Are you wondering what an outdoor cat shelter is, and if there are any benefits to owning one? Maybe you are thinking about adding a cosy spot in your cat’s outdoor enclosure? Or are wanting to keep feral cats warm when the temperatures drop? You might already have one and are unsure about where or how to place the cat shelter?
Well, you are in luck. We are answering all your questions, as well as a few extra, about outdoor cat shelters, including the benefits of having one, what types are available, what features to consider when buying one, and where is the best place to put it.
And if you are needing one in a hurry for feral or stray cats, be sure to check out our little bonus feature. We explain how you can quickly make a temporary shelter when you need it urgently.
What Are the Benefits of a Shelter for Outdoor Cats?
With over a million stray and feral cats in the UK, more and more cat lovers are taking it upon themselves to put up outdoor shelters for stray cats as well as feral colonies. There are many benefits to having a cat shelter. These include:
- Providing cats with protection from wet and cold weather
- Shading cats from the sun
- Giving your cat a temporary place to stay if you don’t have a cat flap on your door
- Helping feral or stray cats stay warm
In time your cat will know how to make use of the shelter when it can’t get in the house, which means you can have some peace of mind when it’s out wandering. And if you regularly provide food and water, feral cats will quickly understand that this safe haven is especially for them.
What You Need to Consider When Buying an Outdoor Cat Shelter
Finding a cat shelter isn’t a problem. After all, there are hundreds to choose from. But what can get a little confusing is knowing which is the best one for your needs? Our buying guide highlights the most essential features you must keep in mind when deciding which one to buy.
Is the cat shelter predator proof?
One of the main reasons people get an outdoor shelter is to help keep cats safe from predators. With this in mind, look for one that has two doors. This allows a cat to escape if it feels threatened or is under attack. Single door cat shelters are okay only if you are 100% sure there are no potential predators that could harm, or kill a cat.
Will the outdoor cat shelter be placed undercover?
You need to think about where you want to place the cat shelter. If it is under some kind of cover, then you don’t need to worry too much about it being waterproof. Of course, if it is out in the open and unprotected from wind, water and sun, you need to avoid shelters that are made from fabric and consider getting a wooden one instead.
How easy is it to assemble?
There is very little point to buying a cat shelter if assembling it is too difficult. Look for one that is easy to put together, and doesn’t require a box full of tools you don’t have. In our opinion, the best cat houses are those that arrive already assembled.
Is the cat shelter easy to maintain?
Whether the shelter is for your pet or a feral cat, you need to keep it clean to prevent bug infestations or the spread of diseases. Choose an outdoor house that is easy to clean and maintain, and that can withstand UK weather. Depending on where you live, this could be anything from snow to torrential rain and high winds.
How much space do you need?
The size of the shelter will depend on how you plan to use it. If it is in the confines of your pet cat’s enclosure, you only need enough space to accommodate one cat. But, if you intend using it to shelter the local feral cat colony, it is best to go for a larger one that can house several cats at a time.
Our sizing guides below will help you choose which Cat House is suitable
How important is insulation?
An outdoor cat, contrary to popular belief, can’t survive in freezing weather, which is why we recommend getting a well-insulated shelter. There are also self-heating houses available that provide cats with stable temperatures throughout the year, regardless of the season.
Are you wanting a heated outdoor shelter?
Heated outdoor shelters come with a built-in heating pad. These are especially good if you are wanting the cats to stay warm when it gets icy. However, keep in mind that these can be quite costly and have to be placed in a covered area because of the electrics.
How To Place Outdoor an Outdoor Cat House
Knowing where and how to place an outdoor cat shelter is as important as finding the right one. Take a look at our easy-to-follow guide on where to put an outdoor cat house.
1. Make sure the outdoor cat house is elevated
One way you can make sure cats stay warm in the outdoor shelter is by lifting it off the ground. This stops it getting wet when it is raining, and it keeps nosy neighbourhood dogs and other wildlife away. We recommend lifting the cat house at least six inches off the ground using bricks or pallets. Or if you prefer, you can buy one that is already raised.
2. Stay away from open spaces
Cats might be curious, but they are also cautious and tend to stay away from open spaces. If you are wanting to provide feral cats with a spot where they feel safe, it is best to place the shelter in a shaded or partially shaded area.
3. Place it in the sun
If it is at all possible, try and place the cat house in a sunny spot. It will provide your cat or strays with a warm and cosy space during the day. Setting up the shelter close to a wall will also add an extra layer of insulation for those particularly chilly days.
4. Make sure the cat house is at least partially covered
Help keep cats warm and dry by placing cat houses in partially covered areas. This will protect them from the wind and rain, and hide them from potential predators and pests.
