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Old 01-10-2019, 11:01 PM
Wallet Wallet is online now
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Help Safely Insulating Cat Nook

Hope someone can help, or has better suggestions.
There's an open square concrete nook under the stairs by my house, about 4' on all sides and 3' off the ground.

We leave food in there daily for the poor feral cats.

With the cold weather and snow, I'm thinking about insulating this nook. I put cardboard down, but the large opening and concrete sides/ceiling make this a cold and windy spot.

What do you think about about trying to line it with styrofoam insulation?
Home Depot has "Owens Corning FOAMULAR 250 2 in. x 48 in. x 8 ft. R-10 Scored Squared Edge Insulation Sheathing". Would this be safe for the cats to be on top of, especially if they scratch it? I wouldn't want them sickened.

Can you think of better material to wedge in on the walls and ceiling? There is no way to attach anything, since the concrete walls and ceiling are old and flaking.

Thanks in advance for your help!
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Old 01-10-2019, 11:11 PM
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IANA vet or anything but I don't think it would hurt them. Can you cover the opening with some sort of wind break that wouldn't spook them. Altho' I guess food would motivate them.
If you're worried about the Styrofoam add a layer of cardboard on top of it. And a piece of burlap sacking or an old blanket might be appreciated.

Last edited by Beckdawrek; 01-10-2019 at 11:12 PM.
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Old 01-10-2019, 11:18 PM
nearwildheaven nearwildheaven is offline
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I'd recommend lining the bottom with hay or wood shavings, a few inches thick.
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Old 01-10-2019, 11:23 PM
Wallet Wallet is online now
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Originally Posted by Beckdawrek View Post
Can you cover the opening with some sort of wind break that wouldn't spook them.
I did try using heavy plastic sheeting (cut into strips like they put on the openings of car repair shops), but I couldn't find a way to secure it to the (slightly crumbling) bricks. I tried duct tape, even Gorilla tape, but it wouldn't hold.

I have two really nice cat houses in my backyard, made from giant totes and filled with straw, but the only creatures who use them are the darn possums! :-(

Thanks for your ideas,
Wallet
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Old 01-10-2019, 11:45 PM
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I'd recommend lining the bottom with hay or wood shavings, a few inches thick.
I think this is a good idea. You can change out the bedding if you need to, and it will be comfortable and warm. Also, if you put a board (or boards) across the opening and leave them a small opening, then I think they'll still go in.
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Old 01-10-2019, 11:47 PM
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A strategically placed freestanding board or even a lawn chair might help.
It's a shame they won't go in the cat houses. Are you sure it's cats you're feeding and not possums?
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Old 01-10-2019, 11:55 PM
nearwildheaven nearwildheaven is offline
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How about one of those tension curtain rods and some cloth curtains? You could probably get all of those at a thrift store, and all you'd have to do is cut the curtains to size.
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Old 01-10-2019, 11:58 PM
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Cats like old woolen/fuzzy blankets/coats/jumpers, right? That can cover the bare Styrofoam. To attach stuff to brick, you could try some type of masonry screw or anchor, not duct tape.
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Old 01-11-2019, 12:04 AM
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It's a shame they won't go in the cat houses.
They have SOME morals.
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Old 01-11-2019, 12:16 AM
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On a serious note, anything able to be scratched up, will get scratched up. I say nay to cardboard, insulating material, and styrofoam.

As DPRK says, you should try masonry screws to attach some kind of curtain, perhaps in strips. Rig it so you can change the curtain without removing all the screws.

The tension rod idea is also really good and requires less installation.

Lining the floor with some hay etc. sounds good, but aren't you inviting them to use it as a litter box? What about carpet remnants cut to fit?

Returning to the walls (and ceiling), I'm not sure that insulation is going to do much. Concrete is already a pretty good insulator and if there's no heat source in this niche I don't know what you could do to make it more insulated--except for a door/curtain, which would help retain the cats' body heat and keep out wintry blasts.

