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How do you make a stray cat warm shelter?

How to make an outdoor stray or feral cat shelter

Keep stray or feral cats warm and dry with ideas for building a DIY outdoor shelter

Stray and feral cats can often find it difficult to find warm and safe places to sleep, especially during the cold winter months.

Feral cats are cats who have not been socialised to humans as kittens and are considered wild animals who would find living in a domestic home stressful. They live outdoors, usually in colonies with other feral cats, but will often seek shelter somewhere quiet and under cover when it’s cold or raining.

black-and-white long-haired cat peering over the edge of a roof

Stray cats are cats who have once lived in a domestic home but are either lost or abandoned. They may struggle with living outdoors and will want to find shelter during bad weather.

If you have found a cat, take a look at our guide to find out how to tell if a cat is feral or stray, and what do to next to help them.

Once you have taken the steps in our guide, you could also create an outdoor shelter for them to use if they want to.

Outdoor cat shelter ideas

To provide the cat shelter from the wind, rain and cold, you can use:

  • an outbuilding eg shed, greenhouse, playhouse
  • a cat carrier
  • a recycling bin
  • a storage box
  • a large plastic pipe
  • an unused rabbit hutch
  • an unused dog kennel

A plastic shelter is preferable to wood because it can be cleaned more effectively to keep it hygienic.

Keeping an outdoor cat shelter warm

tabby-and-white long-haired cat sitting on wooden log in the snow

  • Smaller shelters will keep the heat in better than larger ones
  • Have two entry points if possible (so the cat can’t be trapped inside) but ideally not directly across from each other as this will create a draft
  • Cover the shelter (but not the doorways) using bin bags, tarp, roofing felt or similar to keep the shelter dry and draught free
  • Insulate the shelter using straw, shredded newspaper, blankets or towels and/or line the shelter with Styrofoam or cardboard. Layers will create more insulation (eg you could put a recycling bin inside a larger storage box)
  • Change any interior insulation regularly to make sure it isn’t wet or frozen and keep the shelter clean

Where to put an outdoor cat shelter

  • Place the shelter somewhere that is familiar to the cat, ideally in a quiet area that is as out of sight as possible
  • If dogs are nearby, ensure the shelter is somewhere they can’t access
  • Face the shelter doorway away from the wind eg facing a wall
  • The shelter needs to be protected from the weather eg under a bush or overhanging roof
  • Keep the shelter off the ground eg on wood pallets or bricks (but keep it level so the shelter doesn’t wobble)
  • If the shelter has only one entry/exit point then place it somewhere the cat can escape quickly and easily to help them feel more secure
  • Don’t pick the cat up and put them inside the shelter or otherwise force them inside. Let them explore it at their own pace – they’ll use it if they need to!

Build Your Own Heated Outdoor Cat House In 3 Easy Steps

Discover the main features of a great heated cat house and how to build your own with these easy instructions!

Winter is already here. While plenty of cats live cozily indoors, some felines simply prefer to stay outside. Heated cat houses are a great option for providing insulated shelters to our cats during the cold season. Here are some useful tips while searching for the perfect heated cat house for your kitty!

Table of contents

  • Does your cat really need a heated outdoor cat house?
  • What to look for in a heated outdoor cat house
  • Cat routines in winter
  • Build your own heated outdoor cat house in 3 easy steps

Does your cat really need a heated outdoor cat house?

No matter how resourceful they might be, outdoor cats need shelter from the cold season.

Good to know: A cat’s normal body temperature should be around 38°C and sometimes their fur is not sufficient for dealing with winter.

Most noteworthy, older, sick and short-haired cats are more vulnerable than healthier, younger cats. Spending too much time outside in the winter can even lead to cats suffering from frostbite or hypothermia. This is a condition where their body temperature falls below normal as a result of excessive exposure to cold weather.

As a rule of thumb, just keep in mind: if the weather is too cold for you, it is probably also too cold for your cat!

What to look for in a heated outdoor cat house

Help your cat stay healthy during the winter season with an adequate heated cat house. They are meant for keeping your kitty warm and safe during the cold season. Here’s what you need to look for in a heated cat house:

  • Location: Place the cat heated house in a safe, underpopulated area. Cats need to feel secure and comfortable, in order to use the house. Be sure to place the shelter away from the wind, since this can really make a difference.
  • Material: Whether you go for a plywood or storage bin shelter, make sure it is well insulated and waterproof. Thick Styrofoam can be a good option for keeping the inside of a heated cat house warm in winter. Straw is another good alternative in this case. Avoid using blankets or fabrics which absorb all the warmth in the interior.
  • Extra Insulation: Place a support under the heated cat house, so it will not lie directly on the ground. Some simple bricks or wooden pallets can provide additional insulation to the heated cat house against potential floods or high amounts of snow.
  • Size: Make sure the heated cat house is the appropriate size for your cat. It should be large enough for the cat to turn around, but if it is too big, your furry little friend will have a hard time getting cozy and warm inside.
  • The Right Doorway: This should be kept relatively small, so undesired guests are avoided. Additionally, it should be covered with a heavy plastic, so the heat will not disperse quickly. Don’t forget to keep the entrance free, so your kitty is not blocked inside.

advantages of a heated cat house

Cat routines in winter

FoodFeed your cat responsibly during the cold season. Be aware that some foods are susceptible to freezing. Wet food is great, but if not consumed immediately, it will freeze. You might want to consider to switch to dry food during the winter, which is not affected by the cold temperatures.
WaterNote: As a result of higher quantities of dry food, many cats are exposed to dehydration during the super cold winter season.

Therefore, don’t forget to provide your cat with sufficient fresh water every day.

Food and water should be easily accessible, but kept outside the heated cat house, when possible.

Water is easily spilled and the shelter can get wet and cold, resembling more of a freezer.

Consequently, whether you go for a do-it-yourself heated cat house or you buy a well-insulated shelter, make sure that you keep your furry friend healthy during the cold season. After all, a perfectly heated cat house can be your pet’s warm heaven this winter!

Tip: Are you curious to know how much time kitty is spending outside? A Tractive GPS Cat Tracker shows you the location of your cat in real-time and keeps you always connected with your fur-ball!

Build your own heated outdoor cat house in 3 easy steps

This video illustrates in easy steps how to build your own heated outdoor cat house:

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