The One-Hour Cat Shelter

Cat House Fun Time!

Nasty, bitchy-bad weather is rolling into Texas today. And since I was hoping the winter would be mild, we kept putting off building a cat-shelter for the half dozen to dozen feral cats in the woods around here.

By coffee-hour Saturday, 9:30 AM, there was no way around it. I’d have to cowboy up and build them a quick, safe hangout where they could do one of their pile-on’s (clowders) and be warm.

Supplies On Hand Matter

One of my local pals jokes “Should I drive into Lowe’s for the oddball part, or drop by George’s?

Not that we have everything, but what we have plenty of is an ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome.  The first step in any such challenge is to “walk the inventory” and see what looks use full.  Alway something useful if you look and think hard enough.

First stop was the tin pile.  Comprised of old corrugated and R-panel, there would be lots of choices to throw on some kind of waterproof topcoat on whatever we put up.

Tin, laying on the ground like this, can look pretty ratty with a bunch of p[ine straw (needles) blown all over it.  But as my friend Oil Man 2 schooled me, even once you see surface rust on galvanized sheet iron (or roofing) with a coat of elastomeric coating, you should be able to get 10-years out of it – or more if you put on additional pourable waterproof membrane.

The next problem was how to hold some kind of roof in place. Eyes immediately went to the storage building collection of nice fuel barrels, some full but most empty. Like this one…

As these things go, pretty quick you hatch a plan.  Wind had piped up by now and wrasslin’ with barrels didn’t seem like much fun – or a good article, for that matter. Besides, flying tin in an ice storm didn’t sound like a rodeo I’d want to ride in.

Site Survey

The easiest time to revise a project is before you get started.

So I took another stroll around the house.  Eventually, because it was downhill (and I’m lazy) I came to the west side of the carport (with screen porch over).  There, lo and behold, my mind’s eye caught the low retaining wall.

To the exceptionally lazy, or post grad red-necker, this is half a house!  You get your mind’s eye sharp, think back on what you saw in the plywood and lumber sections and this idea comes to mind:

Turned out this was only 5 feet when I put a tape to it, so the framing “went long” a wee bit:

As you can see, the bottom 4-by4 was one that dried out bent so it was only going to be good for short pieces anyway.

In the end, filled with straw, the finished framing (and roof osb) looked like this:

There are 4-8 inches of loose hay along the whole inside of this.  Which will be great for the cats that want to pile-on with one another.

The r value of loose straw isn’t bad: it can run from R1 up to about R 2.4, depending on who you talk to or which sites you choose to believe.  What really matters in this kind of project is to understand that the R value to plan for is not the lows at night, which will likely be about 15 in the next couple of days.

Instead, what matters is the delta from surrounding surfaces.  So the roof, for example has very little insulation value. 1/2 OSB runs about R 0.62.  Hardly anthing, but remember, the animals have fur coats on, and nature has programmed them with “burrow into dry material” in their genes.

In addition, the surrounding wood on the retaining wall runs about 50F and the ground temps are about similar.  They should be fine.

Timing and Project Completion

This project will never end up in a compilation like Ted’s 13-million project plans.  But the timing of doing it was (in polite circles) impeckerble.  No A.I.A. Design Awards, maybe…

But we do give ourselves an “A+” for timing.  Because an hour after I took the snapshot above, here came a Saturday afternoon advisory from the National Weather Service:


* WHAT…For the Winter Weather Advisory, a mix of mainly freezing
rain and sleet is expected. Minor accumulations of sleet, and up
to one tenth of an inch of ice accumulations are possible. For
the Wind Chill Advisory, very cold wind chills as low as 5 below
zero expected.

* WHERE…Portions of north central, northeast and south central

* WHEN…For the Winter Weather Advisory, from noon Sunday to
noon CST Monday. For the Wind Chill Advisory, from midnight
Monday night to noon CST Tuesday.

* IMPACTS…Plan on slippery road conditions. The hazardous
conditions could impact the morning or evening commute. The cold
wind chills could result in hypothermia if precautions are not


Use caution while traveling outside. Wear appropriate clothing, a
hat, and gloves.

Sometimes on a project, doggedly sticking to a schedule means something.  Now to see if the cats are smart enough what we’ve done for time.  You can lead a cat to shelter, but you can’t make them sleep…or something like that.

