College & Pets: The Hardest Part About Leaving Home

After having completed my first week at the University of Vermont, I love college. The first few days were not an easy adjustment, as high school doesn’t prepare you for the gut-wrenching feeling of suddenly being on your own, but I have found that I love it here, and I am happy to call Burlington my home for the next four years.

However, I couldn’t even make it one whole week without a pet, so Saturday afternoon found me making a run to the nearest Petco and becoming the proud new owner of a “fancy” hermit crab. As an animal science major, who could blame me? After all, the whole week I had dropped Oreo crumbs on the dorm floor and scooped them up hurriedly, my first instinct being to get them before one of my three dogs did. I had hesitantly placed my glass water bottle on the edge of my desk, worried that my cat would knock it over later. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a pet in the house, and having one in my dorm seemed to bring about a feeling of normalcy.

Dwight, my new hermit crab, seems to be enjoying himself so far. He has a big tank, and I’ve ordered some climbing toys for him online. I did extensive research on hermit crab care before heading to Petco, and I don’t necessarily recommend hermit crab ownership to everyone. Their tanks must be a certain humidity and temperature, and they require a balanced diet outside of pelleted food (aka, spinach leaves and strawberries that I bring home from the dining hall). However, if the college allows pets, I do recommend fish with a proper filtration system and care.
Leaving pets behind during college is an experience that is different from leaving one’s parents; a student’s family understands that they need to go and spread their wings, but what about the family dog? Does (s)he feel abandoned, even heartbroken? There’s no definitive answer to that, and I think that’s why leaving pets behind can be so hard. My cat is 14 years old, and I am terrified that she may become heartbroken and think that, after 14 years, I have abandoned her. I believe she may know that I’m not abandoning her, and that leaving her for a few months at a time during the next four years (and then four more) is something I have to do, but there is no way to tell. Our pets can’t always express to us everything that we wish they could, so college students (or anyone leaving their pets for an extended period) must just hope for the best and think about how excited Fido will be upon a Thanksgiving reunion.

Careers for the Animal-Loving Millennial

As a senior in high school, I know firsthand what it’s like to be asked every five minutes by any adults in the vicinity what it is I want to do with my life. Fortunately for me, I have always known that I wanted to go into veterinary medicine as a practicing veterinarian, but for some young animal lovers, the path to take isn’t always clear. Here are some careers for college-bound animal fans:

Artificial Insemination Technician
AI technicians use the latest in artificial insemination technology in order to safely breed cows, horses, and even dogs or cats. Technicians work with veterinarians and specialists to regulate breeding and to monitor the heat cycles of animals. More information here

Canine Nutritionist
Canine nutritionists create dietary plans for dogs and work with clients to find the best food options for their dog, whether the dog suffers from allergies or weight problems or anything in between. More information here

Animal Cruelty Investigator
Animal cruelty investigators investigate cruelty, document cases, and enforce laws against animal cruelty. This job can be heartbreaking, as investigators deal with harrowing scenes of abuse on a daily basis. More information here

Pet Adoption Counselor
Pet adoption counselors advocate for adoption and match potential owners with their perfect shelter pet. More information here

Veterinary Pathologist
Veterinary pathologists prevent and treat pathogens found in animals, domesticated or otherwise. More information here

Wildlife Rehabilitator
Wildlife rehabilitators work to rehabilitate sick or injured wildlife and educate the public on what to do if a sick or hurt wild animal is found. More information here

Hearts in Our Hamburger

The USDA recently made the call to allow “wholesome” beef heart and tongue meat into ground beef. Previously, the USDA has used the rules of “Policy Memo 027”, which stated that beef hearts and tongues weren’t something consumers would expect in ground beef and therefore should be kept out of it.

This policy has been followed for the last forty years, but now all of a sudden it has been reinterpreted.  Aaron Lavallee, the deputy assistant administrator in the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education, states that “The addition of heart and tongue meat to ground beef does not make it any less safe or wholesome to consume,” and “there is no change to FSIS regulations.”

