Assembling A Kennel

The thermal needs of sea otters combined with their tendency to bite and chew their way through nearly any material requires that they are housed in specially outfitted kennels for transport or triage.  Below you will find plans with pictures of the best practices for building a sea otter kennel that will keep the animal cool and safe while being transported or waiting for medical attention. 

These kennel plans have been developed based on years of experience with sea otters in the field.



  • Vari-Kennel components (Top, bottom, door, screws)
  • PVC pipe (assorted diameters)
  • Zip ties, string, and bolts
  • Screws and nuts
  • Chew toys
  • Saw for cutting PVC pipe
  • Drill with bits for drilling holes in PVC pipe



  1. Inspect the Vari-Kennel components to ensure there are no cracks, holes, or other structural problems such as the one pictured here.
  2. Construct the “false bottom” using PVC pipe.
    1. Measure length of bottom of kennel or use pre-fabricated false bottom as a template to determine the length of each pipe. The number of pieces of pipe will depend on the width of the kennel. Pipes should be spaced widely enough that feces can drop in between but close enough that the otter’s fur is kept off the bottom of the kennel.
    2. Drill circular holes in the 2 “support” pipes that will keep the longer pipes suspended off the bottom of the kennel.
    3. Drill holes at the each end of the bottom side of each long PVC pieces.
    4. Screw long pieces to the 2 support pipes and cap screw with nut.
  3. Install protective coverings on the door, window vents, and any other metal grates.
    1. Cut PVC pipe in appropriate lengths by measuring the dimensions of the door and window vents, or using a pre-assembled door or window vent covering as template. For window vent coverings choose a pipe diameter that will cover all or most of the metal, but still allow adequate air flow.
    2. Cut PVC pipes in half length-wise.
    3. Determine how PVC pipes will be attached to metal grates (string, zip ties, bolts).
    4. Drill holes in pipes for attachment points (at least 2 attachment points per pipe.
    5. Attach pipes to the INSIDE of the door/window vents. Make sure that all knots, zip tie tabs, and bolts have the smooth side towards the inside of the kennel and any rough/knobby parts on the outside of the kennel.
  4. Install chew toys.
    1. Drill 4 holes into the top of the kennel (see photo below for location of holes).
    2. Thread durable string through the holes to attach the chew toys so they are hanging down from the top of the inside of the kennel. Make sure that the strings are tied on the outside of the top of the kennel.
  5. Assemble kennel.
    1. Place the false bottom into the bottom of the kennel.
    2. Stack the top of the kennel on top of the bottom of the kennel so the chew toys are hanging down.
    3. Install the door (with the PVC pipes facing IN) by placing the longest vertical metal pieces on the door through the holes in the top and bottom of the mouth of the kennel.
    4. Seat the kennel pieces so that the holes around the perimeter line up.
    5. Screw together the kennel securing the metal screws and plastic “bolts” through the holes in the perimeter.
    6. Double check to make sure everything is secure.
    7. Wipe or hose off any plastic dust that may be in the kennel from drilling holes in the PVC.