Building a cat shelter: sliding maintenance door

I’ve decided to slow down work on the new cat house, as I need to spend more time on consulting and Dejal apps, and this isn’t urgent, since the cats already have a heated shelter and raccoon-proof feeder. But I am still keen to get this finished, and am enjoying working on it, so will do at least a few hours on it each weekend.

Yesterday I added wheels to the maintenance door; the whole front of the shelter portion of the structure. As mentioned in my previous post, I was originally going to have it swing open, but decided to make it slide instead, for weight reasons. So I got some little casters to make it slide more easily, and cut notches out of the bottom for them:

Here’s a closer view; you can also see the cat door temporarily in place (to check the fit):

I added a strip of plywood to hide the casters:

I also added a thin board to the back of the deck, to act as a track for the casters (and make the door the right height):

Here’s the door in place, opened:

And closed:

That’s basically it for this time. My next priority is a second beehive stand (for the two new hives we’ll be adding), and a rail for this door to slide on when open. Then probably the facades and trim. I mentioned last time that I was thinking about doing roofing next, but I think it’d be better to do that after the walls are painted. (I was going to do it before the facades due to the flashing at the back of them, but I realized I can build that as another separate piece, so can be lifted off for roofing.)

With my slower pace, I probably won’t finish this project until sometime in May, but that’s fine.

Building a cat shelter: roof & trim

I did some more work on the new cat house over the weekend, building the roof and some of the trim.

Firstly I made framing for the insulated ceiling of the shelter part:

And added three layers of the half-inch insulation foam. Heat rises, so I thought having thicker insulation in the ceiling made sense (and I bought more than I needed, so have plenty spare):

This ceiling was then attached to a half inch plywood panel, that will form the roof (the cutouts are for wires):

Here’s the roof installed, with some trim along the edge. Like the floor, the roof is not attached to the walls yet, so I can move the structure to the final destination in separate pieces; they will be screwed together there:

A view inside the shelter portion, with the ceiling in place:

I added a board above the top of the front wall, which will form the base of the front façade:

And started to add some trim on the corners etc. I also changed my mind on the maintenance door; as you know, the entire front of the shelter portion opens; I was going to have it swing open, hinged on the left, but decided that it’s too heavy for that to work well, so will make it slide to the left instead. It won’t be opened often (probably only a couple of times a year, to add or remove the heated beds, and close or open the vent covers), but I still want it to be fairly easy to open:

I added trim around the awnings; I bought metal drip strip for them, along with the roof, but I haven’t decided if I’ll actually use it on the awnings, since I worry about sharp edges close to the cats. I’ll decide that when I’m ready to do the roofing shingles. If I don’t, the trim will make the edge look nice; if I do, the trim will provide the right height backing for it:

More trim around the side door and corners; you can also see the underside of the roof overhang:

I’ve run out of 1×2 wood, and am ready for some other extra bits, so I’ll make a run to Home Depot later in the week. Next weekend I currently plan to do the roofing (drip strip, paper, and shingles). And perhaps more trim and/or the façades, if I have time.

Building a cat shelter: walls & platforms

I’ve done a bit more on the new cat house. I previously worked on the walls of the shelter part, and this weekend continued that with the walls of the feeder section, plus the feeder awning and platforms for both sides.

Here’s the back of the feeder front wall, under construction:

In place:

Again, with a bracket for the shelf:

Building the feeder side door:

The side door in place:

Building the feeder awning:

The awning installed (and the shelter door removed):

Making the shelter platform, before cutting out the center part; the cutouts in the corners are for wires from the heating pads:

And the feeder shelf:

The underside of the shelter platform, after cutting out the center and adding edging and bracing:

And in place:

Finally, trying the positioning of the food dispenser, looking through the front window. It’ll sit on a drawer, making it easier to fill, and dispense into a tube that leads to the food dish below:

Stay tuned for more; next weekend I plan to build the roof!

Building a cat shelter: walls

Continuing from building the floor, over the last few days I’ve been building the walls of the cat shelter.

Like the floor, the walls are insulated. Here’s the inside of the center wall, between the shelter and feeder parts, before adding the second plywood layer:

Here I’m laying out the components of the back wall: a couple of vents, and a cat door:

The framing and insulation in place. The horizontal board through the middle will help support the platforms:

Three walls assembled:

A slightly different angle, after adding doorstops for the big maintenance door (pretty much the entire front of the shelter). You can also see supports for the platforms, halfway up the walls:

Laying out the maintenance door:

The inside of the maintenance door, with holes for two windows at the top and a cat door at the bottom, and insulation elsewhere. The door has more substantial framing than the walls, to make sure it’s sturdy, and support the awning:

Here’s the door in place. You may notice that I changed the design a bit from my plans; I decided that vertically-oriented windows would work better:

Finally (for now), I built the awning for the shelter side:

Next up, the walls and door for the feeder side. But the pace will slow down; I took a week off to get this started, but will need to get back to paying work next week.

