Report From the Field: Shelter-Building Workshop

We wondered what it would be like to help out at a Toronto Street Cats’ Shelter-Building Workshop. Yin, one of our writers, volunteered to go and find out. Here is her report.

I arrived shortly after 10 am for the first workshop of the season, which runs from November to April. Volunteers, around 20 of them, had already organized themselves into different stations in the parking garage of the Toronto Humane Society and were working away to construct feral cat shelters. The goal for the day: 100 shelters by 3 pm. Throughout the morning, volunteers continued to file in, young and old, from diverse backgrounds. There was even a pair of exchange students from Turkey who came to help out. By noon, workshop attendance had risen to over 60 volunteers.

shelter-building workshop

When Toronto Street Cats first began these workshops in 2010, the organization had around 12 volunteers who made about a dozen or so shelters at each workshop. In the short span of five years, with the help of over 500 volunteers, TSC has built 3,222 shelters to date. The organization also holds spay and neuter clinics every month and it is looking to roll out its new initiative – putting together teams of volunteers who will actively solicit cat food donations to feed feral colonies. Anyone interested in helping should contact Toronto Street Cats.

During my conversation with organizers Carol and Kali, they generously shared with me some interesting facts on the supply and demand of these cat shelters.

TSC partners with companies such as The Home Depot, Canadian Tire, and Armtec to purchase building materials (i.e. bins, insulation, and piping). The shelters are sold at $15, to cover costs, to groups and individuals managing colonies or tending to one or two feral cats. The organization also gives a portion of the finished product to Toronto Animal Services and Animal Alliance of Canada. Shelters from the previous season have all been sold. Orders in preparation for this winter have already begun. To purchase a shelter, please place an order online.

shelter-building workshop

Volunteers work in an assembly line fashion. Each station is responsible for a distinct component or step in the construction. They work under the supervision of Team Leads, who are essentially volunteer veterans. I had an opportunity to speak with Joy and Heather, both Team Leads, who have dedicated their time to these workshops for the past 3 years. Both possess an overwhelming passion to help the feral cat population in the community.

Jan, a first time volunteer, read about the workshop in the Toronto Humane Society’s newsletter. She loves cats and was motivated to help. Grade 10 students Henry, Harry, Fardin, and Tyler also wanted to contribute their efforts because of their love for animals.

As a result of all of the volunteers’ hard work, close to 140 shelters were completed that day.

If you are interested in learning more or volunteering with TSC to build feral cat shelters, please visit their website at The next workshop is Saturday November 28.

— Yin Cai

Photos courtesy Toronto Street Cats

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