This article is Part Ten of a 15-Part Article on How to Build a Feral Cat Shelter.  Since this is the first time we’d made a shelter, it’s perfect for newbies.  You can read previous installments in this series here:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine

In the previous installments, we made a plan, gathered all the materials,  assembled the insulation portion of the shelter, prepared the  plastic storage tub for the external “shell” of the shelter, created an opening in the shell for cat access, sealed and shaped the opening for the cat’s access to the shelter, and made a new piece to insert between the inner styrofoam insulation and the outer shell, to keep the straw around the insulation from falling out of the shelter and to keep bugs out.

Step Eight.  Now the fun begins!  It was time to put all these pieces together and see how they fit.

First, we put about 2-3 inches of straw on the bottom of the storage bin for the lower level of insulation.  The kind we got was chopped into small, loose pieces.  It makes it easier to move the straw from one place to the other by using a kitchen container or large scoop.

Once you have the amount of straw that you need for the bottom layer inside the storage bin, level the straw on the bottom of the storage bin  before placing the styrofoam cooler inside, making sure that the entry holes are at the same end.  This is the time to make sure that the amount of straw you put down for the bottom layer is the right height.  If it isn’t, take the cooler out and adjust accordingly (take some straw out or add more, as need be.)

When you put the cooler inside the plastic tub, and the entry holes are both the same height, then you can work on filling the rest of the storage bin around the cooler with more straw.  Add straw all around the sides of the cooler, saving the front part for the last.  (If you try to pile up straw around the entry holes without the support structure in place, the straw will spill all over everything.  Rather messy!

Pictured here is the process of filling the storage bin with straw, after the cooler is inside it.

Filling the storage bin with straw. Photo by Cindy Read

Filling the storage bin with straw.
Photo by Cindy Read

While you’re filling the shelter with straw, which is the main insulation, be sure to add 2-3 inches of straw to the inside of the styrofoam cooler, to make a soft layer or nest for the feral cat’s bed, too.  Don’t use towels or old rags because they will become soiled and moldy.

Once the straw reaches the top of the inside cooler, it’s time to go to the next step, which is the assembly of  the entry hole support.  That turned out to be the most tricky part of this whole operation!  But we were glad we did that.

In the next installment, we will cover how this process went, with pictures for most steps.  Be sure to click through to each part and get the whole story!  There’s more.  Here’s a link to Part Eleven.