Building a cat shelter: tweaked plans

I’ve drawn a new detail view for the front windows and awning, to help plan their construction:

I’ve also tweaked the existing plans for the cat shelter a little bit, based on changes while building. Nothing too significant, but I thought I’d publish the changes for completeness.

There are only a couple of subtle differences in the front elevation: the deck is higher than previously pictured, and the feeder opening is taller:

You can see those changes in this elevation, too:

Here you can see the higher deck, and its supports:

I originally planned to have the deck lower than the floor, to allow clearance for the maintenance door swing. But I also wanted to extend the side rim joists from the back of the shelter to the front of the deck, to make it more sturdy. I considered having the side joists higher than the deck level, but felt that’d look untidy. I’m happy with how it turned out. I’ll just have the maintenance door a bit higher to offset that change.

Building a cat shelter: floor

Today I started construction on the outdoor cat shelter.

I went to Home Depot on Sunday to purchase a bunch of materials, but decided to get the larger items delivered, as there was too much for one load. Home Depot has a relatively inexpensive delivery fee, and next-day delivery, so it was totally worth it. I also took the opportunity to get additional materials for other projects, e.g. t-posts for the apple trees, extra treated 2x6s to make a second beehive stand, and extras of other stuff I commonly use, just because:

Then this morning I started work on the floor, building it in the workshop. The floor joists use treated 2×6 boards. Looking at the following photo, the shelter will be on the back-left, the feeding station on the back-right, and the deck in the front:

I added foam insulation under the floor of the shelter:

Here you can see the underside:

And added the shelter & feeder floor, using 1/2″ plywood:

Some supports for the deck:

And the deck boards, using 1x2s:

A closer view:

Tomorrow I’ll start on the walls!

Building a cat shelter: plans

As mentioned at the end of a recent blog post about the feral cats, the current shelter for the outdoor cats is a little too small, now that they’re getting bigger. Also, the current feeding station is a bit untidy (aka an ugly hack job).

I considered building a new feeding station that would look nicer. I also considered buying a second heated shelter like the current one. But I finally decided that a better solution would be to build one structure that would serve both needs: a wooden shelter plenty big enough for the cats, and an attached feeding station.

Doing research into existing examples, I thought about many different designs. Jenn had the idea of an old west theme, like a “cat house saloon”, which seemed fun. So I wrote up detailed notes on the design, and yesterday spent pretty much all day drawing some plans. I used The Iconfactory’s excellent Linea Sketch app for iOS, on my 12.9″ iPad Pro, drawing with the Apple Pencil.

Here’s what I came up with. Of course, I’ll probably continue to refine the design as I build it, but I’m pretty happy with this.

The overall size of the structure is 6′ wide (4′ for the shelter, 2′ for the feeding station), 3′ deep, and sloping from 3.5′ high in the front down to 2.5′ in the back.

The walls, floor, and roof of the shelter portion will be insulated, made of two layers of plywood sandwiching some foam. There will also be a couple of heating pads inside.

This is the front elevation, i.e. looking at the front wall. The basic outline is inspired by western buildings, with the roof façades. The left side is the shelter, and the right side is the feeding station; they will be styled as separate buildings, though joined. There are windows at the top, awnings, and doors at the bottom. Most of the shelter wall will open as a maintenance door:

Here’s the right elevation, showing the side view and inside the feeding station. You can see the sloping roof, awning, and a deck out front. Inside is divided into two levels: a cupboard at the top, where the food dispenser sits on a pull-out drawer (to make it easier to fill), with a large tube leading to a tray in the feeding area below, where the cats go in to eat:

Another elevation, this time through the middle of the shelter. Here you can see the cat doors at the front and back (important to have two entrances, so they can escape any threats). You can also see the maintenance door taking most of the front wall, and a vent at the back. The horizontal line across the middle is a sleeping platform:

Finally, the plan (top-down) view. Again, the shelter is on the left, and the feeding station on the right. In the shelter, you can see the two platforms (the darker rectangles), with an open space in the middle. The square in the feeding area is the tray where the food drops. You can also see the deck out front, that is covered by an awning (not shown in this view):

I’m pretty happy with this design. Like the chicken coop, it is perhaps over-designed, but hey, that’s my way. I have tried to keep it fairly simple, and appropriately scaled. I’m also trying to keep it fairly lightweight, since I will be building it in the workshop before moving it into place. I plan to build it in a few pieces to help with that; separate floor, walls, and roof, which will be screwed together when installing. Hopefully that works out.

I already have some of the materials needed, but I’ll go to Home Depot tomorrow for the rest, and will start building in the coming week.

Should be a fun project; I’m looking forward to starting! Of course, I will post about it on this blog. Stay tuned!

What do you think? Any ideas for improvements? Let me know in the comments!