Mama Rose

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Hi, “Dad” here with a report on how I built an outdoor cat shelter for Mama Rose.

If you’ve followed The Furry Bambinos, you probably know the story of Mama Rose and her 6 babies.  If not, you can read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and the final post about releasing Mama Rose back into the neighborhood.

After we had Mama Rose spayed and released her back into the neighborhood, she kept coming around the house for food.  So, late in 2010, I decided to build an outdoor cat shelter for her.

We live in Northeast Ohio, and the winters can get rather brutal and cold.  Since we had taken Mama Rose’s babies, gotten her spayed to prevent future litters, and she was coming around for food, we felt obligated to give her a safe place to stay warm in the winter.

Here is how I built her a feral cat shelter.  You can find similar instructions to build a similar outdoor cat shelter on some other websites around the internet.  At the time, our goal was to build an outdoor cat shelter for occupancy by a single cat.

Materials for Our Outdoor Cat Shelter

There were only a few items I needed to build our outdoor cat shelter.  Here was my shopping list:

  1. Two plastic tubs.  One had to fit inside the other
  2. A piece of plastic “coupling” for the opening to provide a smooth entrance and exit
  3. Styrofoam insulation
  4. Straw
  5. Two (2) standard size bricks

For tools, I only needed an Utility knife and a keyhole saw.

Outdoor Cat Shelter Materials:  Plastic Tubs

The first items I needed were two plastic tubs with lids.  One tub needed to be smaller than the other because my goal was to put one inside the other, and stuff straw and insulation between them.

As you can see in the picture below, the grey container is larger than the green one.  The grey container is made of a soft plastic.  The green container is made of a very hard plastic.  As you will see in the instructions below, if I had to build another of these shelters I wouldn’t use another hard plastic container like the one pictured.  The plastic was hard to cut and cracked easily.  The plastic grey container was perfect and cut without cracking.

You might be asking “how big do the containers have to be?”

An outdoor cat shelter doesn’t need to be very big.  The goal is to give the animal a dry, safe place to sleep and that’s it.

My starting point was to choose the size of the green/inside container first since that was where the cat would actually be sleeping.  Containers like these are usually measured in “gallons”, but that’s not how I originally was thinking.

Since I was building an outdoor cat shelter for only Mama Rose, and I knew how big she was, I picked a relatively small container for the inside. I simply measured how much space one of The Bambinos took when curled up asleep on the floor. Then, I bought a container that had about that same space in length and width. It was small:  roughly 11 inches wide by 14 or 15 inches long and about 10 or 11 inches high.

I simply chose the size of the grey Outer Container so it could hold the inside container with room to spare for insulation.  I’ve long since thrown away the receipt and label for it, but it’s a “Latching Tote” made by Sterilite.  The outer dimensions are roughly 18 inches wide by 21 inches long by 17 inches tall, and according to the Sterilite online catalog, that size makes it a 20 or 22 gallon container.

Notice the vertical height of the containers.  I had read that the opening for the shelter should be “off the ground” to keep out moisture and other animals, so I made sure to pick a container that had some height to it.  The grey container is about 17″ inches tall.  It’s plenty tall enough for this shelter.

There is no “one size fits all” container that I can recommend because you probably have different places to shop than we do in Northeast Ohio.  Simply build your shelter for the number of cats you’re trying to serve and estimate sizes as necessary.  The colors are not important either. I chose what was available.  (Although if the outer container had been some bright neon color, I would have bought some brown or green spray paint for it.)

Outdoor Cat Shelter Materials: The Coupling

Since one container was going to sit inside the other, I needed a clean, safe way for the cat to get in and out of the final shelter.  At my local hardware store, I found something called a 6” Snap Coupling that fit the bill nicely.

The coupling is made of thin plastic and very inexpensive. I think it’s supposed to be used for flexible drain pipes.

Outdoor Cat Shelter Materials: Insulation

At my local hardware store, I found a package that contained sheets of polystyrene insulation.  The package of insulation was about 15” wide by 48” tall and contained several 1/2” thick sheets.  If your store doesn’t carry the same brand or size, that’s fine.  My plan was to cut it to the sizes I needed, so the overall width and height was not important.

Outdoor Cat Shelter Materials: Other Materials

The other materials I needed were straw which I found at a local garden center, and two (2) bricks.

Building the Outdoor Cat Shelter

Once I had all the materials assembled, I began building the actual outdoor cat shelter.  Here is my documentation of the process.

