The 10 Best Cat Shelters
This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in October of 2015. Whether you have a cat that prefers to stay outside rather than indoors, or you're humane enough to want to provide local feral animals with a shelter to keep warm and dry, one of these outdoor cat houses should be perfect for your — and especially their — needs. They come in a variety of designs and a range of sizes, to match any decor and space, with prices that fit into any budget. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
April 28, 2020:
During this round of updates, while the Petmate Condo and Trixie Enclosure both needed to be removed due to availability issues, the Petsfit Play and Hide – a multi-level model with a third-story balcony – and the PawHut Large Run –a big option with a footprint of 20 square feet – were both added to our rankings as new inclusions.
A few things to think about for this category:
Size: As any owner will tell you, most cats tend to be partial to luxury, so there’s a good chance your feline friend will appreciate one of our large selections. Also, if this is an installation you’re considering adding to your yard for the benefit of feral cats, a bigger shelter creates opportunity for multiple cats to enjoy the facility at the same time.
That being said, yard space is often precious, so it’ll be up to you how much you want to surrender to the cats in your life. While the PawHut Large Run is a great looking choice that offers spacious accommodations, its relatively massive footprint may be a deterrent for some users. Models like the Petsfit Play and Hide and Trixie 3-Story take advantage of tall designs, which allow them to increase square footage whilst minimizing their footprints.
Maintenance: In keeping with maintaining the luxurious style afforded to your cats by their new shelter, you’ll likely want to clean it out from time to time. While the PawHut Large Run has an oversized door that makes it easy for users to enter its enclosure, many other models – such as the Petsfit Play and Hide, Petsfit Weatherproof and Trixie 3-Story – have provisions that make removing roofs and walls easy, so you’ll have no trouble giving their insides a thorough scrubbing.
Heating: If you live in a cold climate, or even a mild climate that cools of significantly at night, and you’re setting up this shelter within reasonable proximity of an electrical outlet, you might want to consider an option with electric heat, to help keep your pet warm. If this is the case, a good place to start is with the K&H Kitty House and K&H Mod Thermo-Kitty, which both feature heated floors.
Blythe Wood Works With 30 years in the pet-house industry, this South-Carolina company has 12 cedar cat house designs that are available with a number of custom options. They offer free shipping throughout the continental United States, and have alternative shipping options for users living further away. blythewoodworks.com
The obvious danger here is that cars can run cats over, and a moment of unawareness is all it would take to have your precious one taken from you.
Back in my bachelor days, my roommate decided to take in a cat that had been rescued off the mean streets of West Philadelphia at about six months old. She was a skittish creature, utterly quiet (we didn't hear her meow for the first two months), and quick to bite and scratch with all her might. We had to keep her indoors, knowing she'd probably run off as soon as she got out, and the small apartment didn't suit her very well.
After almost a year, she'd calmed down considerably, but we'd still catch her looking longingly out the windows each day, even though we'd moved into a house in the neighborhood that gave her a lot more space. Pretty soon, we'd decided to let her roam free, easing her into the wilderness by cordoning off the back yard. She quickly surmounted those barriers, and had the whole hood to herself.
The only problem was that West Philadelphia is home to some of the craziest feral cats I've ever seen. Every night you could hear them fighting and, well, doing other feline things. We wanted her to have her own space in the yard where she could feel safe and secure, a place she could call her own and spend her days without needing to wander too far for shelter and comfort.
So, we got her a cat shelter. What's great about these shelters is that they have their uses indoors and outdoors, though, honestly, certain models are better in one environment or the other. She had numerous surfaces to enjoy, a lounging area where she could stretch and hang her limbs over the sides, and an enclosure in which she could feel safe from the terrors of our large parties and the neighborhood cats alike.
One of the most common places you'll find cats taking shelter outdoors is in the underside of a vehicle. This is especially true in the winter, when a recently parked car's warm engine can provide a much needed thaw for your cold cat. The obvious danger here is that cars can run cats over, and a moment of unawareness is all it would take to have your precious one taken from you.
New Heights Of Comfort
Each cat is utterly unique. Any cat owner will tell you that if you presented him of her with a lineup of identical cats and asked them to pick their kitty out of the group, they could do so almost instantly. For as many feline personalities there are out there, there are almost as many options among cat shelters.
Looking out at them, one got the sense that the higher branches belonged to the cats with superior status.
Fortunately for you, we've narrowed down the field to the best ones available. It's up to you to hone your selection in further, and knowing as much as you already do about your cat, this part should be a breeze. In theory, all of these shelters could be used either indoors or outdoors, but they're all truly designed for outdoor use, and many of them are just too large to make sense within a home.
Cat shelters also usually have added surfaces designed to give your cat a spot to bask in the sun, as well as insulating materials to maintain more comfortable temperatures throughout the year. The models on our list that could double for indoor use tend to be smaller and simpler, intended to give your cat a reliable hideaway that won't totally remove them from your vicinity. After all, we like to keep our cats close.
The other variable to consider, one you might not have expected when you began your research, is height. Different cats prefer different heights at which to lounge, though I've known most cats to prefer higher vantage points where available. There was a tree in my back yard growing up where all the neighborhood cats would congregate like a board meeting. Looking out at them, one got the sense that the higher branches belonged to the cats with superior status.
A few of these shelters rest cozily on the ground, which makes for an easy entrance and exit for your kitty, as well as a convenient way to funnel them into their cat carrier should they need a trip to the vet. Others, however, take advantage of most cats' preference for height, with entrances and surfaces elevated well off the ground.
To Catch A Mouse
Given how aloof most cats behave, it might seem unbelievable that they essentially domesticated themselves into human homes, but archeological evidence suggests just that. On the island of Cyprus, scientists have discovered the jaw bones of cats dating back almost 9,500 years.
Seeing that the cats were useful, the farmers might even have trapped some in the wild and brought them back for the destruction of the mice.
Since it's unlikely that wild cats somehow made it to the island on their own (cats don't really like to swim), and since it's even less likely that settlers to the island would have packed a bunch of wild, scratching and biting machines on their ships for the journey, it's safe to assume that cats were domesticated before this date.
Most archeologists believe that cats became domesticated at around the same time that mankind began its transition from a hunter/gatherer species to a species that tilled the earth and farmed for sustenance. After all, having to store grain on one's property would surely invite wild mice and rats onto the premises for a feeding frenzy.
It's likely that some wild cats in Mesopotamia simply followed the banquet where it led, and that they took advantage of a sudden convergence of the area's mice around a few human homes. Seeing that the cats were useful, the farmers might even have trapped some in the wild and brought them back for the destruction of the mice.
Over time, these farmers would probably have selected breeds that could catch and kill a fair share of mice, but that also didn't pose a threat to their children or themselves, creating an environment that would slowly but surely create the more docile, domesticated cats we love and shelter today.