OK, a better project next week…off to focus on getting the generator test run and a few other things. Need my head in the game (and not taking pictures) when working on wiring of the transfer switch, I’m funny that way.  Times to take pictures, but flaring out an airplane or working on anything with more than 12 volts on it are two places I can get grumpy in defense of focus…

Write when it warms up (pot roast with gravy tonight – cold weather chow!)

26 thoughts on “The One-Hour Cat Shelter”

  1. My approach to cat houses is incidental, yet very effective. My barn has a hole close to the ground about the size of a brick on its side. Enough for most all cats, but nothing larger. The mice will get in no matter what, and now so can the cats.

    When securing a workshop and shed to each other to prevent two legged interlopers, I left a small gap under part of one piece of siding. Cats can enter and leave with ease, but dogs and coyotes have no access. Again, they can clear out any mice or rats they can find, and have many hiding places too. There’s a lot of thermal mass there and a couple of places about four feet below grade, so the ground temperature will always remain above freezing. I might do more, but the coldest weather has passed until either an updated forecast or next month.

  2. My grand daughter was just asking me how I make cocoa hers doesn’t quite come out like mine does…. yesterday was a great cocoa day..
    I said oh the double chocolate cocoa..
    OR I actually use one somewhat like this..
    and my recipe for double chocolate cocoa..
    1tbs. of home made vanilla extract ( with the simple syrup in it.. )
    3 hershies chocolate kisses.. ( you can use the white chocolate to and if you like it really chocolatey.. put in one or two more kisses)
    1/4 cup of heavy cream
    1 cup of whole milk.. ( you can use half and half.. ) sometimes I sprig a little spray whipped cream on top.. LOL
    Heat the milk up with the hershy’s kisses in it.. then put it in the frother.. froth it up.. or take your mini egg wisk egg blender and froth it that way.. while you are doing that.. take your swiss mix hot cocoa mix and mix in it.. marshmallows at your discretion.. stick a pepermint stick in it.. or a little peppermint schnapps.. and you have double chocolate cocoa.. my way.. Rich creamy.. and perfect for a snowy day.. enjoy

  3. BTW, the temperature is almost up to nothing — Nearest daughter had a blowout on her way to work this morning.

  4. Set a couple of records here yesterday. Official low was -11 degrees .., my weather station recorded 14 below. [ for this day – it has been colder.] and.., it was the first time since the early thirties that we did not get above zero for 24 hours. Still below zero as of this morning.

  5. And to think I was worried that Ure Sunday blog would become overrun with 3D printing projects. Keeping a small roll of Prodex or equivalent around for fast insulation jobs might not be a bad idea.

  6. There was a mention about paint & mixing the other day – ran across this, this morning. After 78 years in business Kelly Moore is closing up shop – all 157 stores will close down for good.

    • she is more than welcome to come to my house.. I have some mud around here.. and if we can’t find any I will get out the garden hose so we have some LOL LOL

  7. We had on hand a large plastic washtub. (Maybe 50 gallon size)
    We used some old towels in a cardboard box inside the inverted
    washtub, on the back deck’s picnic table (with large umbrella).

    Umbrella diverts most of the rain. What runs off, drains away through
    the picnic table’s slats. Small electric heating pad — about 20″ x 20″ —
    on top of a deck-grade random cushion, set to “1” for a low heat level.
    (Outdoor GFI outlets — wires run carefully to avoid water.)

    Cut a door into the tub and the box, and arrange a pretty thick drape
    across the door — some miscellaneous swatch of heavy-ish fabric.
    Keeps out the breezes and wind-driven rain fairly well. Drape is
    held by some duck tape only at the top.

    We’re efforting a rear escape second door, and maybe a window
    or two for cat situational awareness. (And for pussy in place
    visual detection.)

    We only put it out in stormy weather, only when they don’t come
    in at dinner time, to make unavailable to possums and racoons.

    It’s a “Rescue Hole.”

      • This method is about ten years on, now. Windows were added, along with an escape means — same door deal at either end. A fabric flap is easily accepted, compared to a solid door with hinges.

        Near-zero cost. Everything was in the junque pile.

