Snow-free Sanctuary for Toronto’s Feral Cats

“I feel like part of a team – like I make a difference,” says Stephen McGillis, a resident of the Atkinson Co-operative who has recently been building outdoor shelter structures for feral cats living near the Kensington Route. Stephen believes that the city’s homeless and feral cats need refuge and security as much as people do – and this led him towards his own form of contribution – an elaborate shelter structure that can house up to seven feral cats in his own backyard during the cold winter months.

ACR Winter Shelter

Stephen has adapted shelter-style spaces for cats to take refuge in away from the harsh elements of Toronto’s winter weather in the Atkinson Co-op area. Cats began showing up in Stephen’s area a few years ago, and soon enough, there were “regulars” that frequented his backyard. The cats who now call his backyard home were originally afraid, but soon grew confident to approach and interact with him.

Made of Rubbermaid tubs, Styrofoam, and straw, these shelters are predominantly built at the Toronto Humane Society and at shelter build clinics organized by the Toronto Street Cats organization. Stephen has modified these basic structures with his own materials and creative ideas – focusing on creating an environment where the cats can seek shelter, but also play and enjoy living in a safe space. Stephen’s shelters are filled with blankets, towels, and toys and are variations of the structures created by volunteers at shelter build clinics.

ACR Winter Shelter

ACR Board Chair and volunteer Marianne Premuzic describes the importance of these structures as a basic form of refuge, “the straw and Styrofoam insulation in the shelters really provides a great deal of warmth for the cats” says Marianne, who has participated at shelter build clinics. Outdoor shelters are intended for feral cats, usually the offspring of tame cats who are abandoned or lost and have grown up without human contact. “The winter shelters are a key element in improving the lives of homeless cats in Toronto,” notes Marianne, who advocates for a standard of care for those cats living beyond the confines of domestic homes.

While outdoor shelters might seem like a small contribution, the act of proving feral cats with warmth, security, and refuge greatly improves their quality of life. “If they’re okay, then I’m okay,” says Stephen, who is just happy to be making his furry friends’ lives a little bit easier. “They’ve never had love, security, or a home” says Stephen, whose actions, combined with the many efforts of shelter build volunteers in the GTA, are making a meaningful difference for feral cats in need of an outdoor place to call home.

Donations to ACR’s “Purrrfect Gifts” holiday giving campaign under the “Snow-free Sanctuary” category helped provide numerous outdoor shelters for feral cats this winter – thank you for your generosity in helping to provide warmth and safety to feral cats across the city!

For more information about outdoor shelters for feral cats, check out the Toronto Street Cats website – a great resource for information on volunteering at shelter builds and why these structures are so important to our furry friends living outdoors in the GTA.

 

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