The more I think about it the more I think a curtain is the right idea. Animals are scared by change--just ask my dog when we move the furniture to vacuum. If you rig a curtain that can be wide open to start, the closed little by little, you may have better end results.
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Old 01-11-2019, 10:15 AM
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We had a feral cat living in our shed one winter. When temps started dropping below zero, my husband took a large cardboard box and stood it on its side. He then lined it with styrofoam and put an old fuzzy rug on the bottom and topped that with old blankets. He partially closed the flaps on the box. The cat used the box all winter.
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Old 01-11-2019, 10:20 AM
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I vote for styrofoam, covered with a piece of blanket or a carpet remnant to protect it from claws. Concrete is really cold to sit on.
  #13  
Old 01-11-2019, 10:30 AM
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Home Depot sells that same foam in 2ft x 2ft sections. Depending on how much of the 4ft x 8ft sheet you need, the smaller squares might be easier and cheaper.
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Old 01-11-2019, 10:56 AM
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You should be able to attach the insulation with some construction adhesive like DAP or another brand. It will off-gas a bit, but will dissipate quickly and shouldn't harm the animals. Install it in the morning and by evening it should be okay.
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Old 01-11-2019, 11:45 AM
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You could even use sticks of wood cut to length and wedge the styrofoam into place against the top, bottom and sides. The back wall might be difficult though.
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Old 01-11-2019, 11:50 AM
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I was thinking just one piece of foam on the bottom, and wedged in.
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Old 01-11-2019, 02:58 PM
Wallet Wallet is online now
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Thanks for all the great responses. Never thought about a curtain on a tension rod for the front - really clever!
I hesitate to use any fabric/towels on the bottom, since it would freeze solid if it became wet (that's why I used straw in the catboxes that the darn cats won't use).

But, I never thought about carpet remnants - and I think it would work on top of smaller squares of insulation.

Again, thanks for the help - off to spend money at Home Depot! :-)
(and seriously, this will help to save some lives. One of the felines is MamaCat, who against all odds appears to be pregnant yet again. Unable to catch and spay, all we can do is hope to make a warm, safe nook for her to give birth. She already will jump in to eat, but it's so cold...)
  #18  
Old 01-11-2019, 09:38 PM
Tim@T-Bonham.net Tim@T-Bonham.net is offline
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Styrofoam should work just fine. They aren't very likely to scratch it up. (And if they do, so what -- it can be replaced cheaply enough.) You could always use 1/4 inch plywood above the foam -- that will keep it flat, & protect it, and still be insulated for warmth.

Covering the floor with hay or wood shavings (not sawdust) is probably better than something cloth -- as you said, cloth will accumulate moisture and then it won't keep them warm. Shredded paper works OK, but needs to be replaced often.

Is it actually 4 feet high inside? If so, that's too big -- they don't have enough body warmth to keep that space warm. Cut the height in half and put a ceiling of 1-2 layers of styrofoam above it. And how big is the opening? 4 feet is way too wide. Put a sheet of styrofoam covering that whole opening, and cut 6" square holes for doorways -- one on each side -- feral cats want an escape route. Covering those doorways with a flap of curtain cloth will cut down on wind. Or a plastic flap will work. Extra attractive if it's transparent. Might need to provide some kind of a wooden ramp to get to these doorways, if they are 3 feet off the ground. (Especially when the kittens come.)

Also, consider using extra pieces of styrofoam to make individual 'bedrooms' inside the space. Something small, like 12-18 inches square. Those are small enough that a single cat will keep it warm inside.

You shouldn't have a problem with cats using this space as a litter box -- cats won't do that in their sleeping area. But providing a nearby space with a couple bags of sand will be more attractive.