5. Place the cat house close to a vent
If you are placing the cat house in an attic or basement, make sure it is close to a vent. This will heat the walls of the house of the shelter and add an extra layer of insulation. Depending on how the temperature fluctuates in your home, you might want to get a thermometer to check that you are providing feral cats with enough warmth,
6.Think about self-heating pads
It is always a good idea to add some extra heating, especially when it gets really cold. Self-heating pads work well, and you don’t have to worry that they will overheat and burn a cat. You also don’t have to worry about electrical points or potential fire hazards.
7. Use Straw to insulate the outdoor cat house
Putting down a layer of straw is an affordable, and efficient way to retain heat in the shelter. Do not use hay as this can cause mould when it gets damp. Regular towels or blankets also absorb moisture, if you use a blanket or towel make sure your was it regularly and check for damp.
How to Make an Emergency Shelter for Outdoor Cats
Should you need an outdoor shelter for a feral cat in an emergency, you can make a temporary one, using a cardboard box or a tote.
DIY Cardboard Shelter for Outdoor Cats
To make a cardboard box cat house, you will need:
- a cardboard box
- cutter or scissors
- duct tape
- shredded newspaper
- rubbish bags (3mm thick)
How to make a shelter
1. Tape the seams of the cardboard shut with the duct tape.
2. Take the rubbish bags and wrap the box, like you would a gift. Tape the bags securely onto the box with the duct tape, and make sure all the seams are sealed. This is your waterproof lining, so you don’t want any gaps.
3. Once you are happy with the lining, cut a doorway out on one of the shorter sides. To help keep the cat warm, make sure the hole is big enough for the cat to climb in, but not too big that it loses its insulation. Don’t cut the door all the way to the bottom as this could result in the box flooding. Tape any loose bits of plastic down around the opening.
4. Use the shredded newspaper for extra warmth. Place enough of it so that cats can burrow into it on particularly chilly days.
5. Don’t forget to raise the shelter off the ground, to keep it dry and prevent flooding. And if you can, put it under a cover of some sort.
6. If necessary, weigh the cardboard shelter down with one or two bricks. Just be careful to use anything too heavy in case it crushes the roof.
Frequently Asked Questions About Shelters for Outdoor Cats
Do I Need an Outdoor Cat House?
Even indoor cats need to spend some time outside, which is where an outdoor cat house or catio (patio for a cat) comes in handy. It is an excellent way to keep your cat safe from predators when he is outdoors, and it stops them from running away.
A shelter also provides your cat with a cosy space to stay warm and dry or shade it from the hot sun those times you aren’t home, and the cat flap is locked.
How Do I Keep Unwanted Guests Out of My Cat’s Outdoor House?
If you are placing a cat house outdoors for your pet, but aren’t sure how to keep strays or feral cats out, you will be pleased to know there are microchip access shelters available. Simply programme the cat flap with your cat’s microchip, and this will stop uninvited guests popping in.
What About Feral Cats? Surely They Are Used to Outdoor Conditions.
Feral cats are independent and have learned how to look after themselves and their kittens. But when the temperatures drop, they are susceptible to life-threatening conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia. If you notice a colony of feral cats in your neighbourhood, it is a good idea to set up an outdoor shelter for them. It is what any animal lover would do.
How Big Should the Outdoor Shelter Be?
The outdoor shelter needs to be big enough to accommodate the number of cats that will be using it. Cats do like their own space, which is why you might want to think about placing smaller, separate shelters in a safe area.
Do I Need to Put Anything Inside the Shelter?
A cat in need of shelter will probably appreciate any dry spot, but there are a few things you can put inside the house to keep them warm and comfortable. Straw is always a good idea as this insulates the house, as is shredded newspaper. Both materials allow cats to burrow in when it is really cold.
Don’t place towels, folded newspaper, hay or blankets in cat shelters. These materials absorb body heat, which could leave the cat feeling colder than when it first got in. Hay can also cause an allergic reaction.
Is it Possible to Heat an Outdoor Cat Shelter?
The easiest and most convenient way to heat an outdoor cat shelter is to buy a one that self heats or comes with a thermal barrier. Not only are they safe options, but they also help cats stay warm throughout the night. If costs are a concern, then you could get self-heating blankets.
Some people like the idea of a microwaveable pad, but these do lose heat after a while. Bulbs and electrical heating pads can also be used, but you will need to have access to a plug point and ensure that the shelter is 100% waterproof.
Can I Place Food and Water Inside the Cat Shelter?
Outdoor cats need more food in winter to maintain their energy levels, so placing food and water down for them is an excellent idea. However, we suggest you don’t put it in the shelter. Spilt water will make it colder, and food can attract all sorts of animals that could potentially scare cats away.
Instead, place food and water outside the shelter, but close enough so that the cats don’t have to walk too far to get it.
Hopefully, we have answered all your questions regarding outdoor cat houses, plus a few more. If not, feel free to leave a comment below, and we will get back to you. We also want to hear from you if you have a feral colony you are looking after. What do you feed them? How many cats are you taking care of?