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Setting Up the Perfect Outdoor Cat Shelter: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Have you ever pondered the intricacies of outdoor cat shelters? Wondered why they’re vital, the various types available, or the key features you should be on the lookout for when buying one? Well, your quest for answers ends here. Not only will we delve deep into these aspects, but we’ll also touch upon optimal shelter placement and offer a nifty bonus for those looking to aid feral or stray cats promptly.

Why Invest in a Shelter for Outdoor Cats?

In the UK alone, the stray and feral cat population has swelled past a staggering one million. Such numbers have led numerous cat aficionados to take proactive measures, with many opting to establish outdoor shelters. Here are compelling reasons why considering a cat shelter is a fantastic idea:

  • Weather Protection: Offer cats a sanctuary against rain, cold, and even snow. They’ll thank you with their content purrs and snugly demeanor.
  • A Cool Respite: Summers can be sweltering. A shelter provides much-needed shade, ensuring that our feline friends can escape the scorching sun.
  • Home Sweet Temporary Home: Don’t have a cat flap? No worries! An outdoor shelter can act as a temporary resting place for your wandering kitty.
  • Warmth for the Homeless: Stray and feral cats often struggle to find warmth. A shelter can be their cozy refuge during the cold nights.

Over time, your domesticated cat will recognize and appreciate the shelter, using it when they’re locked out. This means fewer worries for you about their safety during their adventurous escapades. On the other hand, if you’re consistent in providing food and water, it won’t be long before the local stray and feral cats discern that this snug corner is their very own sanctuary.

Bonus Tip for the Compassionate Soul

In situations where time is of the essence, and you want to offer immediate respite to stray or feral cats, we have a special treat in store. Stay tuned as we guide you on crafting a temporary shelter, ensuring that no kitty has to endure the harshness of nature any longer than necessary.

Key Features to Look For in an Outdoor Cat Shelter: A Comprehensive Buyer’s Guide

Navigating the sea of options available when it comes to outdoor cat shelters can be a tad overwhelming. Sure, there’s no shortage of choices out there. But how do you ensure that you’re picking the right one tailored to your specific needs? Fear not; our detailed guide zeroes in on the crucial aspects you should consider before making that all-important purchase.

1. Predator-Proofing: A Matter of Safety

The principal motivation behind an outdoor cat shelter is invariably the safety of our feline friends. In this light, prioritise shelters equipped with dual doors. This design affords the cat a potential escape route should a predatory threat emerge. Opting for a single-door design? Ensure you’re in an area devoid of any potential threats to your cat’s safety.

2. Location Matters: Undercover vs. Exposed

The intended placement of your cat shelter significantly influences its design requirements. For shelters tucked away under a protective cover, stringent waterproofing might not be high on your priority list. However, if it’s destined for an exposed spot bearing the brunt of the elements, steer clear of fabric shelters. Instead, wooden options would serve you better, offering durability and protection against rain, wind, and sun.

3. Assembly Simplicity: Because Convenience is Key

An outdoor cat shelter loses its charm if setting it up resembles a complex puzzle. Hunt for shelters that promise a hassle-free assembly, ideally without needing a plethora of elusive tools. The cream of the crop? Those cat abodes that grace your doorstep already assembled, ready for immediate use.

4. Maintenance Ease: Hygiene & Durability

The longevity of your shelter and the well-being of its occupant are intertwined with its maintainability. Regardless of whether it’s catering to your domestic pet or a feral feline, cleanliness is paramount. It safeguards against potential infestations and disease spread. Hence, your chosen shelter should be simple to clean and resilient, especially if you’re in the UK, where weather conditions swing from frosty snows to intense rains and blustery winds.

By honing in on these key aspects, you’re poised to make an informed decision, ensuring your chosen outdoor cat shelter stands the test of time while offering utmost safety and comfort for its furry inhabitants.

