Where Do Outdoor Cats Go When Raining?

Outdoor and feral cats lead fascinating secret lives. While pet cats enjoy the comforts of home, their outdoor cousins must fend for themselves without the shelter and care of humans. Estimates suggest there are around 60-100 million feral cats in the United States alone. These felines have returned to a wild state after being abandoned or born in the wild. When the weather turns foul, where do these outdoor cats go to stay dry and warm?

Seeking Shelter

Cats instinctively seek shelter from the rain to stay warm and dry. They will look for natural shelters like tree hollows, as well as man-made structures that provide cover.

Natural shelters that feral and stray cats often use include:

  • Dense bushes and shrubbery
  • Hollowed out trees or logs
  • Under porches and decks
  • Caves or overhangs

Man-made shelters frequented by feral cats when it rains include:

  • Under parked vehicles
  • Sheds or garages
  • Spaces under buildings
  • Stairs or covered walkways
  • Cardboard boxes left outside

Cats are resourceful in finding nooks and crannies to curl up in and stay dry during rainfall. They often return to tried and true shelter spots they’ve used previously.

Under Vehicles

One of the most common places for outdoor cats to seek shelter when it’s raining is under vehicles. Cats will crawl under cars, trucks, and other vehicles to get out of the rain. The engine area tends to retain heat long after the vehicle has been turned off, providing a warm, dry area for cats.

According to one source, cats seek out the shelter of vehicle engines “One of the main reasons is warmth. The engine of a car retains heat after it has been turned off, which serves as an appealing place for cats to keep warm and dry” (Source). This makes vehicle engines an enticing shelter option for cats during cold, wet weather.

In addition to warmth, the engine compartment provides shelter from wind and rain. Cats can crawl deep under vehicles and tuck themselves up into wheel wells and other cavities to stay dry.

However, taking shelter under vehicles poses significant risks for cats. Cats can be injured or killed by moving engine parts if the vehicle is started. It’s important for drivers to honk their horn and check under vehicles before starting the engine to give cats a chance to escape (Source). Providing alternative forms of outdoor shelter, like insulated shelters, can help deter cats from dangerously seeking refuge under vehicles.

In Tree Hollows

Outdoor cats will often seek shelter in the hollow trunks and branches of trees during rainy weather. Cats are excellent climbers and can nimbly climb up tall trees to access hollows and crevices in the trunk and larger branches. These sheltered spots provide protection from wind and rain. According to research, while cats excel at climbing up trees, their claws are not as suited for climbing back down [1]. This means that once cats climb up into a hollow tree trunk or branch, they may feel hesitant or unable to climb back down. Some cats can become genuinely stuck in trees during rainy weather when seeking the shelter of hollow trunks and branches. If cats appear stuck in trees, tempting them down with aromatic food often works [2]. With patience and coaxing with food, most cats can be encouraged to slowly climb back down to safety.

Burrow Underground

Cats are natural diggers and will burrow underground holes to seek shelter from the rain. According to a Quora post, cats often dig shallow holes to stay dry. These holes are usually dug under buildings, porches, decks, or any other covered location. The overhang provides protection from rain, while the hole itself provides additional buffering. Cats feel safe and secure when buried underground. Their light bodies and small size allow them to squeeze into tiny dugouts. The dirt walls also provide insulation. Burrowing underground is an instinctive survival tactic for cats caught outside in storms.

Find Human Shelter

Outdoor cats will often seek refuge in human-made structures when it’s raining. Barns, sheds, and garages provide protection from the rain and are warmer than being outside. Feral cats in particular are adept at finding ways into these kinds of shelters:1

Garages can be appealing to outdoor cats when it’s raining. The enclosed structure keeps the rain out. And garages often have small openings or cat doors that allow entry. Cats may find hiding spots among the stored items. Garages also tend to be warmer than outside.2

Sheds and barns can also provide refuge on rainy days. Their roofs and walls provide shelter, and there may be gaps or openings that allow cats to sneak inside. These outbuildings are common places for feral cats to find temporary shelter from rain.3

Improvised Shelter

Cats will often seek improvised shelter from the rain if they can’t find more ideal refuge. Two common examples of improvised shelter cats may utilize include:

Cardboard boxes – If cats find an empty cardboard box sitting outside, they may curl up inside it to stay dry. The box provides a roof over their heads and blocks wind. Cats likely find cardboard boxes a welcoming temporary shelter as they allow them to feel hidden and secure.1

Bushes – Dense bushes provide effective improvised rain shelter for cats. They can crawl beneath the branches and leaves to take cover. The foliage blocks rain from falling directly on them and also traps their body heat to keep them warm. Bushes are readily available for cats to duck under when the rain starts. 2


Being outdoors in the rain poses several risks for cats. One major risk is hypothermia. Cats’ fur can only insulate them so much against the cold and wet. Prolonged exposure to rain and dampness can lead to lowered body temperature and hypothermia (Source). Signs of hypothermia in cats include lethargy, weakness, shivering, and low body temperature. Hypothermia can be life threatening if not treated.

Another risk is accidents. Wet surfaces are slippery, making it easier for cats to fall or get hit by vehicles. Cats cannot grip and balance as well when wet. Road accidents increase in rainy weather as visibility is lower for both drivers and cats (Source).

Cats also face increased risk of fighting when seeking shelter in unfamiliar places. Shelters like porches may already be occupied by other cats. Fighting can lead to injuries and the spread of diseases like FIV (Source).

Helping Outdoor Cats

When it’s raining outside, it’s important to help outdoor and feral cats find shelter and stay warm and dry. Here are some tips for assisting community cats in inclement weather:

Build shelters using plastic storage bins or wooden crates lined with straw. Make sure to cut a hole for an entrance and face the opening away from the wind and rain. You can also build a lean-to style shelter against a building using boards or plywood. Cover the roof with heavy plastic sheeting or tarps (Neighborhood Cats).

Provide warm, dry bedding like straw inside shelters so cats have insulation against the wet ground. Blankets or mylar emergency blankets can also retain heat. Make sure bedding stays dry by changing it out as needed (The Humane Society).


In summary, outdoor cats have a variety of options for seeking shelter when it starts raining. They may crawl under vehicles, find hollows in trees to curl up in, burrow underground, seek out human-made shelters like porches or garages, or even try to build their own improvised shelter out of available materials. While their resourcefulness helps them survive the elements, being outside during storms does pose risks like hypothermia. If you are concerned about an outdoor cat in your area when the weather turns bad, providing some form of enclosed shelter can give it a warm, dry place to wait out the rain.

In the end, outdoor cats are resilient creatures that can often fend for themselves during storms. But giving them access to sturdy, insulated shelter and helping mitigate the risks can go a long way towards keeping community cats safe and healthy through all kinds of weather. With some planning and care, they can continue to thrive outdoors even when it’s raining cats and dogs.

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