MITCHELL, S.D. — As winter settles in, bringing frigid temperatures to the area, stray and feral cats are left to fend off the cold for survival.
Olivia Taylor of Mitchell is doing everything she can to help cats endure the winter weather conditions with her creative do-it-yourself outdoor cat shelters. What were once vehicle tires are now three DIY cat shelters Taylor made in her garage.
Stray cats are socialized to humans, while feral cats are wild cats with little to no human interaction.
“When it gets extremely cold during the winter there is a real possibility that cats might not be able to make it,” Taylor said. “I’ve been making outdoor shelters for three years, and I’ve helped quite a few cats with them.”
Although she had never used a reciprocating saw, Taylor taught herself to operate one. After she cut roughly 2-foot-wide holes in one end of the tires with the saw, she nailed cylinder-shaped wooden boards on each side of the tires.
Lastly, Taylor fills the tire with fine wood chippings that provide warmth and insulation.
“Before making these tire cat shelters this year, I had turned totes and Styrofoam coolers into shelters for the winter,” she said.
Hoping to save as many cats as possible this winter, Taylor said each shelter could hold two to three cats.
While the shelter can provide an enclosed, warm space for stray and feral cats that are unable to withstand extreme cold weather, a cat could still die if the temperatures remain frigid over an extended period of time. That’s why Taylor frequently checks her makeshift shelters for cats in dire need of warmer air.
The shelters have proven to be effective, as Taylor has found plenty of cold, sometimes malnourished cats over the past few winters. When she comes upon a cat in her outdoor shelters, Taylor nurses them back to health and brings them to local animal rescues.