With no change to policy on paper, why has the USDA suddenly decided to view their 40-year-old policy in a different light? Beef hearts and tongues are notoriously cheaper than many other cuts of meat, and it is important to note that not all parts of the heart are being considered viable for hamburger; the arteries, aorta, etc. are still considered by-products and only the cardiac muscle is being used for consumption.

The most concerning part of this development is that the FSIS is saying that heart and tongue meat have never been banned from hamburger in the first place, though the USDA online policy book states that “Heart meat and tongue meat as organ meats are not acceptable ingredients in chopped beef, ground beef, or hamburger” (Food Standards & Labeling Policy Book, page 67). The policy book sourced is dated August of 2005, and Lavallee states that “We know that the policy labeling book from 1982 was not accurate and it did not mesh with FSIS regulations.” If so, then why hasn’t the policy been removed?

Though most of our hamburgers from here on out will not contain heart or tongue meat because of the dependency most companies have on other cuts of meat, the prospect may still seem concerning to many consumers. Heart and tongue meat are not dangerous and, in some cultures, are considered delicacies, but it still raises questions of food safety when consumers aren’t entirely sure what the ingredients are in the meat they are buying.

Octavian & Marc Antony

After my chinchilla Caesar was euthanized, I missed him and continue to miss him terribly. My room felt empty without him watching me do my homework or climbing over my pillows. While I knew I could never replace him, I started looking for a chinchilla breeder.
Caesar had been bought from a pet store, and I didn’t want to support the cruel business of mass-bred animals any longer, as I had done so unknowingly with Caesar. I loved him, and I still do, but it is always best to go through a small breeder rather than a pet store. I can’t say that what Caesar suffered from was caused by his birth in a small animal mill, but it could have contributed to it and I didn’t want to make that mistake again, or support an inhumane business.

I started looking online at shelters and breeders, and none of them had any chinchillas available. A furry friend would come along when it was the right time, I was sure, but it was still disappointing to receive emails from breeders saying that they wouldn’t have any chinchillas up for adoption for a long time.

I finally found a breeder in Keene, New Hampshire, and we sent her an email asking what she had for chins available. She got back to us and said she didn’t have any babies, but she did have two 2-3 year old chinchillas, one being a mosaic and the other a pink-white. She said that they had been housed together for a year and a half, and were adopted out, but the man who adopted them couldn’t take care of them any longer and returned them. I had been looking for a baby chinchilla, and only one of them, but I decided to go to New Hampshire and check them out.

I thoroughly cleaned out Caesar’s old cage, which, coincidentally, is the recommended size for two chinchillas, and my mom and I headed up to Keene. It was a two and a half hour drive, and when we slid up the snow-covered dirt driveway, we were greeted by an arsenal of angry geese. The breeder had an array of animals on the property, but the geese were certainly the most fearsome.

We were led inside a garage by Kitt, the breeder we had been communicating with via email. The two chinchillas were in a box, and my mom and I each held one of them while we talked to Kitt about their temperaments. She said they hadn’t been held since being returned to her, and that they were docile and shy. They seemed  to be content to just be held, and I already knew I wanted to take them home. The pink-white chinchilla had a mangled ear that Kitt said he had injured when he fought with another chinchilla he was originally housed with, and the mosaic chinchilla had a missing toe that I presumed he got from whatever cage he was housed in before.

Unsurprisingly, I adopted the chinchillas, thinking of names the whole way home. As a nod to my little pal Caesar, I named them Octavian (mosaic) and Marc Antony (pink-white) to continue the Roman name legacy I had started with Caesar. While I knew I’d never be able to replace Caesar, Marc Antony and Octavian nosed their way into my heart, and I love them very much. It’s been a little over six months since I adopted them, and they have been great from day one.

