4 DIY Outdoor Cat Houses

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Whether you have pet cats that occasionally need protection and shelter outdoors, or if you want to provide a warm, safe space for feral cats, an outdoor cat house is a great way to care for your furry friends.

There are many wonderful pet houses available, but this is also a great DIY project, and doing it yourself can also save time and money.

With some creativity and basic materials, there is a vast range of DIY outdoor cat houses that you can make to provide shelter for cats.

DIY Outdoor Cat Houses

Providing Shelter for Feral Outdoor Cats

When building a DIY cat house, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here are some critical considerations.

Basic Design

Cats naturally like boxes, and their curiosity will lead them to explore. Generally speaking, you don’t need to use food or reinforcement to attract cats to a cat house.

Cats are territorial and will usually defend “their” house from other cats. If you have many feral cats and a limited number of shelters, you can expect to hear some spats and disagreements. It’s a good idea to give each cat a private shelter rather than building a large one and expect feral cats to share.

Cats are prey animals and are sometimes attacked and hunted by other animal species. Whenever possible, create two openings in a cat house so that a cat can escape and not be trapped inside the house by a predator. 

Bedding for an Outdoor Cat House

The bedding you choose should be moisture-resistant and moisture-wicking. Towels and fabrics can get wet and stay wet, causing uncomfortable and unhealthy conditions inside a cat house.

Wet fabrics will draw heat away from the cat’s body. Straw (not hay) is the best choice because it is dry and breathable and allows cats to comfortably nest. If straw is not available, choose similar materials like wood shavings, shredded newspaper, and other breathable bedding materials.

Adding a Cat Door or Flap to an Outdoor Cat House

In most cases, adding a cat flap or door is not necessary for a DIY outdoor cat house. However, in extreme weather, a cat flap can provide more insulation and protection and make the cat feel safer. If you choose to add a cat flap to your DIY outdoor cat house, do not add it immediately.

Ensure that the cat(s) are accustomed to the house and comfortable going in and out of it before adding the flap. Cat flaps can be very sophisticated, including doors that respond to a microchip in your pet’s collar or simpler designs that can be latched shut or are held shut with a gentle magnet.

For feral cats and DIY outdoor cat houses, you can simply attach two pieces of heavy fabric, like a scrap of carpet or outdoor upholstery. Allow the flap to open in the middle and on both sides so cats don’t feel confined.

Heating an Outdoor Cat House

Cats love heat, and adding heat helps keep them safe and warm in harsh weather. If you use a heating pad or other electrical warming device with your DIY cat house, make sure the plug or extension cord is rated for outdoor use, and keep it on low heat.

Electric blankets or heating pads designed for human use should never be used in a cat house with kittens, as it can dangerously overheat them (avoid chicken coop heaters for the same reason).

A safer choice is to use a gentle source of heat, like rope lights. Place them in the roof rather than the floor to provide warmth from above rather than below. You can also use battery-powered hand warmers or microwave hand warmers to provide a warm spot inside the cat house and re-heat them every few hours.

That way, kittens can move away from the warm area if they get overheated.

DIY Outdoor Cat Houses

DIY Insulated Outdoor Cat House

This DIY cat house is sturdy, providing excellent protection from wind and rain, and is also insulated to retain heat. To build an insulated DIY outdoor cat house, you will need:

  • ½ inch plywood
  • 2x2s for framing
  • Insulation shield
  • Hinge and latch hardware
  • Basic woodworking tools

To build a DIY insulated outdoor cat house, follow these steps:

  1. Begin by using 2x2s to frame the box
  2. Add plywood to complete the floor and sides
  3. Add wooden feet to help keep the base dry
  4. Cut a cat door into the front of the box, and a second cat door into the back of a side panel
  5. Line the box with an insulation shield
  6. Make the roof out of plywood with an overhang at the front to protect the entrance
  7. Line the lid with an insulation shield
  8. Attach the lid with hinged screws, and secure it in place with a latch for easier access during cleaning
  9. Place bedding material in the bottom of the cat house
DIY Outdoor Cat Houses

 DIY Warming Outdoor Cat House

Whether you regularly have harsh winter weather or need a fast way to help feral cats during a storm or polar vortex, this DIY outdoor cat house is especially warm and will provide comfortable shelter.

It will also prevent food and water placed for outdoor cats from freezing in cold weather.

Here’s how to build a DIY warming outdoor cat house:

  • Start with a small cooler or ice chest. A cooler already has thick insulation, so choose a size large enough for a cat to be comfortable but small enough to heat quickly.
  • Use weather-resistant outdoor rope lights as a gentle heat source. Using rope lights with a timer will save energy and give you control over conditions in the cat house.
  • Self-adhesive cable clips

To build a DIY warming cat house, follow these steps:

  1. Cut a cat-sized hole in the lower face of the cooler for easy entrance and exit for the cat
  2. Cut a small opening for the rope light
  3. Using the cable clips, secure the rope light to the inside top of the cooler lid. Run the light in rows back and forth across the lid to create even heat. You may wish to add a layer of fabric over the lights to dim them since some cats prefer dark shelters. 
  4. Place bedding in the bottom of the cooler

DIY Easy Outdoor Cat House

This DIY outdoor cat house can be assembled in just minutes and gives cats a comfortable shelter from rain and rough weather. This DIY outdoor cat house is easy to build, easy to move, and easy to clean, making it an excellent option for feral cats. To build an easy DIY outdoor cat house, you will need:

  • A large, sturdy plastic container with a lid
  • A smaller container that can be nested inside the large one, or Styrofoam sheets for insulation

To build the DIY easy cat house container-in-container design, follow these steps:

  1. Take your large storage bin and line the inside with straw, foam, or other insulating materials
  2. Place the smaller container inside the large one
  3. Cut a door through both containers to give a cat access to the inside
  4. Add cat bedding to the inside
  5. Close the lid

To build an insulated DIY easy cat house without nested containers:

  1. Take the large container
  2. Line the inside with foam sheets
  3. Cover the foam sheets with a mylar blanket for additional insulation and protection
  4. Add cat bedding to the inside
  5. Close the lid

DIY Affordable Outdoor Cat House

Some cat lovers see a cat needing shelter and want to help right away but can’t afford expensive materials and bedding.

If you’re going to make an outdoor cat house but don’t want to invest in buying a lot of containers and equipment, this DIY outdoor cat house comes together in just minutes, using materials you probably already have at home.

To make an affordable DIY outdoor cat house, follow these steps:

  1. Take a cat-sized plastic bucket or waste bin
  2. Place it on its side
  3. If the bin is round, you may need to use wedges or blocks to make it stable and keep it from rolling
  4. Use scrap fabric secured with duct tape to partially close off the lid, leaving enough room for a cat to easily enter and exit
  5. Line the inside of the bin with bedding


Cats need warmth, shelter, and safety just like any other animals, and building a DIY outdoor cat house is a great way to keep them healthy and protected during rough weather.

A DIY outdoor cat house can be a simple project that comes together in minutes or a woodworking project that takes a weekend to build a luxury cat condo. Whichever you choose, your cats will appreciate your efforts.

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