In chilly cities with high feral cat populations, winters -- particularly one as severe as this year's -- can be deadly. That's why a number of urban residents across the country take it upon themselves to construct DIY cat shelters, often in conjunction with animal welfare organizations such as the Humane Society, Neighborhood Cats and Alley Cat Allies.
Career artisans are also joining the efforts to protect feral colonies, too: in New York City, partnerships with architects are even part of a citywide initiative to provide shelter for feral cats. Since 2010, the Mayor's Alliance for NYC Animals has hosted Architects for Animals, a competition benefitting the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, open to designers across the city who are interested in creating their own cat shelters.
Leslie Farrell, the competition's organizer, said she got the idea for the event after deciding to build her own feral cat shelter several years ago. "I moved to an area with a high number of stray cats, after having never realized how many animals live on the streets," Farrell said. "I was outside one day when the weather got cold, and I heard some meowing and decided I had to do something. I went inside and started to build a shelter, but then I thought, ‘There have to be other architects like me who love animals and want to help them.'"