Also, if your tote cat shelters aren't being used, there's something wrong with them.
Are they n an open, exposed place? Cats prefer them sheltered, near a back fence or garage wall. Try moving them around. And do they have 2 openings? Feral cats often don't feel safe to sleep in a space without an emergency exit. Or maybe the possums got there first, and now these shelters don't smell safe to cats. Washing them out and putting in fresh bedding might cure that.
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Old 01-11-2019, 09:48 PM
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Nobody's mentioned it yet, but what about one of those pads that heat up. I ordered one through Amazon I think and I bought a long extension cord, and as I type a stray is relaxing under my deck in his heated condo. I put the pad inside a M to L cat carrier and covered it with old towels, rug remnants, and a tarp for insulation and to keep it dry. So far so good.
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Old 01-11-2019, 11:26 PM
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Nobody's mentioned it yet, but what about one of those pads that heat up. I ordered one through Amazon I think and I bought a long extension cord, and as I type a stray is relaxing under my deck in his heated condo. I put the pad inside a M to L cat carrier and covered it with old towels, rug remnants, and a tarp for insulation and to keep it dry. So far so good.
Sounds like that needs a residual-current circuit interrupter for safety?
  #21  
Old 01-11-2019, 11:49 PM
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I vote for styrofoam, covered with a piece of blanket or a carpet remnant to protect it from claws. Concrete is really cold to sit on.
Concrete will actually leech the heat from your body.
  #22  
Old 01-12-2019, 08:29 AM
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Wouldn't it just be easier to build a largish shoe box sized wooden box and throw it under the porch? Our (my daughter's) semi feral cat with her last years kittens are currently sleeping in our old Snoopy styled doghouse that has the bottom half of the doorway closed off.
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Old 01-12-2019, 10:52 AM
GottaBeMeh GottaBeMeh is offline
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Wouldn't it just be easier to build a largish shoe box sized wooden box and throw it under the porch? Our (my daughter's) semi feral cat with her last years kittens are currently sleeping in our old Snoopy styled doghouse that has the bottom half of the doorway closed off.
This...

If the area is as big as you say, then why not just toss an old cardboard box under there? You could slap a coat of paint on it to give it some degree of weather proofing, and it'll easily last through the winter. Then throw a few old towels in it, seal it up, cut an ~8" opening, and voila ... the perfect winter kitten bungalow.
  #24  
Old 01-14-2019, 10:53 PM
Wallet Wallet is online now
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Thanks so much!

I want to thank everyone for their great ideas - you really put a lot of thought into your suggestions.
I used a bit from everyone, actually...

I lined the walls and floor with 1" styrofoam sheets, using LocTite and a caulking gun to secure it to the crumbly concrete. So far it seems to have held - I also wedged each piece in as tightly as possible.
I didn't realize that the "ceiling" actually extended upwards to the underside of the stairs, so I jury-rigged a roof from cardboard and styrofoam.

I wedged a 2x4 across the front to further secure the walls/floor, and then put in an extra large doormat. It's soft, rubber bottomed, and really heavy. I have it going partly up the walls, and it really makes the nook a bit warmer and cozier.

There's a partition now across the middle, with doorways cut in. I also bought a tension rod, but it's too wimpy to hold up my plastic sheeting. Have to rethink my options to cover the front.

There's no way to run electricity here, and honestly I'd be afraid to have wires going where cats could scratch/bite it. I instead have rechargeable hand warmers that I wrapped in cloth and placed near the food dishes. I'll swap them out everyday for recharged ones.

So far MamaCat, BlackNose, Snowball, and GrayGhost have gone in to eat and check it out (don't blame me, my niece has named all of them! :-)

Thanks again for all of your help!
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Old 01-14-2019, 11:12 PM
Tim@T-Bonham.net Tim@T-Bonham.net is offline
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So far MamaCat, BlackNose, Snowball, and GrayGhost
So where are the photos?
  #26  
Old 01-15-2019, 10:07 PM
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I'm a feral cat whisperer.

I've had a feral colony in my backyard going on five plus years, with all of the original cats. I've also had numerous transient cats over the years.
  • Fill your shelter with straw. Not hay. Not fabric. Use dry straw. Ideally, it should be at least three-fourths full of loose straw (so they can burrow in and hide).
  • Access to the shelter should be via a five-six inch diameter round opening (to prevent dogs and raccoons from getting in).
Most of my shelters are hard-side ice chests (48 quart) with the hole drilled in the end. Filled 3/4s with dry straw. This year I started wrapping each ice chest in black plastic (because water sometimes gets in along the lid seam. The shelters are wind-proof, waterproof, and dog/raccoon resistant.