When adopting a new pet  after another one’s death, it is important to remember that you can never replace the bond or the pet you had before with a new one. It is best to wait for a little while to give yourself time to properly address the loss of a pet before hurrying into adopting another one; the bond you have with your pet is special, and it is different for every person and pet. If you are expecting to replace a beloved animal, you are going to be disappointed and miss your old companion more than ever. The best thing to do is give yourself time, and when you are ready, invite a new furry friend into your home with the expectation of a different but valuable human-animal bond.

16 Things To Do With Your Pet In 2016

2015 went fast, so fast that many of us were unable to stop and enjoy it before it was gone. To make sure you don’t miss out on spending quality time with your pets in this upcoming second half of 2016, here is a list of 16 things to do before the year slips by.


1. Grow Some Catnip
Cats love catnip, and if your cat is an outdoor cat, planting some of these perennials in your flower or vegetable garden is a good way to attract your cat and to keep rodents away. Just be wary of your cat’s behavior around the plant, because some cats like to lay on it and therefore could destroy whatever else you have growing around the catnip. If that’s the case, growing the catnip away from the rest of your garden is a good idea.
If your cat is an indoor cat, satisfy his/her catnip cravings by planting it in pots and rotate between having some outside and inside. Catnip needs a lot of light, therefore indoor pots should be rotated outside periodically.

2. Walk Your Pet
This doesn’t only apply to your dog; some cats enjoy walks on a leash as well. Before you walk your pet, it is important to make sure you invest in a collar and metal collar tags with your pet’s name and your address and phone number in case your pet escapes and is found. While you can walk a dog or a cat with just a leash and a collar, it is beneficial to invest in a harness as well. Collars can choke your pet and put unnecessary strain on their neck while a harness spreads the pressure and makes for a more comfortable, controlled walk.
Not all cats respond well to walking on a leash, however; it is wise to test out your cat’s walking preferences in your yard before taking him/her on a walk. Many cats find enjoyment in the walk just as many dogs do, and the stimulation received by the smells and sights of the outdoors get your pet’s mind thinking actively. Walking with your pet is a great tool to strengthen the bond between you and your pet.

3. Invest In Some Pet Toys
Dogs and cats alike love toys, and playing with your pet helps to form and strengthen the bond between you, whether it is playing Frisbee at the local park with your dog or using a wand toy with something dangling on the end for your cat to bat around.

4. Go Backpacking With Your Dog
Before you take your dog on a backpacking trip, make sure that both you and your dog are experienced hikers. Make sure to pack enough water and food for you and your dog, and be confident in your first aid abilities if either one of you were injured. Backpacking trips can be a fun way to become one with nature and spend time with your dog.

5. Go Hiking With Your Dog
If you don’t have the expertise or training to go backpacking with Fido, fear not; a small hike through a nearby national park or trail once in a while is just as enjoyable.

6. Make Some Homemade Treats
Dogs and cats love treats, and it is important to give your pet the best nutrition. Sometimes it is hard to tell what ingredients are really in treats for your pet, but when you make homemade ones, you can ensure that they are the best for your furry best friend. Many recipes can be accessed online, and below I have a couple links to treat recipes you can try.
Dog Treats –
Cat Treats –

7. Sign Up For Obedience Training
Spending time with your dog by teaching him/her to listen to vocal or hand cues is rewarding for you and your dog; it builds trust between you two and also helps promote safety when the training is applied to situations where your dog has escaped. If Fido has been taught to return to you on command, there is a lesser risk of him or her becoming lost. Obedience training can be basic or advanced, and whether you continue it to the level of obedience trials and contests is up to you. Either way, you and your dog will enjoy the time you spend together.

