How Do I Get My Outdoor Cat To Use A Cat House?

Why Do Cats Need Shelter Outside

Outdoor cats need proper shelter for several important reasons:

Protection from weather extremes – Unlike their ancestors who lived in the desert, today’s domestic cats are not equipped to handle temperature extremes. A good cat shelter protects them from the heat, cold, wind, rain, and snow. According to the ASPCA, exposure to the elements can lead to potentially fatal conditions like hypothermia, heatstroke, and frostbite. Outdoor cat shelters provide a place for cats to get relief from the elements.

Somewhere to rest comfortably – Cats sleep an average of 15 hours a day. Having an outdoor cat house gives them a safe, warm, and dry place to comfortably rest and recharge. Shelters with soft bedding are ideal.

Sense of security – Shelters also provide cats with a sense of security. Being able to retreat to their own shelter gives cats a place they can go to feel protected and avoid perceived threats. This is especially important for stray and feral cats. According to Quora users, outdoor enclosures and shelters allow cats the freedom to be outside while still having the safety and security of an indoor environment.

Choosing the Right Cat House

When selecting an outdoor cat house, one of the most important considerations is whether you need an insulated or uninsulated model. Insulated houses provide more warmth in cold weather with thick walls filled with insulation or straw. They are ideal for climates with temperature extremes. However, they may get too warm in hot weather. Uninsulated houses are simpler and ventilate better in summer but won’t retain heat as well in winter (Source).

The size of the cat house is also key. It should have enough interior space for your cat to easily turn around and lie down comfortably inside. However, larger houses are more difficult to keep warm. Aim for the smallest size that provides adequate room for your cat (Source).

Additionally, pay attention to the opening size. It should allow easy access for your cat, but be small enough to deter larger animals. An entrance around 6 to 7 inches square is ideal. You can add a flap over the opening for additional insulation and wind protection (Source).

Ideal Cat House Location

Finding the perfect location to place an outdoor cat house is important for ensuring your cat uses it. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting the ideal spot:

Position the house near your home, so your cat doesn’t have to travel far and knows where to find it. However, also choose a spot that offers a bit of privacy from household noises and activities. Cats often appreciate having their own secluded retreat.

Look for a partially shaded area, such as under a tree or bush. This will allow the house to stay cool in summer but still receive some sun in winter. Direct sunlight can overheat some cat houses in summer.

Avoid areas with loud noises from traffic, machinery, or other animals. These types of disturbances may deter timid cats from using the house.1

Try to place the house in a spot that is sheltered from wind and rain, such as against a wall or fence. This will keep the interior drier in wet weather.

Elevate the house slightly off the ground, either by placing bricks under it or mounting it on a deck or platform. This prevents moisture from seeping in and gives added insulation.

Make sure the location allows easy access for cleaning and maintenance. You don’t want the house situated somewhere inconvenient when it comes time for removal of soiled bedding, etc.

Avoid areas where falling debris (like leaves, sticks, etc) could accumulate and block the entrance. Regularly check that the doorway remains clear.

Lastly, ensure the spot is safely away from roads, bodies of water, or anywhere your cat could encounter danger when entering or exiting the shelter.

Making the House Appealing

To entice your outdoor cat to start using its new house, you’ll need to make the inside as welcoming and cozy as possible. Here are some tips:

Line the floor with soft, warm bedding that your cat will want to snuggle into. Old blankets or towels work well. You can also use stale wheat heat pads under the bedding to provide gentle warmth on cold nights.

Hide some treats or catnip toys inside the house. Your cat will be curious to explore and discover these treasures. Just make sure to replace them periodically so the appeal doesn’t wear off.

Rub the inside of the house with an old sock or cloth that carries your cat’s scent. This is a great trick for making the house smell familiar and feel like your cat’s territory.

The more cozy and inviting you can make the inside, the more likely your cat will be to hunker down and make itself at home. With a little bit of creativity, you can transform an ordinary cat house into a purrfect oasis.

Introducing Your Cat to the House

Once you have set up the outdoor cat house in an ideal spot, it’s time to gradually introduce your cat to the new house. This is an important step, as you want your cat to become comfortable using the house as their own space. Here are some tips for encouraging your cat to start using their new outdoor cat house:

  • Place treats leading up to and inside the cat house. Dropping a trail of tasty treats will create positive associations and entice your cat to fully enter the house. You can use treats, catnip, or food to motivate your cat.
  • Feed meals inside the house. Feeding your cat in the new cat house helps establish it as a safe space for food. Your cat will learn that good things happen in the cat house.
  • Sit inside the house yourself. Spending time in the cat house makes it less intimidating for your cat. They will see that you are comfortable there and may follow you in.

