Weatherproof Outdoor Cat Shelter For Multiple Cats

With increasing evidence showing the behavioral and health benefits of outdoor access, more and more cat owners are finding ways to allow their cats to safely experience the outdoors. Having a proper outdoor shelter is the key to helping owners grant their cats outdoor freedom while also providing weather protection and security. This article provides a comprehensive guide to constructing an outdoor shelter that is weatherproof and accommodates multiple cats.

Reasons for Outdoor Cat Shelters

There are several benefits to providing outdoor cat shelters:

Enrichment and exercise – Being outside allows cats to experience sights, sounds and smells that aren’t available indoors. Outdoor access gives cats the ability to run, climb, pounce, scratch and fully express their natural behaviors.

Access to fresh air and sunshine – Outdoor shelters let cats bask in the sun, breath fresh air, and experience the weather’s sights, sounds and smells up close. Sun exposure provides cats with vitamin D.

Expression of natural behaviors like patrolling territory – Cats have strong territorial instincts and like to patrol the boundaries of their domain. Outdoor shelters placed strategically around a yard can aid this patrol. Cats also like to watch the world from a perch.

In summary, outdoor cat shelters provide enrichment, exercise, and an outlet for cats’ natural instincts that can’t be fully met indoors.

Weatherproofing Considerations

When building an outdoor cat shelter, it’s crucial to make it weatherproof so it protects cats from the elements. This means making sure it repels rain, wind, snow, extreme heat and extreme cold.

The shelter should be made of waterproof and insulated materials to prevent moisture penetration while also providing insulation against temperature extremes. Many people use wood and coat it with water sealant, or use thick rubber mats or heavy duty plastic storage containers. The roofing material is also important, using materials like asphalt shingles, metal, or reinforced tarp.

Ventilation is also key, with openings to allow air flow while preventing direct wind and precipitation from entering. Some shelters use adjustable flaps over openings. In summer, ample ventilation prevents overheating. In winter, small openings prevent temperature loss while allowing oxygen exchange.

Proper drainage is another essential weatherproofing measure. A sloped roof and elevated floor helps water drain away, keeping the interior dry. Gravel or mulch flooring can aid drainage while also providing insulation against the cold ground.

Finally, the entire structure must be well built and anchored to the ground for stability in strong winds. Durable materials like exterior plywood and weather treated wood are ideal. The shelter entrance should also face away from the prevailing wind.

With careful weatherproofing using moisture barriers, insulation, ventilation, drainage and durable construction, outdoor cat shelters can protect felines from the harshest elements.

Size Guidelines

For a single cat, the recommended minimum size is about 24” long x 16” wide x 15” high. The shelter entrance should be around 5-6 inches to retain heat. Larger shelters are better for multi-cat households, with dimensions around 30-35 gallons or 22-32” high x 16-20” wide x 16-20” long (Alley Cat Allies, 2023).

Bigger is not always better, as larger shelters can lose heat quickly. Multiple interior spaces allow cats to spread out and regulate their body heat. The interior floor space should allow each cat to lie down comfortably without touching (Bideawee, 2023).

Having separate entry and exit points helps prevent territorial disputes. The entryway should be covered or offset to block wind, rain, and snow. Inside, include padded, raised surfaces for them to sleep on (Alley Cat Allies, 2022).

Ideal Location

When deciding on the ideal location for a weatherproof outdoor cat shelter, especially for multiple cats, there are a few key factors to consider:

Visibility – Cats like to be able to have a good vantage point to survey their territory. Place the shelter in an elevated spot where they can look out over the yard.

Protection from elements – Position the shelter in an area that’s protected from wind, rain, snow, and direct sun if possible. Under a deck or porch overhang is often a good choice.

Accessibility – Make sure the entrance is easy for cats to get in and out of. Having multiple access points can help prevent territorial disputes.

Safety from predators – Don’t locate too close to wooded areas or hiding spots where predators like coyotes could ambush from. Open placement in the yard is best.

Materials to Use

When building an outdoor cat shelter, especially one meant for winter use, it’s important to select materials that will keep the interior warm and dry. Some key material considerations include:

Insulated wood, plastic, etc. – Using insulated materials like wood, hard plastic, or even recycled styrofoam helps retain interior warmth in cold weather. Avoid materials like metal that conduct heat and cold easily [1].

Waterproof roof shingles – The roof is crucial for keeping rain and snow out. Use asphalt shingles, tarp material, or even patio tiles to create a waterproof barrier [1].

Double wall construction – Having an outer and inner wall with airspace between insulates better than a single wall. Use insulation inside the walls for even more warmth retention.

Raised floors – Elevating the floor several inches helps prevent water from seeping in and provides an air buffer between the shelter floor and the ground.

Additional Features

While the main structure of an outdoor cat shelter should focus on being weatherproof and providing space for multiple cats, there are some key additional features that can make your DIY shelter even better suited for feline friends:

Scratching Posts and Perches

Cats have an instinctual need to scratch, so providing scratching posts or perches inside the shelter gives them an approved place to satisfy this urge. You can use sisal rope or boards with a rough texture.

Washable Bedding

Look for bedding materials like washable blankets or mats that you can easily remove and clean. This will help manage odors and keep the interior hygienic.

Litter Box and Food Bowls

Include a designated litter area with a covered box, and space for food and water bowls. This allows cats to comfortably eat, drink, and relieve themselves without leaving the shelter.

Heating Pads

Heating pads designed for animal use can provide warmth during cold weather. Place these underneath normal bedding so cats can move closer or farther away to regulate their temperature.

Multi-Cat Considerations

When housing multiple cats in an outdoor shelter, it’s important to provide adequate space and resources to prevent conflicts. According to Pinterest, the shelter should be larger overall to accommodate all the cats comfortably. Having completely separate spaces, litter boxes, food and water is ideal so that cats have their own territory. Multiple entry/exit points are also recommended so that no cat can block or guard the door.

The HiCaptain Outdoor Cat House is designed spaciously for 1-2 cats under 15 lbs, demonstrating the need for extra room when housing multiple cats. The open roof and removable floor enable easy cleaning with multiple cats. Overall, ensure the shelter is big enough so each cat has their own clearly defined space to prevent aggression and stress.

Maintenance Tips

Keeping your outdoor cat shelter clean, safe, and inviting for your feline friends requires some regular maintenance:

  • Regularly clean and disinfect the shelter to prevent the spread of bacteria and illness. Use cat-safe cleaners and change out bedding frequently.

  • After major storms, check the shelter for any damage or water leaks that may have occurred. Make any necessary repairs to keep it weatherproof.

  • Control any pests like fleas or rodents that may try to inhabit the shelter alongside your cats. Use safe, pet-friendly pest control methods.

  • During winter, promptly remove any snow buildup on the roof or entrance to the shelter so cats can easily access it. Prevent icicles from forming.

With proper maintenance and care, your outdoor cat shelter can stay clean, inviting, and protected from the elements for years.


In summary, providing an outdoor cat shelter is beneficial for the health and safety of outdoor cats. A good cat shelter should be weatherproof, of adequate size, and located in a suitable spot. Useful materials for building a cat shelter include wood, insulation, and waterproof roofing. Design features like multiple compartments, easy access, and warmth are ideal for multi-cat shelters.

Outdoor cats that have access to a proper shelter are better protected from the elements like rain, wind, heat, and cold. A shelter gives them a place to rest comfortably and safely. With preparation and planning, you can build or buy a durable cat shelter that your outdoor cats will enjoy using.

If you need additional guidance on constructing or purchasing cat shelters, there are resources available online and from pet retailers. But the overview provided here covers the main considerations for protecting your outdoor cats.

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