Do Outdoor Cats Like Cat Houses?

This article will explore whether or not outdoor cats like using cat houses. We’ll look at typical outdoor cat behavior, the potential benefits cat houses can provide, important features to consider, optimal placement, tips for getting your cat to use it, alternatives to cat houses, and other considerations for outdoor cat shelters. The goal is to provide cat owners with a comprehensive guide to understanding if and how their outdoor cats may benefit from and utilize cat houses.

Outdoor Cat Behavior

Outdoor cats tend to have strong natural instincts to seek shelter and protection from the elements. According to the Alley Cat Allies, outdoor cats are still closely connected to their wild ancestors and thus retain many of those behaviors and instincts, including finding or creating a home base where they can rest safely. The American Humane Society notes that outdoor cats still have the natural urge to find hiding spots just like their larger wild cousins. Even though domesticated cats no longer need to hunt prey to survive, their desire to stalk and explore remains strong.

When cats are outside, they prefer enclosed hiding spots that provide cover and elevation for surveillance of threats. Outdoor cats are territorial and will often return to the same sheltered locations repeatedly as part of their routine. Providing outdoor cats with a cat house appeals directly to these natural inclinations to find and utilize a protective shelter or den.

Benefits of Cat Houses

Cat houses provide outdoor cats with important protection from the elements. Being able to get out of the rain, wind, snow, and cold temperatures is crucial for a cat’s health and wellbeing. Without proper shelter, outdoor cats are at risk of developing upper respiratory infections or becoming dangerously overheated or hypothermic.

A good cat house gives an outdoor cat a safe, cozy place to rest and sleep. Cats need lots of sleep, usually 12-16 hours per day. Sleep is vital for maintaining energy levels, immune system function, and cognitive abilities. Outdoor cats expend extra energy staying alert and cautious. Having a secure cat house where they can fully relax and recharge is a major benefit.

Cat House Features

When selecting a cat house for outdoor use, there are some key features to look for. According to House Beautiful, the cat house should be insulated and waterproof to protect cats from the elements.Good Housekeeping recommends looking for a cat house made with weather-resistant materials like resin, plastic or wood.

For insulation, heavy-duty cardboard filled with straw or foam insulation will help trap body heat during cold weather. The floor of the cat house should also be elevated off the ground. Look for waterproof roofing made of treated fabric, tar paper or shingles.

In terms of size, Alley Cat Allies recommends a basic size of 3 feet by 3 feet, which can fit 1-2 cats. For multiple cats, size up to 4 by 4 feet or larger. The ceiling height should be at least 1 foot for easy access. Make sure the entrance is wide enough for cats to comfortably enter and exit.

Cat House Placement

The placement of your outdoor cat house is very important for your cat’s comfort and safety. You’ll want to put it in a location that provides some protection from the elements while still allowing easy access for your cat.

Many experts recommend placing the cat house in a protected spot, such as under a covered porch or deck, beneath a bush or tree, or against the side of a shed or garage (source). This helps shield your cat from wind, rain, and snow. Just make sure it’s not right up against the building, as you don’t want rain running off the roof onto the house.

You’ll also want to position the cat house so your cat can easily enter and exit. Place it near where your cat likes to rest outside, with the opening facing away from prevailing winds. Don’t block the entrance with plants or other items. Consider placing multiple houses in different spots around your yard so your cat has options (source).

Avoid placing the cat house in direct sun during hot months, as it could overheat. Ensure the area around the house is kept free of hazards. And never force your cat to use the house – let them discover it on their own.

Getting Your Cat to Use It

Once you’ve chosen the ideal outdoor cat house and placed it in a strategic location, you’ll need to put in a little effort to encourage your cat to use it. Here are some tips:

Introduce the cat house slowly. Place it in your yard and allow your cat to investigate it and get used to its presence before expecting them to sleep in it. You can rub some catnip on the interior or place treats inside to spark their curiosity. Allow several days for your cat to acclimate at their own pace.

