Make Your Own Habitat for Cats
Many people believe that as long as feral and homeless cats have access to adequate food and water, they can survive perfectly well in cold weather because they develop thick coats. However, some studies have concluded that in bad weather, shelter is actually more important than food, even for the most seasoned and resourceful felines. Without suitable shelter, feral and homeless cats face many dangers, including frostbitten ears and paws, respiratory infections, and hypothermia, particularly in rain and snow when their fur gets wet and doesn't insulate as well. These problems can quickly prove fatal.
In an emergency, some commonly-available items can provide temporary shelter and make the difference between life and death for a homeless cat. A heavyweight shipping crate or strong container, preferably one weatherproofed with plastic. A trash can turned on its side. A large plastic tub turned upside down with a doorway cut into it. Even a cardboard box is better than nothing. Tape the top closed, cut a hole in one side for a doorway, and tape a piece of a heavy-duty plastic bag over the top. If possible, put something underneath the box (such as bricks or a wooden pallet) to raise it off the ground, and place the box under a tree or other structure to protect it from precipitation.
Styrofoam Cooler Shelter
A cat shelter can be made from a simple Styrofoam cooler. Find them at most department or grocery stores during the summer, at hardware stores, or at restaurants, which receive shipments of fish and meat packed in Styrofoam containers. Put a bed of straw inside. Attach the lid using glue, duct tape or silicone sealant. Turn the cooler upside down and cut a hole in one side for a doorway (anywhere but in the middle of one of the long sides).
Plastic Bin Shelter
This triple-insulated shelter requires two different Rubbermaid-type plastic bins with snap-on lids. One bin should be large enough to enable the other, smaller bin and lid to fit inside of it with a little room to spare. You will also need a 4 by 8 foot thin sheet of Styrofoam insulation, and some straw for bedding. First, cut appropriately-sized pieces of Styrofoam to line the bottom and sides of the larger bin with a single layer of the insulation. Place a bed of straw inside the smaller plastic bin, and snap the lid on. Put the smaller bin inside the larger one. Place a piece of the leftover Styrofoam on top, making sure that you cut it to the correct size and shape to fill the space in the larger bin. Snap the lid on the larger bin and, with the bin positioned lid-side up, cut a doorway hole through all three layers in one of the shorter sides.
Other Types of Shelters
Place straw bedding inside an igloo-style doghouse, available from pet stores. A large, insulated plastic picnic cooler offers another option. The cooler’s hinged lid allows for easy cleaning of the interior. Use a jigsaw to cut a hole in one of the long sides toward either end.
Insulation and Bedding
Putting loose, dry insulating material inside a shelter gives cats something to burrow into and beneath for warmth. Straw is better than hay, which is better than shredded paper. Avoid using blankets, towels or folded newspaper, which actually draw out body heat. Be prepared to change any insulating material regularly to ensure that it stays dry.
In extreme cold conditions, you can line the interior walls or the floor of a shelter with a Mylar blanket, also called a solar or emergency blanket. Mylar reflects a cat's body heat back onto him. Mylar blankets can be purchased very inexpensively at outdoor or survival stores, and from many sources online. Another blanket-type product that warms effectively is the Flexi-Mat Purr Pad, made of polyester fibers and available in pet stores.
See Also ...
To give you an idea of what else is available, see the following links which show you how to build habitats which can be easily built and are more affordable when making them yourself.