winter shelter cats toronto

You can get a winter shelter for stray cats to put in your backyard in Toronto

Did you know you can pick up a winter shelter for any stray cats that may regularly visit your backyard in Toronto?

It's actually a program that's been going on since 2010 started by Toronto Street Cats that has made more than 7,000 shelters over the years.

"Dr. Hanna Booth, DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) and Dr. Joanne Coote, DVM started Toronto Street Cats. Their goal was to improve the life of street cats. They wanted Toronto Street Cats to focus on two things and to do them well. One was to run an all volunteer free spay/neuter services to individuals who cared for these street cats," Carol Hroncek of TSC told blogTO.

"The other was to provide winter shelters to keep the cats warm and safe during the winter. To make the shelters they started recruiting volunteers within the rescue community to participate in what we now refer to as shelter building workshops. These workshops have been running every other Saturday from Nov. to Feb./March every year since."

After over a decade, the winter shelters program has ballooned in the number of volunteers and shelters they're able to produce.

"At first the workshops were smaller, maybe 10 or so people, and the output, the shelters, a dozen or so per workshop," says Hroncek.

"Over time we've expanded greatly, refined/streamlined our processes, and been able to get our name out such that pre-pandemic, we'd be able to have, on average, 30 to 40 volunteers at each workshop and at each produce, between 80 to 110 shelters."

The pandemic may have changed how the program operates, but it's still a major purpose of the organization.

winter shelter cats toronto

Winter shelters for stray cats are filled with cozy straw. Photo courtesy of Toronto Street Cats.

"With the pandemic we've had to greatly modify our processes to ensure everyone is kept safe and socially distanced, wearing masks. This season we've only had 10 volunteers at each workshop and yet have still been able to make over 450 shelters so far," says Hroncek.

"We are deeply grateful to the Toronto Humane Society. We hold all our workshops in their garage and they have provided storage space for us to keep all our supplies and inventory."

Most shelters are sold in Toronto, but people from all over Ontario have come to Toronto Street Cats to get them. The shelters are $15 or if you buy 3 or more you get each for $10. If you can't buy one or pick one up, they offer tips on how to make your own.

"Very often people come from out of town with a rented van or multiple people with SUVs and stock up with 20-40 shelters at once. Plus through our website and social media, we've shared many DIY ideas that we've compiled," says Hroncek.

The shelters are plastic totes lined with Durofoam and filled with straw, and they have a trade-in program where you can get an old shelter re-lined for $5. They're usually sold at the building workshops which are currently done for the year due to COVID, though they'll be updating their website to let people know if more workshops can be held.

If more workshops can be held at the Toronto Humane Society, the shelters will be on sale there. Otherwise, you can make an appointment to pick up a shelter at TSC near Bathurst and St. Clair.

There are a ton of comprehensive tips on how to use and place your shelter, but Hroncek says most people end up putting them "in their back yard, under their deck, on their front porch, in their sheds, always somewhere discreet."

Basically, make sure you have permission to place it, and that it's protected from the wind, raised if possible, stable, and filled with clean dry straw. Don't put food and water inside as it can soil and dampen the straw.

"Many people have gone to local businesses and received approval from them to place cat shelters on their properties and also to work with the business to get the cats spayed and neutered," says Hroncek.

"This pandemic has made things a little more challenging, to say the least, but we're determined to ensure we have shelters available to keep cats warm."

Photos by

courtesy of Toronto Street Cats

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