Feral cat houses comes in a variety of styles. You can build one yourself or buy a cat house that is ready to use.
There are several things to consider when deciding on a feral cat house, such as:
- Local ordinances
- Location – placement of feral cat house
- Protecting the cats from bad weather
- Feral Cat Safety
- Ease of Cleaning
Local Feral/Community Cat Ordinances
Before you decide to maintain a feral cat colony in your backyard or another area, it is important to know the animal laws for that area. Not all communities support Trap-Neuter-Return. In some circumstances, the county might support TNR, but the city does not.
For example: Wake County, NC has a community cat clause allowing for TNR; however the various cities within the county have their own animal regulations. The Town of Cary supports TNR while the City of Raleigh considers it a crime. If you trap a feral cat and have it altered, the city considers you the owner and expects you to keep it in your house, because cats are not allow to roam free.
Location – Placement of Feral Cat Houses
If you are able to place the feral cat house up against a low traffic/quiet side of a heated building, the cats can benefit from any transferred heat. Before you place the house, look up and make sure the cat house will not be hit by water running off the building’s roof.
If the cats are not willing to come close to the structure, scan the area for bushes or other natural ways you can give the cats additional privacy and protect them from wind, blowing rain or snow. You can also cover the cat house with branches or boards to create the feeling of extra safety for the cats.
Avoid placing feral cat houses in a flood plain or low lying area. There is no way of telling when a heavy rain might trap the cats inside. (This goes for traps too. Avoid trapping in flood plains. If there is a flash flood and a cat is in the trap, s(he) has no way of escaping.)
Protecting The Cats From Bad Weather
Make sure the cat house is big enough for the cat to fit comfortably inside, but small enough to allow for the cats natural body heat to keep the space warm during colder months.
You will need to add bedding and insulation to help keep the space warm enough. You can do this in a number of ways:
- Add a layer of styrofoam and or a mylar reflective blanket around the inside of the cat house to provide extra insulation.
- Add a warm place to bed down inside. You can use things like:
- Straw (not hay, it gets moldy)
- Shredded newspaper
- A zippered pillow case filled with styrofoam peanuts
- A Mysterious Purr Pad
Ensure the cat house is waterproof. A slanted roof that extends beyond the edges of the structure and over the door will help keep water from leaking or splashing inside the house.
Having the cat house elevated and the door higher than ground level will also prevent water from entering the structure. If you think water may get inside, you can tilt the house slightly and drill a half-inch hole in the base to allow for the water to exit.
If the cat will tolerate it, you can add a flap over the door to help retain heat and keep the elements out. You may need to let the cat use the house several times so it can become comfortable before you add the flap.
For lighter structures, place them where wind will not harm them and weigh them down so they do not tip over or blow away.
Feral Cat Safety
Avoid setting colonies up near roadways.
Besides protection from the elements, the cats also need to be protected from other animals. Do not put food inside the feral cat house, because it will attract other animals who may try to fight the cats for food. For example, possum love to bite the cats in their rumps as they run out of their house.
You’ll also want to consider coyotes and other predators, ensuring that they do not have easy access to the cats.
Ease of cleaning
Some people opt for disposable cat houses that they can toss each season. You could also opt for a cat house that has a removable roof, a roof that flips open on one side, or a doorway you are able to reach in and clean out bedding each year.
Feral Cat House Options
Avoid spending all your money on a cat house and not having enough money to spay-neuter all the cats. Spaying and Neutering needs to be the top priority. Make sure you select houses that allow you to have enough reserved funds, because while rewarding, maintaining a colony is not free.
Do-it-yourself Cat Houses
Take a thick Rubbermaid or Commander tote container and cut a door in it. Some brands of tote containers are stackable, so you can create a feral cat condo unit out of them and place plywood and a tarp over the top to keep them water tight. Add styrofoam insulation for extra cold regions and throw in plenty of straw for bedding.
If you have a truck cap lying around your yard unused, throw in a bunch of straw for bedding and your unused yard ornament is now a cat house.
For folks that are handy with woodworking, take a look at some of the houses under the “buy a feral cat house” area below and make a custom house with as many bells and whistles as you like. You can even dovetail the corners.
The do-it-yourself options are limitless. I curated a playlist of videos on just a few options.
Buy A Feral Cat House
It is more expensive to buy a pre-made feral cat house, but there are many attractive options. Some come pre-assembled and some you have to assemble, so make sure you know what you are getting into before you purchase.