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Setting up an Outdoor Cat House for Pets, Strays, and Ferals
Keeping Outdoor Cats Safe with an Insulated Cat House
Cats are certainly safest indoors. Inside your home they are protected from predators, traffic, and potentially life-threatening weather such as below freezing temperatures. However, for a variety of reasons, not all cats are kept indoors.
Whether you prefer that your kitty have more freedom or you care for stray and feral cats, providing an outdoor cat with adequate shelter is one of the most important things you can do to protect them. The first step of course is to consider an insulated cat house to help them survive winter weather.
Tips When Choosing an Insulated Cat House
The perfect shelter for outdoor cats can be built or purchased. There are a variety of insulated cat houses on the market. When choosing one you might want to consider:
Most cats like a fairly snug environment so purchasing something large enough to house a German Shepard generally isn't a good idea. Of course if you're caring for multiple cats, you might get something larger, but you need to be sure those cats will actually sleep together. In some instances, you may prefer something smaller, providing a separate shelter for each animal.
Some cats insist on having dual exits or they will avoid even the best insulated cat house. They want to know that they can get out in an emergency such as when another animal enters their abode. This isn't a requirement, but it's something to consider.
You also want to be sure that the door is large enough for the cat, but not for larger animals that can disrupt the peace. If your cat isn't accustomed to "doors" they may have to be trained to enter the house if there is a door or a covering over the opening. You can often do this by placing food in the house, but be careful not to attract unwanted animals. Doors and coverings can help retain heat, however you need to consider the cat. A feral cat is less likely to enter a typical cat door for instance.
Wood can be a good insulating material itself, but for it to survive outdoors it needs to be pressure treated and weatherized. Also consider flooring. A wood floor will be better insulation than plastic. Carpeting will require you to clean it and keep it dry. You can add straw, heating pads, or other material if you wish, but know what the particular house you're considering has in place.
Generally speaking the thicker the insulation the more effective it will be in retaining heat and cool air.
- Ease of Cleaning
Being able clean out any messes or refresh materials like straw and so forth, it will safe a great deal of time if you can easily access the interior. One option that helps in this instance is a lift off top.
Do It Yourself
If you don't mind doing a little work and want to save some cash, you can of course make your own insulated cat house.
All you will need is a large plastic tote and a styrofoam cooler small enough to just fit inside of the tote.
- Cut a hole in the tote as an access door (approximately 5.5" diameter)
- Insert the cooler into the tote.
- Cut hole in cooler as an access door.
- Put any bedding such as newspaper, straw, cloth, etc. on the floor.
- Place lids on both the cooler and the tote.
- Locate the perfect spot and place your new insulated cat shelter where your cat can feel safe and warm.
Putting It In Place
Here are just a few tips for locating your insulated cat house to assure it provides the protection your cat needs.
Consider elevating the house.
Cats like high places. Placing the house up high can attract the cats but it also helps protect them from potential predators (such as coyotes) and nuisance visitors (such as raccoons and opossums).
Place the house in the sun.
The sun can act as a natural form of heating during the day time.
Avoid open spaces.
Although you don't want the cat house completely shaded, you also don't want to place it in the middle of an open area. Cats seldom feel safe sleeping or even crossing a wide open area. Their fear of such things serves them well.
Consider any additional heating needs.
Some people use small sections of solar pool covers to use over the exterior of the house to generate more heat in the sun. You can also add small heaters that are basically just a covered light bulb to generate a small amount of heat. There are some commercially available or you can make your own as long as you assure it won't be flammable.
There are also heated pads that you can use on on the floor of the house. Just be sure it isn't on all of the time (you can add a timer if necessary) and that there is at least a usable section of the floor it doesn't cover so the cat can avoid it when necessary. It should only be a warming pad, not something that will ignite anything in the house.
It is also possible to position the shelter so that it is near a vent where heat comes out from under your house and provides additional heat to warm the walls of the cat house.
It's also a good idea to use a thermometer in the house so that you can check it periodically to assure it's providing adequate shelter.
Learn More About Winter Cat Care
© 2010 Christine Mulberry