How to Build an Outdoor Cat House From a Plastic Tote

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You may have a pet cat who likes to be outdoors or feral cats in your neighborhood, and those felines need shelter once in a while. Building an outdoor cat house from a plastic tote and adding insulating materials to keep kitties warm is an easy and inexpensive do-it-yourself project that can help the outdoor cats in your life.


A plastic tote can be turned into an easy outdoor cat shelter.
Image Credit: Valentina Sheboltaeva/iStock/GettyImages

Buy two plastic totes

The first thing to do is buy one large tote and one somewhat smaller tote into which a cat can easily fit. It is recommended to use a 30-gallon tub and a 20-gallon tub if possible. The large tote will be the outside of the kitty house, and the smaller tote will be the place where the cat resides.


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Between the two layers will be insulating material. Insulating material can be straw (not hay), Styrofoam, or insulation that you can purchase at a home improvement center. Do not use towels or blankets for insulation between the two totes.

Design the outdoor cat shelter

To start, remove the lids from both totes and put the lids aside for use later on. Then, on the larger tote, draw a circle large enough for a cat to fit through comfortably. You want to draw the circle in the center of one end of the tote.


Place the smaller tote inside the larger one. Use the hole you drew on the larger tote to make a stencil. Separate the smaller tote and draw the same-size circle on the smaller tote.

Cut holes, add insulation, and replace the lids

Using a jigsaw or a box cutter, cut both holes, making sure that the holes of each tote line up together. Insert the insulation material in the space between the two totes, making sure the insulating material is tightly fitted. This will prevent cold air or moisture from getting into the outdoor cat shelter. Minimal air space is key; you want a small interior so the cat shelter occupants will stay warm.


If you want to anchor the outdoor cat house, be sure to punch or drill holes in the bottom of the larger tote to enable you to weave rope through the holes to tie down the unit using stakes. Place the tote lid onto the smaller tote. Put more insulating material between the top of the smaller tote and the area where you'll be inserting the tote. Put the lid on the larger tote.


Tote cat house bedding

Place old blankets, towels, or a small pet bed inside the shelter. This bedding is bound to get dirty. If you are able to, wash the bedding once a week or so. Otherwise, the bedding will likely need to be replaced. Don't place food or water by the shelter, as this will make it easier to avoid water being spilled inside or food bits getting into the shelter.



Anchor and avoid exposure

It's a good idea to anchor the DIY cat house plastic bin in such a way that it will not blow away or blow over in high winds. You can use ropes or straps to tie it down, and this will likely require drilling or punching some holes in the bottom of the larger tote so you can string the ropes through. Tie those ropes to ground stakes like those that would be used for a tent.


If you want the tote cat house to be freestanding, allowing you the opportunity to move it around the property where it's located, then tying it down is probably not the best solution. No matter where you place the outdoor cat house DIY storage bin, be sure the entryway is not exposed to rain, high winds, or predatory animals (including dogs). Avoid placing the outdoor cat shelter directly on the ground. Use a pallet or some two-by-fours to raise it off the ground.

Keeping outdoor cats comfortable in cold weather will be much appreciated by the kitties, and you'll feel great knowing you've kept the felines warm and safe.



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