Things warmed up a bit today, and we got a bit of snow. It won’t last long; tomorrow, the temperatures are supposed to dip again.
After some consideration of what materials I had available, today I finally built an insulated shelter for the outside cats, as an extra layer of protection in the sun room, for when things start to get really cold.
I decided to use three of our old, size medium, moving boxes, one sheet of rigid insulation, and all the scrap bits left over from the various things we’ve cut the rigid insulation for over the past while. I also used quite a lot of packing tape, paper glue, and small bamboo skewers that I had among my crafting materials. 😀
I didn’t measure anything as I worked, but cut the pieces to size at each step, using the boxes themselves to work out where to cut.
After taping the boxes and figuring out how I wanted to position them, the first step was to cut rigid insulation to line the insides.
The box bases are square, and I had 2 scrap pieces large enough to fill them completely, cutting the third one from the whole sheet. These were for the back wall of the shelter and needed to be nice and snug, as they will also keep the boxes squared as cats climb on them.
The next pieces to cut were 3 ceiling pieces. These were also cut to be snug to the sides, and would be supported by the wall pieces.
Finally, I cut 6 wall pieces. This was the last stage were all 3 boxes were done the same way. The above picture is roughly how the boxes will be oriented together when it’s done.
After this, I focused on the 2 boxes that would make up the base of the shelter.
I had some scrap pieces that were just long enough to extend over the flaps at the bottom, making for an insulated “patio” at the entry. The middle and top flaps were used to create a smaller opening. I used some ordinary white glue that will help keep things solid as the cats use it, but at this point, it’s packing tape that was keeping everything together! Once the top and middle flaps were glued and taped together, I attached the two boxes together. The sides of the boxes that are touching were glued together, then I used packing tape to join it solidly, working my way from the top, around the back, and finally underneath.
The outside flaps were free swinging at this point, and needed to be secured to act as “windbreaks”.
At first, I cut shallow channels in the floor insulation pieces for the flaps to be set at an angle, but there was no way they would stay there with cats going in and out.
The solution I came up with was to use bamboo skewers to peg scrap pieces of insulation beside the flaps to hold them in place.
At first, I used my utility knife to cut the pieces short, but that sucked; I dug out my wire cutters to do that job, later on. Depending on where I was working and the length needed, I was able to get 2 – 3 pegs out of each skewer.
Cheddar was really eager to explore the almost complete base. (Those white streaks are from some glue that dripped off the top flap before I could tape it in place.)
Time to start working on the second level.
For this, I cut the side flaps in the middle, matching the height to the top flap, to create a doorway. I also cut away a bit at the bottoms to make room for the insulation that would cover the floor.
By this point, I’d used up the rest of the sheet of insulation making the walls, so I had to piece together a couple of scrap pieces for the second level floor.
The bottom flap had nothing to support it and was just dangling down, so I ran a strip of tape around the whole thing to keep it together.
Once the floor pieces were in, I could glue and tape the top and side flaps into place for the opening.
Once this part was done, it was time to attach the top level to the bottom. I used glue first, then packing tape to hold it all together.
Generous amounts of tape. 😀
Once that was done, the balcony needed support to hold the weight of a cat jumping onto it.
Back to the scrap pieces!
There happened to be a scrap piece just long enough match the distance between the door openings, and cover the gap in the middle. I found a piece that would fit vertically in the middle, marked where it would go and used bamboo skewers to peg it into place.
(You can see I also added glue to the pegged scrap pieces holding the bottom level side flaps in place. They seemed a bit wiggly, so I figured it would help at least a bit.)
Once the vertical section was pegged to the base piece, I put it under the balcony flap and used more pieces of skewers to peg the base down.
More skewers were used to peg the balcony to the vertical support. I made sure to drive as much of the skewers in as I could.
The ends of the balcony flap needed support too. Time for more scrap bits!
I wound up selecting pieces that were slightly taller than the centre piece. This created a bit of a gap, but I’m okay with that. This will give it some “bounce” in the middle as the cats use it. My thought is that the flexibility will make it less likely to snap.
The tops of the side supports were pegged in place the same as the centre support. At the bottoms, I took advantage of the short bits of skewer left above the surface, then added more short pieces at angles – two on the inside, one on the outside – to peg the bottoms of the vertical supports to the base. I made sure to push, pull and shake things about, and it’s very strong and sturdy! It should be able to withstand cats jumping on and climbing around it all quite well.
Our inside cats were quite curious about this, and our mama cat settled for a nap inside!
Once everything was assembled, and I went around with wire cutters to remove more pieces of protruding skewers, it was time to figure out where to put it.
My original thought was to put it on the swing bench that the cats like to pile up and sleep on, but it’s too deep. My daughter and I went into the sun room to figure it out, and we ended up moving the swing bench and rocking chair off to the sides – it’s not like we’ll be using them over the winter! – to clear a space directly on the floor. Then, after my daughter managed to lure our mama cat out of the shelter, we brought it over.
They seem to like it! 🙂 I even saw them batting and playing with each other through the gaps between the vertical support pieces.
I already had some scrap pieces of insulation scattered about on the concrete floor for the cats to use, and those are now set up in front, for their food containers to sit on. Between the floor mats and pieces of insulation, the cats should be able to eat and drink without having to be directly on concrete.
One of the other things I was able to do recently was finally put up a big thermometer a dear friend sent me, so we could monitor the temperature in the sun room.
Even with the door wide open, the temperature in the sun room was only about -6C (21F). Outside, it was about -13C (8F), with a wind chill of -24C (-11F). That’s as warm as we’re supposed to get today, and the temperature will keep dropping through to tomorrow, where we are expecting a high of -21C (-6F), with a wind chill of -25C (-13F).
Insulating the windows has made quite the difference, and now that the cats have an insulated condo, they will be able to keep even warmer. No more body heat being lost to the room! Each “room” in the condo has space enough for several cats to cuddle together, too, and they still have access to the swing bench if they want.
It’s not the prettiest thing ever, but it’ll do the job! 🙂