With time and patience, your cat is likely to become accustomed to the outdoor cat house. Make it an appealing space for them with treats, pets, and quality time spent inside. Soon your cat will be happily relaxing in their new outdoor abode.

Being Patient

It can take cats days or even weeks to start regularly using their new outdoor cat house. Be patient and don’t try to force or carry your cat into the cat house during this adjustment period. Cats are very routine-oriented creatures and any change to their environment can be stressful and take time to get used to. Give your cat the time and space they need to scope out the cat house and decide to enter it on their own terms.

According to BARCS, most cats take 1-2 weeks to fully adjust to a new home environment. Some shy or anxious cats may take much longer. Let your cat set the pace and don’t rush the process. With time, your cat is likely to seek out the shelter of their cat house, especially as they start to view it as a safe space. Be patient and allow this adjustment period, and soon your cat will be happily using their new outdoor cat house.

Troubleshooting a Cat That Won’t Use the House

If your cat is hesitant to use their outdoor cat house, there are some troubleshooting tips to try:

Try placing the cat house in different locations around your yard to see if your cat prefers a specific spot. Cats like having multiple hiding spots and escape routes, so experiment with areas near trees, fences, decks, or bushes. Avoid high-traffic areas. According to this Houzz discussion, elevating the house on a table or platform can also make it more enticing.

Make sure the interior of the cat house contains bedding that smells familiar, like an old blanket or bed from inside your home. According to this Quora post, providing a warm, cozy interior with familiar scents can help a hesitant cat accept the shelter.

Inspect the area to rule out things that may be deterring your cat like loud noises, other animals, or strange smells. Make sure the entrance and interior are free of pests and debris that could scare your cat away.

Maintaining the Cat House

Regular cleaning and maintenance of your cat’s outdoor house is important to keep it comfortable and healthy for your cat. You should plan to do a thorough cleaning of the entire house at least once a month. Make sure to remove all bedding and wash/replace it with clean, dry bedding. Scrub the interior surfaces with a non-toxic cleaner and rinse well. Allow the house to completely dry before adding fresh bedding.

Be sure to check the bedding daily and replace it if it has gotten wet or soiled. Cats like their sleeping areas to be clean and dry. Damp bedding can allow mold and mildew to grow.

Also regularly check over the exterior and interior of the house for any damage or wear and tear. Make minor repairs promptly to prevent leaks.

To help prevent fleas, ticks or other pests from infesting the house, periodically sprinkle natural diatomaceous earth powder lightly around the perimeter. This will discourage pests without harming your cat.

With regular care and maintenance, your outdoor cat house can provide a safe and cozy shelter for your feline friend. Just be sure to keep it clean, dry and pest-free.

Safety Considerations

When setting up an outdoor cat house, it’s important to consider safety factors to protect your cat.

Make sure to anchor the cat house so it doesn’t blow away in high winds. Use stakes or a heavy object like bricks to weigh it down. Choose a sheltered area protected from the wind if possible.

Monitor for temperature extremes in the cat house. Use insulation, bedding, or a heating pad to keep it warm in winter. Provide shade and ventilation to prevent overheating in summer. Check the temperature inside regularly.

Pick a spot with good visibility so cars, people, and other animals can see the cat house and avoid it. Avoid placing it in high traffic areas or hiding spots. Consider visibility from all directions.

Check for any sharp edges, points, or hazards inside the cat house that could harm your cat. Make sure the entrance won’t collapse or trap your cat.

Keeping safety top of mind when setting up your outdoor cat’s house will help protect them and give you peace of mind. For more tips, see Safe Spaces: How to Successfully Set-up, Style and Maintain an Outdoor Cat House.

Benefits of an Outdoor Cat House

An outdoor cat house provides many benefits for cats that spend time outside, including improved comfort, health, and protection. Having a dedicated shelter can help keep your cat warm, dry, and safe from the elements like rain, wind, snow, and extreme heat or cold ( A cat house gives your feline a place to rest comfortably outside and feel secure, which can reduce stress and anxiety. According to experts, outdoor cats that have access to proper housing are likely to be healthier and live longer than cats without shelter (

With protection from the weather and a location to retreat to, an outdoor cat house allows your pet to safely enjoy time outside. Your cat can get fresh air, stimulation, and activity, while still having a refuge if they get scared, tired, or simply want to nap or observe the outdoors from a sheltered vantage point. Having a designated shelter can give you peace of mind too, knowing your furry friend has a place to go if the weather takes a turn.

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