Choosing the Right Outdoor Cat Shelter: Sizing, Insulation, and Heating Considerations

Selecting an outdoor cat shelter isn’t just about aesthetics or durability; it’s also crucial to factor in the size and climatic adaptations you might need. From individual pets to entire feral colonies, different requirements dictate different choices. Here’s a breakdown to guide you through the selection process:

Sizing: How Much Space is Ideal?

Purpose Determines Size: The required size of your cat shelter hinges primarily on its intended purpose. A solitary pet cat in a controlled environment necessitates a smaller space. However, for feral colonies or multiple stray cats, it’s prudent to lean towards a more spacious shelter.

Choosing the Right Size with Our Guide:

  1. Insight from Product Specifications: Always refer to the indoor floor dimensions listed on the product page.
  2. Practical Measurement: Replicate the specified dimensions using old newspaper or cardboard to visualize the space.
  3. Comfort Assessment: Visualize your cat (or cats) in that space. Would they have adequate room to stretch, turn, and relax comfortably?
Insulation: Is it Crucial?

Busting Myths: A common misconception is that outdoor cats possess a natural resilience to freezing conditions. The truth, however, is far from it. Even the hardiest outdoor cat can suffer in harsh cold.

Our Recommendation: Always opt for a shelter with proper insulation. Advanced shelters even feature self-heating capabilities, ensuring consistent internal temperatures year-round, irrespective of external weather fluctuations.

Heating: Is it Worth the Investment?

Understanding Heated Shelters: These shelters come equipped with integrated heating pads, providing that extra warmth during chilly months. They’re an excellent choice if your primary concern is ensuring the warmth of the feline occupants during colder seasons.

Things to Note:

  1. Cost: While undeniably beneficial, heated shelters do tend to be on the pricier side.
  2. Placement: Given their electrical components, it’s imperative to position them in covered, protected areas to prevent potential hazards.
Expert Tips on Placing Your Outdoor Cat House: A Step-by-Step Guide

Choosing the perfect outdoor cat house is half the battle; ensuring it’s aptly positioned is what completes the mission. Proper placement not only ensures the safety and comfort of its feline occupants but also extends the shelter’s longevity. Here’s our comprehensive guide to placing an outdoor cat house effectively:

1. Elevate the Cat House

Elevating an outdoor cat shelter is more than just a design choice; it’s a strategic decision that carries multiple benefits. Firstly, when it comes to weather-related concerns, particularly during the rainy seasons, a lifted shelter stands as a solid defense against dampness. By ensuring that the house is raised off the ground, you significantly decrease the risk of water seeping in, keeping the interior dry and comfortable for its feline occupants.

Moreover, an elevated structure offers an added layer of security against potential intruders. Whether it’s a curious neighborhood dog or other wildlife creatures, an off-the-ground placement can act as a deterrent, making it less accessible and thus more secure for the cats inside. As for practical ways to achieve this elevation, a range of options are available. Using bricks or repurposed pallets can offer a sturdy lift, often achieving an ideal height of about six inches. Alternatively, for those who prefer a ready-made solution, there are cat shelters available in the market that come with built-in elevation features, eliminating the need for additional setup.

2. Sidestep Open Areas

It’s essential to bear in mind the innate nature of cats when deciding on a location for their shelter. By nature, cats are cautious animals, often opting for spots that provide them with a sense of security and seclusion. This instinctual behavior is a survival mechanism, rooted in their need to protect themselves from potential threats.

Given this tendency, it’s advisable to choose locations for their shelters that align with this instinct. Areas that provide some degree of cover or concealment are ideal. Shaded or semi-shaded spots, for instance, not only offer protection from direct sunlight but also give cats that much-needed sense of safety. Such locations mimic their natural environment, allowing them to feel at ease and secure, fostering a space where they can relax without constant vigilance.