8. Build a Cat Tree
Cats love scratching and climbing, and to prevent that urge from being taken out on the wall or couch, it is beneficial to have some sort of cat tree in your home. There are plenty available at your local pet stores, but if you want to customize it, there are plenty of DIY tutorials online depicting how to build one yourself, whether you want one that is elaborate or simple.
Here is just one of many DIYs for this project online:
more elaborate ideas:

9. Bring Your Dog On A Trip
There are many hotels, restaurants, stores, and tourist attractions that are pet friendly. Next time you’re planning a getaway, check out websites like

10. Train Your Pet To Be A Therapy Pet
If your pet is patient and loves visitors, you can sign up to be certified to have your pet be a therapy pet. You can volunteer in nursing homes or hospitals and bring the joy your pet brings you to other people. Or, for a less intensive commitment, you can start a Reading With Dogs event at you local library, where you can organize to have your pet and other people’s pets sit with children while they read so they can become more comfortable with reading out loud.

11. Host a Pet Party
Whether it’s your pet’s adoption anniversary, birthday, or simply just for fun, a pet party is a great way to socialize with your friends, and your pet’s (often new-found) friends. For ideas on themes for the perfect dog party, click here.

12. Organize A Dog Walk For Charity
Get your community involved in a cause by organizing a dog walk for charity! Advertise it through fliers and local media outlets, and have the proceeds go to a local shelter or your favorite animal organization.

13. Have A Photo Shoot With Your Pet
Feeling photogenic? Get professional photos of you and your pet, or invite a friend and do an informal shoot at your house or a park.

14. Make Social Media Accounts For Your Pet
Social media is a fun way to share your pet’s antics with the world, as I and my family know firsthand with our Instagram account for our mutt Watson (@watsonthemutt). Make a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account for your pet and invite your friends to follow it so they never miss the next cutest thing your pet does.

15. Play Piano With Your Cat
My cat Shadow loves to step on my keyboard while I’m practicing, and sometimes it can be a lot of fun. You can even record what your cat plays and mix it into a song!

16. Spend Quality Time With Your Pet
If we’re being honest, it doesn’t matter what activity you do with your pet – whether you throw an extravagant pet party or simply go for a walk with your pet, they are going to love the quality time you spend together. Pets make any occasion a better one, so no matter what you do, make sure to spend quality time with your pet.

