What Do You Put In An Outdoor Cat House?

Outdoor cats have different housing needs than indoor cats. While indoor cats do well in human homes, outdoor cats require sturdier shelter that protects them from the elements. An outdoor cat house provides a place for feral and free-roaming cats to rest safely and find warmth.

Outdoor cat shelters serve several important purposes. In addition to providing much-needed shelter, an outdoor cat house gives cats a place to sleep and get out of the wind, rain, snow, and cold temperatures. A cat house provides security and protects cats from predators or territorial animals. It also gives nursing mother cats a private, quiet place to raise their kittens.


When choosing the size for an outdoor cat house, it’s important to consider the number and size of cats that will be using it. Here are some tips on sizing:

  • For 1-2 average sized cats, a small house about 2-3 feet wide and 2 feet tall is usually sufficient.
  • For multiple or larger cats, choose a house at least 3-4 feet wide and 2-3 feet tall to give them enough room.
  • Cat houses should not be too cramped but having some cozy spaces helps cats retain body heat.
  • Large cat houses can be sectioned off with shelves or partitions to create separate spaces.
  • Outdoor cat houses should not be gigantic, as cats still need enclosed spaces to feel secure.

The pros of a bigger cat house are that it can accommodate more cats and allow them to move around. The cons are that it’s more expensive, heavier to move, and could be too spacious for some cats. The right size depends on your specific cat family!


When choosing where to place an outdoor cat house, there are a few key factors to consider for your cat’s comfort and safety:

First, look for a spot that gets sun for part of the day, as this will help keep your cat warm. Place the shelter out of the wind if possible, and make sure it’s not located in an area that tends to collect standing water or flood. Putting the shelter up on cinderblocks can help.

Ideal locations in the yard include against the house, garage or shed, under a deck or porch, or tucked beside bushes or trees. This provides some natural buffering from the elements. Avoid wide open areas with no cover. You want your cat to feel safe and secure.

Also consider moisture, temperature, and sun exposure when picking the spot. Try to place the shelter so the entrance doesn’t face the prevailing winds and rains. And make sure it’s not too close to areas your cat could be startled, like a driveway or footpath.

Lastly, don’t forget permission if placing the shelter outside your own yard, such as near your workplace or on town property. The shelter should be allowed if following local pet ordinances.


Insulation is extremely important for outdoor cat houses in order to conserve warmth in cold weather. Without proper insulation, the inside of the house could be nearly as cold as the outside. Insulation creates a barrier to prevent heat loss. There are various types of insulation that can be used:

Fiberglass insulation is a common choice and provides excellent thermal insulation at a reasonable price (https://www.catster.com/cat-chic/how-to-build-a-diy-insulated-cat-house/). It’s available in rolls or rigid sheets. Make sure to cover any exposed fiberglass so it doesn’t irritate your cat’s skin.

Foam board insulation like polystyrene is another option for creating an insulating barrier (https://www.amazon.com/insulation-cat-house/s?k=insulation+for+cat+house). Rigid foam boards are easy to cut to size. Look for insulation with an R-value of at least R-5.

Straw makes a great natural insulating material that cats can burrow into (https://www.neighborhoodcats.org/how-to-tnr/colony-care/feral-cat-winter-shelter). Make sure any straw is kept dry and replaced regularly.

The key is to create a layer of insulation on all sides of the outdoor cat house to prevent drafts and retain interior warmth. Properly insulating a cat house can help outdoor cats stay warm and healthy through cold winter months.


Providing soft, warm bedding is crucial for outdoor cat shelters. The best materials to use are straw, pine shavings or wood pellets. According to Alley Cat Allies, straw is ideal because it is hollow which traps heat, stays dry, and allows cats to nest. Cats may eat hay which can cause intestinal blockages. Pine shavings and wood pellets also provide insulation. Avoid using fabric, towels or blankets as they retain moisture.

Do not use materials like hay, leaves, grass or newspaper as these can freeze over and get damp. Hay and grass can also contain dust, pollen and mold spores that are unhealthy for cats. The key is to provide fluffy, dry bedding that cats can burrow into.

Regularly replace wet or soiled bedding to keep the shelter clean and comfortable. Cleaning out bedding weekly or biweekly is recommended depending on use.