        One thing I noted about many electric heating pads: they are wicked generators of RFI. Many, not all. most of the cheap ones are NOT thermostatically controlled. They are “duty-cycle” controlled.

        Even so, many of the cheapest ones will NOT make RFI at the lowest or the highest setting. For these settings the duty cycle is 100% — either at dead slow, or throttles-to-the-firewall. My theory is at “1” the heating elements are conneted in series — max resistance, no proportional control, 100% duty. At MAX heat, the elements are connectd in parallel — again, duty 100%. In between, various combos, are duty-cycle regulated — which would be without regard to actual temperature. Simpler and cheaper electronics. As in none.

        I have one one the floor, to gently toast my tootsies under the radio/computer table in winter. It’s on a bathroom tubside pad for some insulation.

        Zero RFI at “1” or “10” settings, BAD RFI at any other middle seting.

        • If you had a spare Variac, I’d think that setting the heater on 10 and plugging it through the Variac would remove most/all of the RFI. Of course, Variacs are not cheap, but there’s some chance that you have one sitting around unused.

          An alternative is two pads in series, set on 10.

  8. Hellz bellz G , that thing looks like a solar oven…hmmm

    attract the wild pussy to shelter looking solar oven, close up the oven doors once everyone is inside, and wait for the sun to rise. Slow roasting em would be rather torturous and cruel, so maybe hookup a hose to Ure tractor exhaust and pump that in there for a couple minutes. Next day round bout Lunch time, you should have some hot delicious pussy to eat. Talk about an afternoon delight.. You go doggy DOG!

    • a man could be slapped.. walk up to a pretty young woman and say.. I am looking for a beautiful little pussy.. did you see one…LOL LOL LOL… what your name isn’t joe or hunter.. slap LOL LOL

      All of my grandkids at some point or other make one of these.. got a pattern and we draw it out on cardboard.. then get some reflective material .. and put it together.. simple a couple hours and it is done..
      the peel and stick is awesome.. we made an oven with a trapezoid reflector.. that worked really good.. basically two boxes.. one in the other and insulated.. a glass door and dark interior.. the trap was the twelve sided one above.. that was taken down each piece would hook together.. fold up.. we made them from old dish network dishes to.. use to have a dish network shop down the street.. they threw out hundreds of the dishes..

  9. George,

    There was a feral cat, a real looker, here late fall. I was terrified my wife would start feeding the thing and then we’d have a commune. My (20) YO Tom requires a lot of care and special (read: expensive) food so no, hell no!

    The last feral female adopted by Mrs. E., when we lived in the Burbs, cost hundreds. There were a buncha randy suitors and when we explored having her fixed the price was stupid expensive. Eventually we located a foundation which spayed on the cheap ($130?).

    I have been very clear that if she wants another cat it’s gonna be a barn cat. Shelter is a given and the kitty can get a job. I am a real fan of cats catching rodents. We actually have a Red Fox mated pair near the barn so most of the varmints in a half mile must be wicked quick.

    Projects? Guess mine has to start with digging out. The 14″ drift which blocked access to mancave #1 (boathouse) is now replaced by a 30″ wind drift and, my back won’t take it. I am meeting a couple young lake fellers at mancave #2 (pole barn) to dry run rig the DN Iceboat.

    Well, they think that’s what we’re doing. I’m going to talk them into shoveling snow while I final engineer and quick build a last winter-up to-do. In town we had a really slick rig for the laundry room dryer. In summer we vented outdoors and in winter we let the paid for heat and moisture in.

    They make some inexpensive boxes with interior flap controlled by an attached exterior lever. Of old the saying was: “cold? do a load of laundry.” I just see no reason to vent desirable warm moist air outdoors. Heck, can even quit shoveling around the vent fixture.

    local pals jokes “Should I drive into Lowe’s for the oddball part, or drop by George’s?”

    Too funny. You have any Midwestern cousins of cousins? We must be related! Need a car fluid? I have it. Or, a case of it. And hose clamps. And … screws and bolts and nuts and ad nauseam. My thought is it saves me trips which, in today’s world, may cost $10 to buy a $3 whatever.

    Friends know my stores are “in the house” and that’s fine. Half the time it’s those same guys who help me do sumpin. Great trade.