Saying Goodbye To Caesar

One of the saddest things I’ve experienced happened to me this week when I went to the veterinary clinic with my chinchilla, Caesar. I knew it was coming, had known for almost two weeks, but as soon as the vet left me and my mom for a few minutes with him to decide on burial options, I started to cry. I didn’t want to have to make any decisions, and I didn’t want to go through with any of it, not when I was holding him, his little heart beating fast in his little chest. Whenever I picture a pet going through euthanasia, I picture one that is old, unable to walk, clearly in so much agony that signing the paper for the needle is a blessing for the poor animal. Caesar was in pain, his energy was minimal, but it was different. Chinchillas hide their symptoms of sickness and pain very well as a defense mechanism; predators target prey that appears to be weak. This makes it hard for owners to know caesarwhen chinchillas are sick sometimes, and it makes diagnosis difficult. It also makes it hard, when the decision falls upon an owner’s shoulders, to go through with putting a beloved chinchilla (or any pet, really) to sleep. It was the right thing to do, he was in pain, but it was hard to visualize the magnitude of suffering he had to have been enduring during the last week.
I first brought Caesar to Norton Animal Hospital in November. He had been drooling and pawing at his mouth, which are two textbook symptoms for tooth problems. I was nervous when we went to the clinic but we were soon introduced to Dr. Thomas Silberhorn, who always told us all of our options and kept us informed. Caesar’s bottom front incisors had grown up into the top of his mouth because he had stopped chewing on the chews (including his wood hay manger, lava rocks, and wood chews) that were in his cage for him. Dr. Silberhorn clipped Caesar’s teeth down, prescribed an eye lubricant for his runny eyes, and we left, hoping that periodic tooth trimming would be our only worry.
It soon became apparent that something else was wrong. His teeth had become overgrown again, but Dr. Silberhorn also found an infection by Caesar’s back molars. His teeth were trimmed easily, but the infection was problematic. It was also discovered that his teeth were growing downward into his mandible, causing him pain. The latter was the most grim; surgery was possible, but the odds were not good. In order to fix it, Caesar would have had to be put under anesthesia (which was risky in itself) and his mandible would have to be drilled carefully so the teeth could be taken out. A chinchilla’s mandible is very small and fragile, and if it were to be fractured during the surgery, he would have to be put to sleep. Caesar’s lifespan and our options depended on whether or not the teeth pushing through his mandible would stay the same or get worse. Dr. Silberhorn prescribed an antibiotic for the infection and told us to come back in two weeks and see if anything had changed.
I decided right away that if it came down to surgery, I wouldn’t make Caesar go through with it. The surgery was risky, a procedure that Dr. Silberhorn himself didn’t like doing. To go through hours of surgery with the odds so badly stacked against my little friend was not a fair option. I tried not to worry about it, but the truth was that it scared me to death. We administered the antibiotic, but after a week, it was clear that Caesar was suffering terribly. He ate very little and wouldn’t even accept treats, he was drinking half as much as he did before, and he was extremely lethargic. It seemed as though the infection had gone away, but the teeth pushing through his mandible were relentless. Administering the antibiotic was not pleasant for Caesar, and after a week and a half I stopped. I didn’t want him to be mad at me for forcing his mouth open to give him medication if this was the end for him; I wanted him to know that I loved him.
This past Wednesday was our two week check in, and I couldn’t have felt worse. I wasn’t letting myself believe what was probably going to happen, and the inevitable wasn’t something I was ready for. Caesar’s infection had cleared up, but there wasn’t much to celebrate. Caesar had lost almost 100 grams in two weeks, a big drop for such a little guy. Dr. Silberhorn told us that X-rays may be the next step, but that was before he felt Caesar’s jaw, and had us feel it too. What had been a small bump before had grown huge in a matter of only two weeks. Things were going downhill extremely fast, and our choices became even more grim. Dr. Silberhorn could prescribe a painkiller, which wouldn’t solve anything, only keep Caesar alive for a little longer. The other option was to put him to sleep. We were given a few moments to decide, but I already knew what I didn’t want to do, but had to do. I couldn’t just keep him alive out of selfishness; if nothing was going to get better, and there was no medications that would help him rather than just keep him going, I had no choice but to put him to sleep.
It was the first time that I had ever cried at a veterinary clinic. Caesar was fully my pet; he lived in a huge four-level cage in my room for four years. I thoroughly cleaned his cage out every week, gave him periodic dust baths, and let him run around on my bed. I taught him to come to the cage door when I shook his treat bag, and he wasn’t afraid to jump into my hands and up my arm when invited. My grandparents had gotten him for me when I was visiting them (my grandfather had read somewhere that chinchillas were on sale at a pet store and mentioned it to me) and my parents (much to my surprise) agreed to let me go get him. I named him after Julius Caesar, my favorite historical figure after completing my 7th grade history class. I loved him so much, and letting him go was extremely hard; I’ve been upset ever since. I know that he isn’t in pain anymore, which is something to take comfort in, but I wish he hadn’t been hurting in the first place. I don’t know if he understood what was happening or not, and I don’t know if chinchillas (or any of us) go anywhere after they (or we) die. All I can do is hope that he is happy wherever he is, and that he understands that I loved him and did what I believed was best for him.

Dog Days Of Summer


   It may be the middle of August already, but summer still has some warm life left in it before we are thrown into the chill and sweater-strewn days of autumn. Below, you will find some great activity ideas you can do with your dog before the dreary days of winter, as well as some helpful tips to ensure Fido’s health and safety.

