News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Good Samaritan helps Deep Ellum street cats survive the winter freeze by building 'space pods'

A box or "space pod" sits in the snow.
Chelsea Wendell
Chelsea Wendell's "space pods" help street cats survive freezing temperatures.

When Dallas resident Chelsea Wendell heard another winter storm was headed toward North Texas, she jumped into action and began building what she calls “space pods” for stray cats in her neighborhood.

These cat winter shelters are meant to keep cats warm when cold weather hits. They are made of huge plastic storage containers. Inside them, Wendell tapes a shiny layer of insulation material to keep heat in.

Even though cats are resilient, Wendell said they need to stay warm and protected too.

Dallas resident Chelsea Wendell wants to help cats come in from the cold during the winter freeze
Chelsea Wendell
Dallas resident Chelsea Wendell wants to help cats come in from the cold during the winter freeze. She has a non-profit called Cats of Deep Ellum.

“Oftentimes, street cats are strays that have been abandoned. And not to get too deep, but I know what it's like to be forgotten and how hard it is to fend for yourself,” Wendell said.

Wendell has built seven shelters this year. It’s not the first time she’s built shelters. During last year’s winter storm, shebuilt many also.

“Luckily, this year was not as bad as last year...[then] I was outside pretty much all day and night for an entire week, making sure the shelters kept up,” Wendell said.

Since then, she’s become very familiar with where cats in her neighborhood of Deep Ellum like to hang out. She sets up the shelters at those locations. Inside each shelter, she leaves cat food and waits from her car until cats go in. Later, she comes back to make sure the shelters stayed dry and leaves more food.

“I told myself that I can't save all of the animals, but if I focus on just my neighborhood, I know I can make a difference,” Wendell said.

What you need to build a shelter:

  • An 18-gallon plastic storage container  
  • A box cutter  
  • Scissors  
  • Weather-resistant adhesive tape
  • A roll of reflective insulation or straw. 

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member for KERA News. Email Alejandra at You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

Alejandra Martinez is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). She's covering the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities and the city of Dallas.