Helping Cats Survive Winter

The Marshmallow Foundation in Detroit Lakes was recently contacted by an owner in a local trailer park.  His part of the park was being shut down, and residents were leaving their cats behind.  He had been feeding nine cats, but was getting desperate.  He was already living without water, food was expensive, and the landlord had told him to get rid of the cats.

The sad reality of shelters throughout the state is that they are full to overflowing.  So we knew we couldn’t immediately scoop them up, get them vetted, spayed and neutered and ready for adoption.  But the weather forecast called for -50 wind chill in the next couple of day, so we had to do something.

Volunteers sprung into action, Googling how to build cat shelters and gathering supplies.  7 heavy duty totes with lids were purchased, along with styrofoam sheets for insulation, and probably the most valuable thing; mylar insulation.  You know, the stuff you wrap around water heaters to keep them from freezing.  Mylar is used for emergency blankets to keep warm, reflecting body heat very effectively.

A wonderful volunteer offered her kitchen as a build station.  Here’s what we did.

We measured the length, width, and depth of the totes, and cut styrofoam to cover the bottom, sides, and top.  We covered the bottom and top pieces with the mylar, and circled the inside of the tote with more mylar.  First layer was styrofoam, second layer was mylar insulation.  We cut a six inch hold on one side of the tote and corresponding styrofoam and mylar, and covered the rough edges of the hole with duct tape.  We had a bale of straw, which we stuffed inside the tote, between the tote wall and styrofoam, and then filled the inside with lots of straw for the cats to burrow in.  Then they mylar covered styrofoam lid goes on, followed finally by the tote lid.

On location, we put the totes with the hole facing a wall so that it would make it harder for predators to get into.  And to anyone passing by, it just looks like totes lined up, not cat shelters.  Two heated bowls and several gallons of water toted in completed the set-up.  We had some wet cat food, which is very important in the winter since it provides the necessary calories and fat to help them survive.  The cats were climbing into the shelters as soon as we arrived, so we knew we were successful.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to hunt for rescue.  Its obvious these were once people’s pets; several have collars, and I was able to pick up and cuddle a couple too, before I was forced to seek shelter myself with frostbit fingers and toes.

Bottom styrofoam wraped in mylar and 2 end pieces cut
Remaining styrofoam pieces added, sides wrapped in mylar
Top styrofoam wrapped, entrance cut, and tote lid on
On site with shelters, food, water, and straw