3. Seek the Sunshine

When setting up an outdoor cat shelter, it’s vital to consider the sun’s path throughout the day. By positioning the house in a manner that captures maximum sunlight, you ensure that the shelter becomes a warm and cozy refuge during daylight hours. This not only offers cats a pleasant space to bask and rest but also provides natural warmth during colder days, which is especially beneficial in regions with chilly mornings and evenings.

Furthermore, the strategic placement of the shelter adjacent to a wall carries dual benefits. Firstly, walls can act as a natural barrier, shielding the shelter and its occupants from strong winds, rain, or snow. Secondly, walls can serve as natural insulators. By absorbing the day’s heat and releasing it slowly during the cooler hours, a wall can help maintain a more consistent temperature inside the shelter. Such a setup ensures that the cats are not only protected from the elements but also enjoy a stable and comfortable environment regardless of external weather fluctuations.

4. Aim for Covered Locations

Semi-covered or sheltered spots shield the cats from precipitation and wind, and add a protective barrier against potential predators or pests.

5. Ventilation is Vital

Selecting a semi-covered or sheltered location for a cat house brings with it a range of advantages that contribute to the well-being of its occupants. Firstly, these locations naturally provide a buffer against environmental elements. They shield the cats from the unpredictable bouts of precipitation, whether it’s a sudden rain shower or a heavier downpour, ensuring that the interior remains dry and cozy. Moreover, these sheltered spots effectively block out gusty winds, preventing chilly drafts from making their way inside and ensuring the cats remain warm.

Beyond just the weather, a semi-covered spot serves another critical function: added security. Such locations act as a natural barrier against potential threats, be it in the form of larger predators or smaller pests. By offering an additional layer of concealment, these spots make it harder for other animals to detect or access the shelter. This setup not only ensures physical safety but also grants cats the peace of mind they need, knowing they’re in a protected environment where they can truly relax.

6. Consider Self-Heating Pads

During the biting cold of winter months, even the most insulated of outdoor shelters can benefit from an additional source of warmth. Here, self-heating pads emerge as a prime choice for enhancing the comfort of a cat house. What makes these pads stand out is their inherent safety features. Unlike some other heating mechanisms, self-heating pads are designed to regulate temperature, ensuring there’s no risk of overheating. This guarantees that the cats can cozy up without any danger of getting burned or experiencing excessive warmth.

Moreover, practicality plays a significant role in their appeal. One of the biggest challenges with many heating devices is the need for electricity, which brings along the accompanying risks of electrical hazards, especially in an outdoor setting. Self-heating pads sidestep this concern entirely. Being free from electrical components, they offer a hassle-free, safe, and effective method to keep the shelter warm, making them an ideal choice for those looking to provide that extra layer of warmth during the chillier times of the year.

7. Straw: A Natural Insulator

A layer of straw within the shelter retains heat efficiently. However, it’s crucial to differentiate between straw and hay – the latter can induce mold when damp. While blankets and towels may seem like good alternatives, they can absorb moisture. If used, ensure they’re checked and cleaned regularly.

Positioning your outdoor cat house with care, keeping the above guidelines in mind, ensures your feline friends are not only safe and comfortable but also have a durable sanctuary that stands the test of time.

DIY Emergency Shelter for Outdoor Cats Using a Cardboard Box

When faced with an urgent need to shelter an outdoor feral cat, a simple yet effective temporary solution can be created using everyday household items. Here’s how to fashion an emergency cardboard box shelter for outdoor cats:


  • A sturdy cardboard box (ensure it’s large enough for a cat to comfortably fit and turn around in)
  • Cutter or scissors
  • Duct tape
  • Shredded newspaper (for insulation)
  • Rubbish bags (3mm thick, for waterproofing)


