Keeping Feral Cats Warm: The Saga of “Fish Tank Cat”

Dear Readers,

While I haven’t written extensively about it yet, I have set up a feral cat sanctuary in my little city barn. It’s old, it has windows I can leave open yet secure, and with its loft space and lots of hiding places, I figured it would be ideal for cats. I had two come live with me, one of which found another spot to hang out down the block and is only here part time (See: Calliope) and another that found my couch (See: Senor Pantalones)

The lazy quitter.
The hard worker still doing her job.











During winter prep of the backyard, I moved the yard furniture into the barn and rearranged a few things. I have an old fishtank in there that got left behind. Since it was doing nothing, I opened up the lid and stuffed in a blanket in case Calliope wanted to nap. Recently, I came into the barn and, upon looking into the fish tank, noted a pair of yellow eyes looking back at me. It seems that another cat picked up on the scent of “Cats Welcome” emanating from the barn and, during the extremely low temps we’ve had the last few weeks here in Chicago, decided to seek warmth in the fish tank. He is now known as “Fish Tank Cat.”

While fish tanks are not known as the best of feral cat shelters, I figured that it would be easier to amend his current situation rather than oust him entirely if that’s what he liked. There are feral shelters in the barn but he seemed to gravitate toward the fish tank, clearly because cats love fish (or so they would have us believe).

A home only a cat could love. Look REALLY close and you’ll see Fish Tank Cat in the window.

I noticed, upon further inspection while he was away, that his little breath was creating an icy fog on the inside of the tank. In order to help him stay warm in the negative temps, I ordered some emergency mylar blankets from Amazon. Sadly, they did not arrive quick enough to thwart the ever dropping temps, so I improvised. I found some mylar shiny wrapping paper in the attic and lined the tank with that. Festive, crinkly, warm. Next, I stuffed his comforter back in and lined the sides with additional bed sheets I have set aside for needy cats (as opposed to the self-made cats who have it all). Finally, I put a thick rug over the top halfway to help him keep in some heat yet let him enter and exit with ease. Voila: A makeshift cat shelter.

Now, if you want to actually make a cat shelter, you can get one of those thick Rubbermaid Tubs with a lid. Line that bad boy with some foam board insulation from the hardware store and stuff it with straw (not hay) and, after cutting a door on the front, you now have a cozy feral home. Alley Cat Allies also shows you a variety of homes, both purchased and homemade here.

One of my feral tubs. TOASTY!

Fish Tank Cat comes and goes like a wraith. He only allows me to approach on my knees, bearing the gifts of water and wet food. I can’t get a good look at him because he prefers to wait outside the window while his waitstaff services his accommodations, so he may need some TNR in the future. For now, I’ll just keep him warm and fed.






  • dood….itz veree nice ta meet ewe….well, ewe noe….& pantz…984 paws UP ta mom fod for lookin out for de out door crew….we noe they iz bee yond buzzed happee ta noe sum one carez…..stay safe guyz N warm anda happee healthee new yeer two all ~~~~ ♥♥♥♥♥

  • PM me your address, I’ll send you some catghans! Seriously! I have a bunch I was planning to donate – can’t think of a better cause!

  • You are taking such good care of Fish Tank kitty – even though you can’t even really see him! That’s dedication.

  • Thank you for all you do to help these worthy souls survive. It is people like you who make the world better. I’m happy to see you back, even with circumstances changing you are still a cat lover and have lots to share.

  • How kind of you to help the ferals. Fish tank is a cutie.

    • How else does one approach a cat so magnificent? (Actually, it seems that works for many feral cats. Stand up and they’re out! Unless you’re Senor Pantalones, in which case, if I stand up, he’s in my arms. Or I lie down and he lies down on me. Until he works his way right into the house…)

  • How wonderful that you are looking after cats that may need a place to hang out and a meal 🙂
    We look forward to more of your stories too.
    Purrs Georgia,Julie and JJ

    • Thank you! We haven’t written a story in awhile but do have some ideas! Unless you mean our usual life stories, then yeah, we have lots of those.

  • We love that you have opened your barn to the neighborhood cats. The fish tank makes a great bed…’specially with all those blankets.

  • This looks like our barn which is open to all critters but we haven’t had any ferals in years. TNR works. I used to re-purpose old down-filled coats with retain heat better than blankets or even hay. Best fishes with your feral(s) and happy New Year!

    • That’s a great idea! I’m sure I have some old coats I didn’t want to throw out but that aren’t nice enough for charity. Happy New Year!

  • Great project and great to hear from you again ! Purrs !

  • That’s so great of you!
    We are so glad you are back to posting, you were missed…

    Noodle and crew

  • Thank you from heart. They re so appreciative and so are we, Katie and I.

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