One of my shelters is a luxury condo: Built on a 4x4 sized wooden pallet, it stand three feet high (with the floor a foot off of the ground), covered in tarps and plastic. Same six-inch opening for access in one corner and filled with dry straw. I also have a foot square acrylic window. On cold nights the condo is packed with cats!
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Old 01-15-2019, 11:22 PM
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I'm a feral cat whisperer.
You're an awesome person! :-) If they let you, please give your furry ones a scritch from me.
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Old 01-15-2019, 11:31 PM
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One of my shelters is a luxury condo: Built on a 4x4 sized wooden pallet, it stand three feet high (with the floor a foot off of the ground), covered in tarps and plastic. Same six-inch opening for access in one corner and filled with dry straw. I also have a foot square acrylic window. On cold nights the condo is packed with cats!
This sounds awesome!
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Old 01-16-2019, 11:21 AM
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I'm a feral cat whisperer.

I've had a feral colony in my backyard going on five plus years, with all of the original cats. I've also had numerous transient cats over the years.
  • Fill your shelter with straw. Not hay. Not fabric. Use dry straw. Ideally, it should be at least three-fourths full of loose straw (so they can burrow in and hide).
  • Access to the shelter should be via a five-six inch diameter round opening (to prevent dogs and raccoons from getting in).
Most of my shelters are hard-side ice chests (48 quart) with the hole drilled in the end. Filled 3/4s with dry straw. This year I started wrapping each ice chest in black plastic (because water sometimes gets in along the lid seam. The shelters are wind-proof, waterproof, and dog/raccoon resistant.

One of my shelters is a luxury condo: Built on a 4x4 sized wooden pallet, it stand three feet high (with the floor a foot off of the ground), covered in tarps and plastic. Same six-inch opening for access in one corner and filled with dry straw. I also have a foot square acrylic window. On cold nights the condo is packed with cats!
Do you put food out for them? If so, how do you keep vermin away?
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Old 01-16-2019, 11:34 AM
GottaBeMeh GottaBeMeh is offline
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Do you put food out for them? If so, how do you keep vermin away?
That cats keep the vermin away.

People love to complain about stray cats but you never hear anyone complain about a shortage of rodents.
  #31  
Old 01-16-2019, 12:37 PM
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Foamular is good stuff, I've created whole cat shelters out of nothing but that. Glue together a rectangular box and cut a hole in one side. You can line the bottom with peel and stick vinyl tiles to improve the durability, and add straw as well to the space. Towels are less desirable as they trap more moisture.
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Old 01-17-2019, 11:48 PM
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OK, hope this works.
https://imgur.com/a/U1VUfw8

There's a picture of MamaCat (and yes, she does have a slight eye infection), and my nook-in-progress.

Thanks again for all of the help! :-)
  #33  
Old 01-17-2019, 11:52 PM
Wallet Wallet is online now
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Foamular is good stuff, I've created whole cat shelters out of nothing but that. Glue together a rectangular box and cut a hole in one side. You can line the bottom with peel and stick vinyl tiles to improve the durability, and add straw as well to the space. Towels are less desirable as they trap more moisture.
I saw the Foamular at Home Depot, but was unsure if it was safe in case the cats scratched at it - that's why I used plain 1" styrofoam sheets.
Good to know that it is safe - thanks! :-)
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Old 01-17-2019, 11:53 PM
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She's lovely!
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Old 01-18-2019, 12:57 AM
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Could we get more pictures of the location, including inside?


I think priority should be to 1) provide insulation from the infinite heatsink that is the ground and 2) block the wind, preferably with more than one block.
  #36  
Old 01-18-2019, 01:32 AM
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(and seriously, this will help to save some lives. One of the felines is MamaCat, who against all odds appears to be pregnant yet again. Unable to catch and spay, all we can do is hope to make a warm, safe nook for her to give birth. She already will jump in to eat, but it's so cold...)
You might be able to borrow a humane trap from the local animal shelter. Neutering is the only way to break the cycle.
  #37  
Old 01-18-2019, 08:58 AM
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I have a bunch of feral cats living around my house and the neighbor's. I bought a bunch of cheap coolers, cut a cat-sized hole in two sides (so they have more than one way out), tossed an old blanket inside, and put them in the back yard.
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Old 01-18-2019, 09:14 AM
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One of the felines is MamaCat, who against all odds appears to be pregnant yet again.
Against all odds? That's what ferals do.
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