    At radial arm saw: cut and sand edges on a plywood (yes, I have lots) backer / mounting board. Cut multiple (4) 4″ PVC spacers. These fit as transitions into / out of 90 degree 4″ PVC bends, which surround the dryer vent “box” with flapper-lever. Spacers also transition to new flex vent to dryer “out” and home “out” (that flex vent is “happy” on 4″ not more).

    I’ll go the bother of filling edge voids, fast prime and paint it. Dryfit to locations, install Mollies. Mount box with spacers to 90 fittings to spacer to backplate with perforated strap. Shazzamm. Free heat and humidity.

    Woo-Woo-in-extremis. And I get to smug smirk, cold? Do laundry.
    Win-win-win (for me anyway).

    • Some panty hose that was to be tossed because of runs in the panty hose makes an excellent “lint catcher” if stretched onto the output side of your dryer vent diverter, not stretched tight mind you but as a sock.

      Yep … why let “paid for” heat be sent outside!!

      (in my old house where I put in mine my dryer was electric … gas dryers may required some thought wrt the carbon monoxide question)

  10. Being a little farther north than you, G, our nighttime lows are expected to be around 10, highs around 26 for the next 3 days. Those temps in and of themselves are not a problem. It’s the mixed preslipitation that worries me. While we love watching snow fall, the forecast is calling for mostly freezing rain/sleet. Our local power co-op has done a pretty good job of clearing right-of-ways, but they can only clear about 20′ either side of the power line. That’s great for the miscellaneous dead branch falling off a tree, but worthless when it comes to 70′ pine trees breaking under a load of ice. Yes, the generator is ready to go.

  11. great idea.. but with the weather here now.. the cats would die.. its too cold..
    they do sell an igloo though..
    Something like this.. then put straw or shredded news print or insulation.. I had two of these.. gave one away.. and kept one Boo the wild rabbit lives in it.. then comes out to feed.. the rabbit is one of jackies offspring.. use to play peek a boo with the grandson.. must be ten years old now.. last one beside princess.. ( she lives indoors and is held all the time by the now growing up grandkids.) she and her mother jackie had a battle to be dominant female.. she got beat up pretty good and had to be nursed back to health.. been living indoors ever since…

  12. Ar 0600, -10 and at that temp who cares what the wind chill is. Good job on the PC’s house. Getting out of the wind they should be fine.
    Fred and Ethyl, our 2 Pyrenees have large A frame dog shelters on skids near the goats while Starsky and Hutch, the Anatolian Shepherds have a Shaker style abode on the south side of the house. When building the shelters I was able to use a lot of the 5/8th rigid foam insulation pieces I have in stock. This morning was the first time I have ever seen them inside of it. Probably because Diana was still in bed.
    I actually watched some of the KC Miami game last night mostly because DIana and I had a bet on how many dipshitz with no shirts on would show up on camera. Diana had 0 while I picked 3. I won.
    Stay safe. 73

    • That should be a clue as to the iq of sports fans. I try to watch people who are smarter than me. That way I learn something. I’m not here to do remedial ed…

        • LOL … perfect.

          Actually once your body is acclimatized to very cold weather, and you take a bit of shot sized fortifications of the CORRECT type (not all work this way) – which bring more blood to the skin’s surface, you can wear a lot less clothes than you might imagine. When I lived way up north in Michigan by the end of winter I was often going outside when it was zero out with just a shirt on if the wind wasn’t blowing bad … as long as I was going to be working outside, shoveling etc., and only for about 10 to 15 minutes …. would always put a hat and gloves on though.

          Of course for the game last night it hasn’t been cold enough for anyone to acclimatized to cold weather though I have no doubt there was some shot size fortification going on!! (Miami’s players looked OK starting out … but as the game went on and the cold set into their bones their level of performance seemed to noticeably drop – at least to me – though the commentators said that with the heaters going it was about 40 along the sidelines)

    • ‘Couldn’t help noticing the Miami guys who were demonstrating the amount of testosterone floating in their bloodstreams, by wearing short sleeves.

      What? You say that’s not where it flows? Apparently neither does blood — at least not to their cranial cavities. I DIDN’T watch the game, but noticed during warmups, an hour before, that some of the Dolphin players arms were so cold they were turning purple.

      Bare skin at -4 with a 20+mph crosswind isn’t macho — it’s flat f*cking stupid…

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