Take Your Dog For A Walk
The days are starting to feel a little less blistering than they did in July, so why not take advantage of some of the cooler days by taking Fido for a walk? It’s a great way to get exercise, both for you and your pup. If your dog has a habit of being destructive and chewing up things (s)he shouldn’t, try taking him/her on walks to get rid of some of that energy. Taking walks with your dog is a good way to bond, relieve stress, and enjoy the outdoors. Make sure you have a secure leash and harness/collar (although harnesses are the best for walking) and a firm grip on the leash while walking your pet. It is also important for your pet to have a collar with an identification tag and license. Before taking a walk with your dog, make sure it isn’t too hot to walk him/her by using this effective trick: put the back of your hand to the pavement and if it is too hot for you to keep your hand there for five seconds, it is too hot to walk your pet. (link)

Take Your Dog Somewhere New
There are many restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, beaches, and other attractions that allow dogs, and if you’re looking to get away for a few days, or maybe just go on a day trip or outing, is a valuable resource to find pet-friendly attractions near you or your intended destination. The website even has an “Events” tab where you can find dog events worldwide for you and Fido to visit. 

…Or Somewhere Close
You don’t need to go far to have a great time with your pet. Teach Fido a new trick in the backyard, or maybe play a game of fetch or Frisbee. Call up some of your friends who also have dogs and schedule a day where you meet up at the local dog park or someone’s yard for some puppy socializing and people socializing too. Run around in sprinklers, make pet friendly ice pops (recipes can be found at, or just enjoy the sunshine —  whatever it is, Fido will be happy to spend the time with you.

Helpful Tips/Reminders
– Remember to never leave Fido in the car for an extended period of time. When the temperature is in the 60’s (Fahrenheit) or higher, especially on a sunny day, it is recommended to not leave your dog in the car. Temperatures rise drastically in a car, even more than people realize. If you have any doubts at all about the temperature being too hot, do not chance leaving Fido in the car.
– Mosquitoes and other bugs too much to bear? You can find many bug repellents and do-it-yourself bug repellent recipes online that use essential oils and are safe to use on and around your pet. Don’t let pests get in the way!
– Always be on the alert for fleas and ticks by using products such as Frontline and bathe your pet in anti-flea and tick shampoos. Check your dogs regularly and thoroughly for ticks, especially if you or Fido have been in an area with tall grass/brush. Keep your dog up to date on all preventative medicines and vaccines, such as heart worm pills and rabies vaccines to ensure their health and safety as well as the health and safety of other dogs they may come in contact with.
– It may not seem to be too hot, but always be sure to have water available for your pet, especially when they are outside. Take the appropriate safety measures for your pet to ensure that overheating and dehydration doesn’t occur.
– Spend time with your pet, and have a safe and fun rest of the summer, both for you and Fido.

Your Move, SeaWorld

After a cruelty reign of 145 years, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey made the announcement on March 5th we’d all been waiting for but never thought would come:  the corporation is to retire its entire elephant herd to the conservation center set up in Florida by the year 2018 ( Thankfully, elephant entertainment, as far as Feld Entertainment is concerned, will soon be a part of the past, though this new decision in no way excuses Ringling Bros. from the horrific methods of abuse, containment, and mistreatment of elephants and other animal acts over the last 145 years. We can only hope that the retirement of all circus animals is to follow.  check out the following links for more information on the circus of cruelty –,,

While the announcement was a welcome one for all who care for animal welfare, most attention then turned to another mega-corporation with a history of animal cruelty: SeaWorld, and the spotlight was on the marine parks with the challenge “your move, SeaWorld.
SeaWorld has had quite the history of animal cruelty, from the criminally small tanks housing animals that belong in the seemingly endless expanse of ocean they were born to roam to the trainer injuries and even deaths as a result of improper animal care.
SeaWorld experienced a 60% drop in their stock price, as well as a revenue drop of 7% and an attendance drop of 5% ( as documented after the release of Blackfish, a 2013 documentary that exposed SeaWorld as being a cruel corporation. These small setbacks for the monstrous company aren’t enough, however, and animal activists haven’t stopped protesting or spreading the word that SeaWorld kills to hopefully end the corporation once and for all.

