is safe to have

Fairy on November 23, 2018:

I would not recommend the use of a box for the internal structure bc it holds moisture. Use a smaller storage bin, it works better.

Mag on August 30, 2018:

Good idea, but straw should be used for bedding and warmth, cloth wicks warmth away from body and gets wet.

Opening should be smaller 5 1/2 to 6 inches, my inside cat is 18 lbs and he tested it out and fits, cats like small spaces and you dont want predators to get in.

Barry Mort on February 28, 2018:

Made one out of Styrofoam home insulation material and added a tunnel entrance, hoping to help keep heat in. Used 2 old bath towels for bedding. Use a removable top for cleaning purpose and secure it with 2 1/2 inch nails along with a stepping stone to hold it down.

Krista Schnee (author) from Wichita, Kansas on December 28, 2015:

Yes, you're right, Denise. We discovered that since the hub was written.

Denise on December 28, 2015:

Straw is better due to any type of fabric would stick to the cat when wet and doesn't hold in body heat like straw does.

Frodo on September 13, 2015:

I have two outdoor kittans that have been long term strays. 'Hisser' had her kittens under our shed last year. She and the two surviving kittens have been spayed/neutered and the kits are barn cats now. Mom lives with her 'man, Sam' the town stray, (now a neutered love bug) on my porch. Last year I had a heavy duty saw blade box from work fitted with a styrofoam container and straw inside. It worked well except it isn't the most attractive thing to have on your in-town porch. So this year I'm thinking of making or buying something with more curb appeal made of wood. Any ideas??

Nicola Trumbull on February 05, 2015:

What a lovely DIY! We've featured you over on the FaveCrafts Blog! :)

Jeri on October 25, 2014:

I would add STRAW instead of paper. It's much warmer.

Krista Schnee (author) from Wichita, Kansas on October 21, 2013:

Thank you, vibesites! I appreciate the kind comment.

vibesites from United States on October 21, 2013:

This is really nice, a gesture of consideration for cats that you don't even own. Voted up, etc.

Krista Schnee (author) from Wichita, Kansas on October 15, 2013:

Thanks, all, for the kind comments! I hope this helps others who want to provide some shelter to animals of all kinds.

Melanie Casey from Indiana on October 15, 2013:

What a great idea!

Rebecca from USA on October 14, 2013:

Great hub! I have a dog igloo behind our garage for my furry friends. I've taken in strays over the years and currently have two cats. Voted up and sharing!

Krista Schnee (author) from Wichita, Kansas on October 14, 2013:

Hi, Mary,

Thank you for the kind comments, and yes, that's a great idea! That would certainly make it more snug inside.

Mary Roark from Boise area, Idaho on October 14, 2013:

I love this cat friendly idea for keeping outdoor cats warm in the winter. My only addition would be a flap on the door to further help block out cold air. Awesome idea and tutorial!

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