Step 1:  Cut the Opening for Entrance

I took the 6” Snap Coupling and simply held it against the inside container, at about the center of one of the shorter sides.  Then I traced the outline of the circular coupling on the container so I would know where to cut.

Step 2:  Cut the Opening in the Inside Container

I took the Utility knife and keyhole saw and cut around the circle I traced.  This was very difficult to do and the hard plastic was very hard to cut and it actually cracked a few times as I cut it.

As I stated earlier, if I were to build another one of these outdoor cat shelters, I would pick a sturdier type of container for the inside of the shelter.

Here is the final result.  You can see the cracks in the plastic under my hand and at the bottom of the opening.  I ended putting some duct tape over the cracks just to seal them up nicely.

Remember, the inner container isn’t very big.  The hole above is 6 inches across, so the container is only 10 or 11 inches high.

Step 3:  Cutting the Opening in the Outer Container

In order to cut the hole for the outer container, I had to make sure the inner container would be in the correct position first.

So, I began by placing the two bricks in the bottom of the grey, outer container.  The bricks serve two purposes.  First, they provide weight to the shelter so it won’t tip over easily.  Second, they lift the inner container so that there can be insulation underneath it.

Next, I used the utility knife to cut some of the insulation to fit in the space between the bricks.  Turns out a stack of three slices of insulation was the perfect height to be flush with the top of the bricks.

Here’s the styrofoam in position between the bricks.

Next, just to be sure I had enough insulation on the bottom, I cut a stack of two (2) pieces of insulation to fit on top of the bricks.

Here’s what these pieces looked like in the final assembly.  Again, these pieces are on top of the bricks at the bottom of the outer container.

Next I put the Inner Container into position so I could trace the hole location for the outer container.

Here I am tracing the outline of the hole on the inside surface of the Outer Container.

Here is the final result of the tracing.

Next I simply took the keyhole saw and cut along the line.  (I had to take the bricks and Styrofoam out in order to be able to handle the container and make the cut.)

Step 4: Installing the Coupling

Now that the holes for the Snap Coupling had been cut in the Inner and Outer Containers, I could begin the final assembly of the outdoor cat shelter.

I began by putting the bricks and spacing Styrofoam back into place.  This time I added some straw to fill in the corner spaces where there was no insulation.

Then I put the two pieces of insulation for the “floor” back into place.

Next I lined up the holes and put the Snap Coupling into place.  Here are a couple of photos of the final result.

At this point, the “hard part” of building the outdoor cat shelter was done!

Step 4: Insulating the Cat Shelter

At this point, the only thing left to do was to insulate the space between the two containers.  As you can see in the photos below, I needed two pieces of insulation on each of the other sides around the inner container.  I simply used my Utility knife to size the different pieces as needed so it would all fit snugly. 

Here is the final result before I began adding straw to fill the empty spaces.

Next, I started packing in straw into all the spaces where there was no insulation.  I started by shoving straw all around the Snap Coupling so the entrance/exit would be well insulated.

Next I added straw in-between the Styrofoam and the inner container.  Fortunately the translucent plastic of the inner container makes it easy to see where the straw is packed in.

Finally, I added straw to the inside of the Inner Container.  I wavered back and forth on how much to add, but ended up erring on the side of enough to cover the bottom when smashed flat, plus more on top into which a cat could “burrow” for warmth.

It’s better that the cat can create its own nest to sleep in, so having more straw is better than not enough.

Now it was time for lid of the inner container!  It snapped right into position with room to spare on top for more straw.

I covered the top of the Inner Container with more straw for a final bit of insulation.

Lastly, I put the lid on the Outer Container!

The Final Shelter!

From the outside, the outdoor cat shelter simply looks like an innocuous storage tub with a strange hole in it.

Final Inspection of the Outdoor Cat Shelter

At this point, all that was left was a final inspection!  Would a cat actually climb inside and use the shelter?  Hmmm … maybe the Bambinos could inspect it for me!  (To prevent a mess of straw in the house, I removed all the interior straw for this “inspection”).

All five (at the time) of our cats turned out for the inspection.  Our largest cat, “Cookie”, immediately climbed inside.  You can see her tail dangling out of the shelter here:

Cookie was able to turn around inside and seemed very content with the new facility.  She was reluctant to let the others inside, but eventually just about everyone had the chance to try it and climbed in of their own free will.

After the inspection was complete, I put straw back inside the shelter and we worked on deciding where to put it outside.

Final Comments on Building this Outdoor Cat Shelter

Overall, this was a fun project for a worthy cause.  It took about 2 hours to build the entire shelter once I had all the materials on hand.  If you have a reasonable amount of dexterity, you should be able to build your own shelter in about the same amount of time.