  1. Preparing the Cardboard Box:
    a. Ensure that your cardboard box is clean and free from any sharp staples or fragments that might hurt the cat.
    b. If the box isn’t already closed, use the duct tape to secure one end shut. This will be the base of the shelter.
  2. Cut an Entry Point:
    a. On one side of the box (which will be the front), use the cutter or scissors to cut out a cat-sized entry hole. This should be big enough for a cat to comfortably enter but not too large, so as to retain heat. Aim for a hole with a diameter of about 6-8 inches.
  3. Insulating the Shelter:
    a. Spread the shredded newspaper evenly on the base of the cardboard box. This will act as insulation, keeping the cat warm.
    b. If you have extra shredded newspaper, you can also line the walls of the box for added insulation.
  4. Waterproofing:
    a. Take one of the rubbish bags and open it fully.
    b. Place the cardboard box (with its entrance facing out) inside the rubbish bag.
    c. Tightly wrap the bag around the box, ensuring all sides are covered.
    d. Use duct tape to secure the bag in place, making sure there are no open ends or holes where water can enter.
    e. Carefully cut out the plastic where the cat’s entry hole is, ensuring the entrance remains clear and accessible.
  5. Final Touches:
    a. Reinforce the entrance with some duct tape, so it retains its shape and remains open for easy access.
    b. Place the shelter in a safe, semi-sheltered spot, ensuring the entrance is easily visible and accessible to the cat.

Note: While this DIY cardboard shelter provides temporary protection, it’s advisable to consider a more durable solution for long-term use, especially in areas with extreme weather conditions.

FAQs for Setting Up the Perfect Outdoor Cat Shelter: A Step-by-Step Guide
  1. Why is it important to set up an outdoor cat shelter?
    Answer: To provide protection for feral, stray, or outdoor cats from the elements and potential predators.

  2. How big should the cat shelter be?
    Answer: It should be spacious enough for the cat to turn around, lie down, and stretch, but not too big so that it retains heat effectively.

  3. What materials are best for insulating an outdoor cat shelter?
    Answer: Shredded newspaper, straw, and certain commercial insulation materials are commonly used.

  4. Do I need to elevate the cat shelter?
    Answer: Yes, elevating the shelter keeps it dry and can deter potential pests or predators.

  5. How can I make the shelter waterproof?
    Answer: Using a sturdy, waterproof cover, like a tarp or a thick rubbish bag, can help. Ensure all seams are sealed properly.

  6. Is there an ideal location for placing the cat shelter?
    Answer: Choose a shaded or semi-shaded spot away from heavy traffic, ideally near walls or structures that provide added protection from wind and rain.

  7. How often should I check or maintain the shelter?
    Answer: Regular checks, especially after extreme weather conditions, are essential. Cleaning and inspecting the shelter every few weeks is advisable.

  8. Can I add heating elements to the cat shelter?
    Answer: Yes, but ensure they are safe for pets, like self-heating pads, and avoid electrical hazards.

  9. How can I make the shelter more inviting for cats?
    Answer: Soft bedding, familiar scents, or even catnip can make the shelter more appealing.

  10. Is a single entry point sufficient for the shelter?
    Answer: A single entry can suffice, but having an escape route or a second entry can be beneficial in case of predators.

  11. What should I do if multiple cats are trying to use the shelter?
    Answer: Consider creating multiple shelters or larger communal ones to accommodate more cats.

  12. How can I deter other animals or pests from entering the shelter?
    Answer: Elevating the shelter and ensuring the entry hole is only big enough for cats can help deter larger pests. Using natural repellents can also keep certain pests away.

  13. What is the lifespan of a typical outdoor cat shelter?
    Answer: Depending on the materials used and the weather conditions, a well-maintained shelter can last several years. Periodic checks and repairs can extend its lifespan.

  14. Can I set up a cat shelter in any season?
    Answer: Yes, but be sure to adapt the shelter’s features to the current season, e.g., better insulation during winters or improved ventilation during summers.

  15. Is it legal to set up outdoor cat shelters everywhere?
    Answer: Check local regulations and community guidelines before setting up a shelter. Some areas may have restrictions or specific guidelines to follow.

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