Outdoor Shelters for Cats
Housing for Outdoor Cats
by Margaret Schill
There are many homeless cats- some are feral cats, and some are abandoned pet cats. Whether feral or tame, abandoned pets, cats living outdoors need a warm, dry, windproof shelter. Make sure the opening is too small for a dog or coyote to fit in. All outside shelters should be off the ground several inches to keep the inside dry after rains have created puddles or to prevent a cat from getting blocked in by a heavy snowfall overnight (for regions that get snow).
For warmth, an outdoor shelter needs to be not much larger than the size of the cat. Make sure to face the opening of the shelter away from the direction of the prevailing winds, which usually come from the northeast.
Outdoor shelters can be purchased, or made. Below are several options for outdoor cat houses.
After you read this article, if you have any questions and want a personalized answer, post on the W. V. Cats forum at http://wvcatsforum.tuxedocatwebs.com.
Homemade cat shelters can range from a carefully planned, insulated wooden built structure, to a cardboard box on it's side with a plastic garbage bag taped on the outside and weighted down inside with some bricks. Do the best you can within your abilities. Something is better than nothing. The most important thing is for the cats to be out of the wind and rain.
Plastic storage totes can be transformed into a shelter. Try to find two where one will fit inside the the other with enough space between them to put some insulation, such as straw or sheets of styrofoam. Styrofoam and straw are very good insulators. But, newspaper can work also, though probably not as well. Still, it is better than nothing. Insulation helps not only to protect from cold, but also from heat. Put insulation on the bottom, under the inner plastic container. If you can't find two plastic storage totes where one fits in the other, just use one and line it with styrofoam sheets or fill it partly with some straw. Or, maybe you can find a styrofoam cooler that fits well in the plastic tote.
If using the two tote method, put some rocks or something heavy in the gaps between the two so the whole thing won't blow away in strong winds when no cat is inside. Or, you can place a thick wooden board or several bricks on the top.
It can be good to make two holes so no cat winds up getting trapped inside, but don't have the holes opposite one another or it will create a wind tunnel. Though the more holes there are, the less warm the shelter will be. The use of cat flaps is not a good idea, as most cats need to be taught how they work. For feral cats, openings need to be intuitive as to how to get in and out. Also, be sure to have the doorways at least two or three inches from the bottom to keep water from flooding inside.
You need to add something for the cats to burrow into for warmth during cold weather. Loose straw, hay, or even shredded newspaper is good, with loose hay being the best. Do not use blankets or towels as they get damp or wet, stay soggy, then freeze, winding up making the cat colder and risking hypothermia. Wet fabric will also mildew. If you use cloth materials for the cat to burrow into, you must be able to change them regularly in order to ensure they stay dry. If you can't, it's better not to use anything except the shelter itself.
Mylar blankets such as those sold for people for survival in outdoor rugged weather, can be used to line the floor and walls of cat shelters. They reflect body heat back to the cat.
You can be creative and adapt old furniture items into outdoor cat shelters. One of our forum members, Vicki, did that with on old end table set on it's side, with a new "roof" and floor made for it. This new cat house was then placed on the covered front porch. A second cat house was made from an old work table. Later on the window panel was affixed, with a doorway cut out, making a cozy, windproofed room with a view!
Read more about Vicki's setups for outdoor cat shelters with additional pictures at our forum at http://wvcatsforum.tuxedocatwebs.com/index.php?topic=1190.0
Building a cat shelter from scratch need not get overly complex. Another forum member, Michelle, made a cat shelter from plywood, including plexiglass windows and extended entryway. Being on a front porch that had an outdoor electric outlet allowed for a heated pet mat and a heated water bowl to keep water from freezing in the winter.
Instructions for building shelters for homeless cats can be found at:
Spay and Stay- Gives instructions with pictures for making an insulated shelter from plastic storage totes.
Feral Cat Caretakers- Instructions for making outdoor cat shelters and feeding stations, with good tips for placements.
Ally Cat Allies- Instructions for building an outdoor cat house made of wood.
http://www.pacthumanesociety.org/core/WinterShelter.htm- Feral cat winter shelter ideas
Shelters /houses to buy
The Petmate 25702 Kitty Kat Condo is a light gray, igloo shaped outdoor house. The house is made of a heavy plastic, with structural foam insulation. The integrated hood over the doorway diverts rain water away from the entrance. The floor is carpeted. If used as an outdoor shetlter in very cold weather, adding some straw inside will help cats stay warmer.
Measures 26 in. length x 25.3 in. wide x 18.5 high.
Feral Villa- Very reasonably priced shelter for feral cats. It has 2 levels - a lower level to keep out wind and water, and an insulated, upper level that allows the cat’s own body heat to be retained during cold weather. All wood is painted to resist weathering and rot. The lower legs that rest on the ground are made from pressure treated lumber that is particularly resistant to rot and insect damage. Since the doorway is flush to the ground, you must take care not to place this in an area that develops puddles or where snow will build up blocking the entry.
The shelters come partially assembled needing only a screwdriver to assemble. 22 x 22" and about 21" high at the peak of the roof. They also sell covered feeding stations, also at a very reasonable prices.
http://www.ticknthistle.com/outdoor_cat_shelter/basic_cat_house.htm- Has a basic outdoor cat house with plexiglass windows, and insulation option. It has an optional "breezeway" entry way to keep wind and rain from blowing in the opening. A back door for a quick escape (which I advise getting) can be added.