The final step was placing the shelter in a good location.  Most rescue organizations recommend placing outdoor cat shelters far away from human intervention.  In our case, that would mean placing the shelter in a corner of our fenced-in backyard.  We knew that Mama Rose rarely ventured into our backyard, and we couldn’t see her changing her routine in the winter.

However, in the front of our house, we have a large Rhododendron bush and some other shrubs.  We knew that Mama Rose had a tendency to walk back and forth in the area between the bushes and the house so she could get to our porch to be fed.  So, we simply placed the shelter along that path in the front of our house.

outdoor cat shelter

There was a double benefit to this placement, the bushes helped shield the shelter from rain, snow, and harsh winds.  The bushes also helped make the shelter practically invisible from view by anyone walking by the house.

Overall, the construction project was a great success.  We weren’t sure if Mama Rose actually used the shelter until it snowed.  That’s when we saw footprints in a pattern suggesting she (or some other cat) had gone in and out of the shelter entrance.

Last year (2011), I opened the shelter up and peeked inside.  It was obvious the shelter had been used as sleeping quarters for an animal because of the rearrangement of straw that was left.  I put in fresh straw, and sealed it back up for the 2011-2012 winter.

As of this writing, September 2012, Mama Rose still comes around to be fed just about every day, and we have actually seen her poking her head out of the entrance to her outdoor cat shelter, even during the Spring and Fall!

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Hello Furriends! Sunny here! I am also repurrting on behalf of my brother Sky.

That’s me in the tube, and Sky down below.

Today is a Big Birthday! Sky and I are two years old today! You may remember that there are six of us in this litter, so that means our sister (Marigold) and brothers (Hunter, Rusty, and Woody) are two years old today too! Hunter is in Dad’s lap, and that’s Woody, Rusty, Marigold, and Sky on the floor. They were enjoying a snack of Baby Food! The photo is from October 2010 when we were about 3 months old.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy! Mama Rose (feral) still visits us every day and hangs out on the porch. Human Mom and Dad feed her every single day.

You can all come over for a Game of Thundering Herds of Elephants, enjoy some Stinky Goodness, People Tuna, People Salmon, Niptinis and Meowgaritas (milk for the kittens), and enjoy some Nap Action when you want to rest.

Thanks for visiting us! Be sure to visit The Tabby Cat Club today to see photos of our Birthday Toesies!

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Greetings Furriends! Sunny here. The Furry Bambinos and I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Winter/Summer Solstice, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy New Year, etc.

Clearly, we are happy. Why?

Well, for the past four weeks, we have not seem Mama. She is Sky’s and my biological mother. Mama is feral (afraid of people), so she lives outside. Mom and Dad have been feeding her for over a year now. In the summer, Mama slept on our front porch in sunbeams. Now that the weather has turned cold, Mom and Dad prepared a winter shelter for Mama. Mama had been coming to eat on the front porch just about every day, except when it was raining really hard.

Mama had even started to talk to Mom and Dad!!! This is HUGE for a feral kitty. Normally, feral kitties are silent. Kitties that trust people talk to them.

The last time we had seen Mama was November 23, the day before American Thanksgiving. We had begun to assume the worst had happened. Mom even called the Animal Warden in our town to ask if she had been found.

As it turned out, no news was good news.

Last night, as Mom and Dad were leaving to take current fosters Panda and Domino to PetSmart, Dad spotted Mama!!! On our porch!!!

Happy Dance!!!

So Dad told Mom, then went back inside to get food for Mama! Mom got out of the car, and went to the porch, where she talked soothingly to Mama. Mama had jumped off the porch and was under a bush. All Mom could see in the dark was Mama’s white bib. (I have a white bib and white footies just like my Mama. And both of us have our left ear tipped.)

Mama came out from under the bush and got close to the porch where Mom could verify that it definitely was Mama! Dad gave her a big bowl of stinky goodness, and a big bowl of crunchies.

Merry Christmas, Efurryone!

P.S. We still see Daddy about once a week, so he must have other restaurants he visits. Mom and Dad see him crossing the big busy street when he leaves our yard.

Recently, another kitty – white on belly and legs, grey stripes on head and back – has been coming to eat from the porch. He/she is big, but timid, so Mom and Dad don’t think this kitty has a home. When Spring comes, they will trap this kitty and get him/her “snipped” too.

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Hi efurryone! I’m Sky! I would like to tell you about National Feral Cat Day (October 16). I will tell you about it, by telling you my story, and the story of my parents, Mama Rose and Daddy.