Sign the petition to enact the Orca Welfare and Safety Act in California here

below is the official trailer for the Blackfish documentary

Adoption Tips: Dogs

So, after months of prodding from your children or a move out of that pet-free apartment or even a sudden desire for a furry friend, you’ve decided that your home would be more complete with a dog. That’s wonderful; dogs, or any pet really, have been proven to raise morale (source: and even keep you healthier. Before you go and bring Fido home, however, there are a few things you have to make sure of.

Are you prepared for a new pet?
Before you go looking for your new best friend, make sure it isn’t just a decision you’re making on a whim; dogs are a lot of work, and are worth all of that work, but only if you’re in it for the long run. If you have other pets, make sure that they’ll be alright with a new addition to the family. A few things you’ll need for Fido before you bring him home are:
– a collar (fitted with license and identification tags as soon as you can)
– a leash
– food and water bowls
– food (dry kibble is a good start)
– a crate
– baby gates (if you have spaces you want to keep your new friend out of)
– toys
– dog bed (optional, depending on if you want Fido in your bed or not)

What type of dog are you looking for?
This is a very important question, because there are a lot of factors to look into if you’re looking for a specific breed, such as temperament around children if you have any, allergen risks, etc. If you don’t have a lot of space, such as if you live in an apartment, a big, active Great Dane probably isn’t the right choice for you. Some key factors to look into when deciding on a specific breed are as follows:
– temperament, such as energy level, protectiveness, and intelligence
– size
– cost (such as grooming)
– allergies that would prevent you from certain dog fur exposure
– health problems associated with specific breeds (such as hip dysplasia in golden retrievers)
– compatibility with children and/or other pets (based on your individual situation)

How can you adopt safely?
Shelters are always the best and first choice for pet adoptions, and many shelters have specific breeds rescued from puppy mills or otherwise unclaimed that would be perfect for your family. If you aren’t looking for a specific breed, shelters always have plenty of mutts or breeds you may just fall in love with. If you’ve gone to local shelters and just haven’t found the right dog to take home yet, you can always wait and check back at another time, or you can look into finding a reputable local breeder. Looking into is also a good option, but stay away from websites like Craig’s List and pet stores, where more often than not the dogs are coming from cruel puppy mills that you don’t want to help fund.

DIY Feral Cat Shelter

Even if you don’t see them, a feral cat community is probably right in your neighborhood. Now that the cold winter season has started, life can get difficult for these cats, leaving them vulnerable and prone to frostbite, which can lead to infections, disabilities, and death. Homemade feral cat shelters are easy to make and can take the edge off this winter for the colony in your neighborhood.

cat shelter-rubbermaid
A large storage bin (Rubbermaids work well)
Foam core insulation (can be found at your local hardware store)
Box cutter
Straw or newspaper (no hay)


1.  Cut a door in the side of the storage bin, preferably several inches above the ground to prevent flooding. If cutting the bin is difficult, soften the plastic by blowing hot air on it with a hairdryer. Be careful not to cut or burn yourself. If you live in an area with a lot of predators (foxes, coyotes, etc.), consider adding a back door to the shelter as an emergency escape doorway.

2. Using the yardstick to measure the dimensions, cut a piece of the foam core with the box cutter to fit on the bottom of the bin.

3. Cut pieces of the foam core with the box cutter, making sure to leave room at the top of the bin for the roof piece of foam core to fit there.

4. Cut doorway(s) in the foam core that matches the doorway(s) in the side of the storage bin.

5. Stuff the newspaper or straw in the bottom of the bin to hold the foam core walls in place and to add some more insulation to the shelter.

6. Cut out a roof from the foam core to fit on top and place the lid of the bin on top, making sure it secures all the way and fits with the insulation.

7. Place the shelter in an area outside where it is somewhat protected from the snow blowing in the doorway.