The entrance is a crucial aspect of an outdoor cat shelter. You’ll want to consider a few factors when choosing the entrance style:

A single small opening can help retain heat but may prevent quick escape in an emergency. Having multiple exits gives cats more options to enter and exit safely. Experts generally recommend having 2 or more entrances in different areas of the shelter (source).

The size of the opening matters too. It should be big enough for a cat to comfortably pass through, but not so large as to let in drafts. A 5-6 inch diameter is optimal for most cats.

You’ll also want to consider whether you need a flap or door of some kind. Flaps can provide extra insulation but may flap annoyingly in the wind. Sturdy plastic flaps are better than fabric.

The entrances should be weatherproofed to keep wind and rain out. Self-closing flaps, overlapping door panels, or tunnels can help seal openings.

In summary, aim for 2 or more entrances about 5-6 inches wide, strategically placed for safety. Weatherproof with sturdy flaps or panels. And make sure cats can easily enter and exit through the openings.


Weatherproofing an outdoor cat house is extremely important to keep the inside of the shelter dry and draft-free. Some ways to effectively weatherproof a cat house include:

Using waterproof materials – Select materials like plastic, vinyl or fiberglass that will not absorb moisture for the walls and roof of the shelter. Avoid porous materials like unfinished wood that can warp or deteriorate when wet.

Caulking cracks and gaps – Seal any small openings in the walls or roofing with silicone caulk to prevent rain/snow from seeping in. Check for gaps around windows, vents, doors, etc.

Adding a skirting – Attach a vinyl or plastic skirt around the base of the shelter to block wind and precipitation from blowing underneath. Leave a few inches between the skirt and ground.

Elevating on a platform – Placing the shelter on a raised wooden platform can protect it from puddles, standing water and soggy ground.

Installing overlapping roof panels – Use roofing panels or shingles that overlap each other so water runs off the exterior. Make sure roof overhangs stretch beyond the shelter’s walls.

Coating with waterproof sealant – Painting or spraying exterior walls and roof with a clear waterproofing sealant adds an extra barrier against moisture penetration.


Providing heating for outdoor cat houses is especially important for cats living in areas with very cold winters. There are a few safe options to warm a cat house without electricity:

Microwavable heating pads can provide a couple hours of warmth when needed. Make sure pads are placed securely so cats don’t sit or lay directly on top and risk getting burned (source).

Self-heating mats or pads designed for outdoor use are another option, although these may not provide enough heat for extremely cold climates (source).

For very cold temperatures, heated cat houses with a safe enclosed heating element can be used. These provide reliable warmth while protecting cats from direct contact with the heat source. It’s important to follow manufacture guidelines to prevent overheating or fire risks (source).

Battery powered heating pads are another option, but may not provide long-lasting heat. Supervise cats initially to ensure proper use and no chewing of cords.

Providing ample insulation and bedding can also help retain heat without added heating elements. But extra warmth is likely needed for freezing temperatures.

Regular Cleaning

It is important to regularly clean and disinfect your outdoor cat house to prevent the spread of diseases and keep your cat healthy. The ASPCA recommends scrubbing all surfaces with a brush or rag and soap/detergent weekly. Rinse thoroughly with clean water and allow to fully dry before allowing your cat back in (A).

For a deeper clean, disinfect surfaces monthly with a pet-safe disinfectant. Avoid harsh chemicals like bleach that may be unsafe for cats. Look for a disinfectant labeled specifically for animal facilities. Be sure to rinse surfaces thoroughly after disinfecting. Allow the cat house to completely dry before allowing your cat back inside (B).

Cleaning bedding weekly is also recommended. Replace bedding completely every 1-2 months. Scoop litter boxes daily and change litter completely every 1-2 weeks.


In summary, the key recommendations for an optimal outdoor cat house include choosing one that is properly insulated, weatherproofed, and the right size for your cat. Make sure the house is raised up off the ground and includes places where your cat can perch up high. It should contain soft, warm bedding that is regularly washed. The entrance should be covered to block wind and rain. If possible, provide some sort of heating source for winter months. With regular cleaning and maintenance, your cat will have a safe, cozy space to retreat to when spending time outdoors.

Providing proper outdoor shelter for cats has many benefits. Outdoor housing allows cats to safely spend time outside getting fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. It gives them a place to relax, play, sleep, and watch the birds and wildlife around them. Cats are territorial animals, so having an outdoor house also establishes their own space and territory when outside. Most importantly, proper outdoor housing keeps community cats warm, dry and protected from harsh elements.

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