Last year, my brothers and sister and I were born to Mama Rose. We don’t know exactly when, but it was probably in July 2010. When we got big enough, Mama started bringing us to visit the back yard at Casa de Furry Bambinos. Mama was young, probably less than a year old herself. Our Human Mom and Dad began feeding us in a special cafeteria.

One day, the cafeteria door closed behind us while we were eating! We were trapped! That’s my brother Rusty and sister Marigold (now Mia).

Our Humans kept us in cages in the garage at first. Every day they fed us, scooped our boxes, and tried to cuddle and hold us. They gave us Baby Food as a reward for cuddling with them. That’s Sunny and me (Sky) huddling and trying to hide in our cage. Back then, Sunny was known as Mr. Wild Child, and I was Mr. Hissy.

Then one day we were all put into PTU’s, and taken to the Cleveland APL for our hoohaectomies and ladygardenectomies.

This is Woody, Hunter, and Sunny in the PTU. (Note the airplane ears and scared little faces.)

Soon after that, my sister and brothers and I moved into the Dormitory at Furry Bambino Foster Academy (Kitten Foster Room). That’s me on the right, hissing at Woody and Hunter. I was kind of crabiliated back then.

Mama was released to the Outside.

Our Human Mom and Dad feed her every day.

Recently, Mama has started TALKING to our Human Dad!!!  For those of you who know something about feral cats, you know that this is HUGE!!! And yesterday, for the First Time Ever, Mama said Hello to our Human Mom!!!

Per usual, our Biological Daddy was never part of our little family. He planted his seeds and left the scene. Our Humans saw him from time to time in the neighborhood.

My brother Woody and I look  A LOT like our Kitteh Daddy, which is why our Human Mom was convinced that Daddy was: a) A Male Cat, and b) Our Biological Daddy.

Then this summer, Daddy started showing up every day …

… to nom on Mama’s foods on the porch. Do you see Mama in the photo, too? She’s waiting for Daddy to finish eating. She always lets him eat first.

Our Humans got a Cafeteria (trap) and after some resistance on his part, trapped Daddy in July. He got his hoohaectomy at the Cleveland APL, and was released that night.

Now Mama shows up just about every day, and Daddy shows up often. Mama spent most sunny summer afternoons napping on the porch here at Casa de Furry Bambinos.

To celebrate National Feral Cat Day, our Human Mom is shopping online for some better ideas for winter shelter for Mama and/or Daddy. Our Human Parents are discussing the best way to keep Our Biological Parents safe this winter.

This Just In: Please if you could spare some purrs and purrayers, our Dear Friend Perfectly Parker and her family could use some.

And, while you are purring, please send some purrs for Carol, a Very Kind Human who is the volunteer coordinator for PAWS, the animal rescue group for which Mom and Dad volunteer. Carol is in the hospital right now after a terrible fall, and she and her family could really use all the purrs and purrayers you can muster.

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Back in 2009, someone (!) said there were “too many cats on the internet”!  Egads!  There is no such thing as too many cats!

So The Cat Blogosphere came together to change NO CATS DAY to MO CATS DAY and decided to celebrate every 09/09.

At present, there are 14 felines in the house.  You read that right kittehs, one-four, quatorze, catorce, XIV.  As you may know, there are 7 of us Furry Bambinos:

Padre (that’s me)

Panda Bear

Meerkat

Cookie

Caramel

Sunny

Sky

And we presently have 7 foster kittens staying here at Furry Bambino Foster Academy.

Jett (with sister Joan watching)

Panda

Domino

Louisa

Kurt

Brigitta

Marta

Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, and Marta’s Mom Liesl is being fostered at our sister academy:

And, we have two outdoor feral kittehs who show up for dinner just about daily:

Mama

Daddy.  (We STRONGLY suspect that Daddy is Sunny and Sky’s biological father. Mom and Dad trapped him this summer and he got his hoohaectomy.)

And then there are all the fosters who have graduated from The Furry Bambino Foster Academy in the past year, since Mo Cats Day 2010!  I don’t know if I can count that high … it’s about elebenty squillion.

Dakota

This is Marigold, now called Mia by her adoptive family.

Rusty

Woody (adopted with Rusty)

Hunter (just look at those toes!)

Silver

Rico

Lilia (renamed Karen), adopted with Vitaly

Vitaly (renamed Jack), adopted with Lilia

Nadia, adopted with Bart

Bart, adopted with Nadia

Joan (renamed Lursa), adopted with Braveheart

Braveheart (renamed B’Etor), adopted with Joan

Friedrich (renamed Furball)

Gretl (renamed Teeka)

And last but not least, Ones Who Came Before: Clyde

… and Mohawk, AKA “Mo”, the Mo-iest Mo Cat of all!

