It’s Time to Prepare Winter Shelters for NYC’s Feral Cats

Stray and feral community cats need protection from NYC's cold, damp winter weather. (Photo by Krista Menzel)

Stray and feral community cats need protection from NYC’s cold, damp winter weather. (Photo by Krista Menzel)

Winter is Coming…Are Your Colony Cats Prepared?

Cold, wet, wintry weather is just around the corner. So now is the time to purchase or construct outdoor cat shelters for your colony cats if you don’t have them in place already. It’s also the perfect time of year to replace the straw in the cat shelters you already use. Read on for information from the New York City Feral Cat Initiative on where to buy ready-made shelters and bales of straw to keep your community cats warm this winter.

Where to Purchase Winter Cat Shelters

We’re fortunate to have shelter-builders right here in NYC, and they have ready-made shelters currently available for purchase. These lightweight but warm and sturdy shelters come stuffed with an ample supply of straw. Consider the two different designs featured here. But don’t delay, as supplies are limited!

An insulated feral cat shelter crafted by Ian Henry. (Photo by Ashot Karamian)

An insulated feral cat shelter crafted by Ian Henry. (Photo by Ashot Karamian)

Insulated Feral Cat Shelter Design 1: Crafted by Ian Henry

These well-crafted, warm, durable, 100% waterproof shelters are made with minimum 1″ Dow Super TUFF-R commercial insulation, reinforced corners, and GE Silicone II sealant. The floor is covered with scratch-proof vinyl tiles. Dimensions: 38″ long x 16″ wide x 16″ high, with a 6″ round entrance. These shelters comfortably accommodate two to three adult cats.

Price: $60 each
Queens (St. Albans) Purchase & Pick-up: Contact Ian at or (646) 436-2301




Joe’s “fish box” insulated cat shelter. (Photo by Joe Rachiele)

Insulated Feral Cat Shelter Design 2: Joe’s “Fish Box” Shelter

Warm and durable, these shelters are constructed from recycled Styrofoam fish boxes. They are covered with two 2ml drum liners and strapped with heat-welded plastic straps, so they are fully insulated. They feature two drain holes on the bottom and come filled with straw. We recommend placing them on blocks so they are off the ground to allow drainage. They are currently available in two sizes. Large shelters are approximately 34″ long x 20″ wide x 20″ high, and comfortably accommodate two to three adult cats. Small shelters are approximately 34″ long x 10″ wide x 12″ high or 31″ long x 11″ wide x 15″ high, and accommodate one adult cat.

Price: Varies, please inquire
Long Island Purchase & Pick-up: Contact Joe at or (516) 322 5621.
Queens (Forest Hills) Purchase & Pick-up: Contact Mary of Friendly Ferals at or (917) 579-5718. Certified TNR Caretakers get a discounted price when they purchase these shelters from Friendly Ferals: $23 large, $12 small.

Please visit for more information.

Where to Purchase Straw

Straw is the best insulated bedding for cat shelters. Bales of straw are plentiful at this time of year in garden centers and home improvement stores, such as Home Depot and Lowe’s. Even local supermarkets have bales of straw alongside the chrysanthemums! The small “decorative” bales are more expensive than the larger bales for farms, but a little straw goes a very long way when it’s fluffed up. And the small bales are more convenient to carry on the subway than the cheaper, gigantic bales you can purchase year-round from feed and grain stores and horse stables. To locate the nearest retail store that carries bales of straw, do a Google search for garden centers or stables near you, then call them to ask.

(Photo by Maureen Smith)

(Photo by Maureen Smith)

Note: Bear in mind that stores sometimes refer to it as “hay” when it’s actually “straw.” Straw, used as bedding for livestock, is the hollow, dried stems of harvested grain; it is shiny and yellow. Hay, used to feed livestock, is dried grass; it is duller and greenish. Hay may attract unwanted hungry wildlife and retain moisture in a cat shelter, so straw is the recommended bedding. Compare them side-by-side here.

You also can order straw online from FeralVilla. A bale of straw is priced at $17.95 and provides enough straw to fill two to three shelters. Additionally, several different brands of straw bedding are available for purchase and delivery through Amazon.

Before you put the straw in the shelter, separate it by hand and fluff it up in a clean garbage bag. Shake the bag until all the small pieces and the dirt have sifted to the bottom. Take out the fluffed-up portion and discard the chaff. Be sure you don’t over-stuff your shelter! The cats will want room to nest in it and pack it down themselves, and they’ll need a little room to move around. Make sure the straw doesn’t obstruct the entrance so the cats can get inside. If they pack it down, you can always add some more.

To read more about winterizing your colonies and creative ideas on how to make your own winter shelters, visit our Feral Cat Colony Care page.

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