Make the interior cozy. Line it with soft bedding like a blanket or towel. Straw or hay also makes great insulation from the cold ground. In winter, swap out the bedding regularly to keep it fresh and dry. The more inviting it seems, the more inclined cats will be to use it.

Feed them near the cat house. Cats often explore new objects that are near their food bowls. Placing meals inside the house can entice them to check it out while eating. This associates the house with something positive. Over time, move the food bowls closer and closer to the entrance.

Be patient. Some cats, especially ferals, can be wary of new structures and changes to their environment. With gentle encouragement over days or weeks, most cats will eventually see the cat house as a welcome refuge. Don’t force them to use it, but rather allow natural curiosity to take its course.

Alternative Shelters

Outdoor cats can find shelter in many common outdoor items and structures. Some alternative shelters include:

Boxes – Cardboard boxes with holes cut for entry/exit points can provide quick shelter. Line them with straw or blankets for extra warmth and comfort. Replace periodically as they degrade.1

Sheds – Allowing access to sheds via a cat door provides outdoor cats a place to get out of the elements. Ensure the shed is insulated and has soft, warm bedding inside.2

Under porches – The space under porches is protected from wind, snow, and rain. Placing a warm cat bed under a porch gives cats a natural shelter option.


When providing an outdoor cat house, there are some important considerations to keep in mind for your cat’s health and safety.

For multi-cat households, make sure the house is large enough to accommodate all cats comfortably. Ideally each cat should have their own cubby or elevated bed (Alley Cat Allies). Providing multiple entry points allows subordinate cats to escape from more dominant ones. Customizing areas with each cat’s blanket or bedding helps establish ownership.

Outdoor cat houses should be cleaned regularly to prevent the spread of disease. Remove dirty bedding, wash all surfaces with mild detergent, rinse, and allow to dry completely. Disinfectant can be used periodically for deeper cleaning. Allow the house to air out before cats return (Home & Roost).

Avoid placing the outdoor cat house in areas exposed to the elements, like under trees with falling branches or where rainwater drains. Make sure it’s elevated off wet ground and unlikely to flood. Check for sharp edges, points, or other hazards inside the shelter that could injure a cat.

Case Studies

Many cat owners have shared stories online about their outdoor cats happily using cat houses. For example, one woman described how she started feeding a stray cat who was living outside (Source). She eventually gained the cat’s trust enough to bring her into a foster home through a local rescue organization. The foster home set up a heated outdoor cat house for the formerly feral cat to use. At first the cat was unsure about going inside, but over time she got accustomed to the shelter and began regularly going inside for food, water, and rest.

Another rescue organization shared the story of a feral cat named Logan who had made his home on a farm (Source). The farm owners built him an insulated outdoor shelter with a heating pad inside. Logan quickly began using the cat house for sleeping and would even “knock” on the door when he wanted to be let in or out. The heated shelter became his home base on the farm where he returned each night.

Stories like these from cat rescuers and owners show that, with patience and the right setup, outdoor cats can become comfortable using cat houses as a place of refuge.


In summary, outdoor cats can benefit greatly from having a dedicated cat house or shelter outside. These shelters provide protection from the elements, a place to rest comfortably, privacy, and security. The ideal cat house has an enclosed, insulated interior with soft, washable bedding and is raised off the ground. It should be placed in a quiet, shady area near the home. Getting an outdoor cat to use a new house may take some time and patience. Putting familiar bedding inside, placing food nearby, and applying catnip can encourage exploration and use. While cat houses are extremely useful for outdoor cats, other options like enclosed porches or garages can also provide shelter. The main considerations are providing a warm, dry, safe space the cat finds comforting and inviting.

Overall, a good outdoor cat house can significantly improve an outdoor cat’s quality of life. By giving them a place to call their own, outdoor cats will have the shelter and security they need to thrive.

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