Happy Mo Cats Day, everykitteh! Purrs!

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::Tap tap tap::

Ahem, is this thing on? Oh hai! My name is Sunny. I used to be known as Mr. Wild Child when I first came to live here. I was scared and didn’t know if I could trust The Lady and The Man, so I hid in my Pink ManKitten Cave a lot.

Now I am Sunny, the Former Mr. Wild Child.

My Kitteh Mommy is Mama Rose.

I don’t know for sure who my Kitteh Daddy is – but we have seen a grey/brown striped kitteh hanging out in the yard, so we think that is him. (Mom’s Edit: We don’t know for sure if “Daddy” a boy, but I just have this feeling. Woody – one of Mama’s babies, and Sunny and Sky’s brother, looks SO MUCH like “Daddy”. We will be doing TNR – “Daddy” has a neuter appointment at the Cleveland APL in July.)

My Real Daddy is Daddy.

Isn’t he great?

He has a very comfortable lap.

He really does.

Sometimes we watch the talking picture box together. He likes it when I sit on his lap and purr.

Happy Daddy’s Day to all you Daddies out there!

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Hi kittehs! As promised, I am continuing where we left off telling you about Mama Rose’s bebbehs. Mommy and Daddy had trapped Mama Rose and her six kittens last September. Mama Rose is feral, which means that she has not been socialized to trust humans. For more information about feral cats, see the Alley Cat Allies web site. It is a fantastic resource that helped Mommy and Daddy learn how to socialize the bebbehs.

Mommy and Daddy love Mama Rose, even though she is terrified of them. On Thursday night, Daddy got home just after Mommy had put out the food for Mama Rose. Daddy could see Mama Rose eating on the porch. So he called Mom from his cell phone to say that he would come in when Mama Rose finished eating. He didn’t want her to get scared and leave, so he stayed in the car until she was done eating. This is a photo of Mama Rose’s feeding station on the front porch. The grey tub in the background under the bush is the shelter that Daddy built for Mama Rose. We don’t think she uses it.

Mama Rose’s bebbehs started out feral too. When they were trapped, the bebbehs were about eight weeks old. The older kittens get without human contact, the less likely it is that they will become socialized to trust humans. When a kitten goes from feral to trusting, we call that “flipping”.

In early October, when Mama Rose and her bebbehs were getting spayed or neutered, Mommy had to decide which bebbehs she thought would definitely “flip”, and which she was unsure about. This is because while they were under anesthesia, ear tipping would be done. Ear tipping is the universal mark that a feral cat has been spayed or neutered:

We use the word “eartip” to describe when a small portion of the tip of a feral cat’s left ear is surgically removed during neuter surgery, to denote that the cat has been neutered and vaccinated. Eartipping is done while the cat is anesthetized and is not painful for the cat. Eartipping is the most effective way to identify neutered feral cats from a distance, to make sure they are not trapped or undergo surgery a second time.

Alley Cat Allies

By early October, Marigold, the only female in the litter, and a Mama Rose lookalike, had completely “flipped”. She trusted Mommy and Daddy enough to climb into their laps of her own free will.

So had Rusty, one of the orange boys in the litter.

Woody was close behind, but too close to call. Hunter was less trusting than Woody, but more trusting than Sky. Sunny was known as Mr. Wild Child, if that gives you an idea of what he thought of Mom and Dad! So Mommy had a sleepless night trying to decide whose ears would be tipped. Reluctantly, she agreed to ear tipping Woody and Hunter, in addition to Sky and Sunny. Sky and Sunny were were still mostly feral in early October.

Marigold was the first of Mama Rose’s kittens to get adopted – on October 16, 2010 – National Feral Cat Day!!!  Marigold has been renamed Mia by her adoptive family, and was a birthday present for the teenage daughter.

A few weeks later, on November 12, Rusty and Woody got adopted –TOGETHER!!! Into a wonderful family – with a Mom, Dad,  Son, and Golden Retriever to keep the boys company! The Mom was initially interested in adopting Rusty …

but when she read their cage card and saw that Rusty and Woody are brothers …

she knew she couldn’t break up the brothers.

And then in December, a wonderful family with Mom, Dad, and Little Girl adopted Hunter!

Which just leaves Sunny …

and Sky, waiting for their furrever fambly.

Doesn’t everyone want a Sunny Sky in their lives?