How to Keep Outdoor Cats Warm in Winter?

Anyone who lives in an area with stray cats will wonder what they can do to keep these sweet creatures warm outside during the winter.  Exposure to low temperatures can be very unhealthy for cats.

It can put even the healthiest and strongest cat at risk of illness and even death.

Understanding how to keep stray cats warm when it’s cold outside will allow animal lovers to take care of these furry friends without scaring them by trying to bring them into the house.

Best Ways to Keep an Outdoor Cat Warm

  • Convert an old doghouse
  • Add straw to a plastic tote
  • Reuse a styrofoam cooler
  • Plug in a heating pad
  • Keep the cat off the ground
  • Consider which bedding you use

Convert an Old Doghouse

Old doghouses are easy to find, making this an inexpensive and easy option for anyone who wants to take care of stray cats in their area.

Doghouses already have plenty of insulation in them, so most of the work is already done.


The key to using an old doghouse is to put a board in the doorway and cut a small hole in the board big enough for the cat.  Leaving the door open could put the cat at risk if they decide to sleep inside it.

Adding straw to the inside of the house can provide a nice place for the cat to sleep and is easy to clean out and replace.

Check out these purpose-built outdoor cat houses

Add Straw to a Plastic Tote

Most people have a plastic tote around their home that they are no longer using.  These are the perfect option for a stray cat to sleep in, but they may need modifying.

The first step is to cut a hole in the side or end of the tote but to make sure that it is small enough to keep out any predators.  Next, fill the tote with some straw.

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Unlike other options that are more insulated, it’s important to add some straw to completely fill the tote.

A stray cat will be able to push its way inside, and having more straw in the tote will help to keep out the cold air.  Finally, make sure that the lid is on tight and secure so that it can’t be pulled off.

Reuse a Styrofoam Cooler

Styrofoam coolers are everywhere, but they’re not easy to dispose of as the material can’t be recycled.  However, they make a great outdoor winter shelter for a feral cat.

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They already have plenty of insulation built-in, which helps to keep cats warm.  Cutting a hole in the side and adding a base of straw allows access and makes the shelter much more inviting.

Unlike the plastic tote, which needed to be filled with straw to keep cats warm, the cooler already has a lot of insulation.  Adding straw to the bottom provides a warm and cozy place to sleep.

Plug in a Heating Pad

Even with a proper cat shelter, it can be too cold for strays in some bad storms.  So it’s a good idea to go one step further to protect these cats.

Placing the winter shelter near an outdoor outlet will allow a homeowner to power a heating pad for the cat.

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The thing to consider when using a heating pad in an outdoor stray cat shelter is that it needs to be one that will turn off after a set period of time.

This will ensure that the shelter is nice and warm, which will help the cat stay cozy during the night or a storm.

Since the heating pad will shut off, it prevents homeowners from having to worry about whether the heating pad is still on.

Keep Everything Off the Ground

One thing to remember when setting up an outdoor winter shelter for a stray cat is that it must be above the ground.

The easiest way to do this is to set the shelter up on a wooden pallet.  Placing it on bricks or pavers can also keep it off the ground.

off the ground

The reason why this is so important is that the ground can be cold and damp, making stray cats uncomfortable in the shelter.

Face the shelter so that the hole is facing a wall and not into the wind to ensure that any cats using the shelter will be as warm as possible.

Consider the Bedding

The bedding is one of the most important things to consider when setting up an outdoor shelter for a feral cat.  It can make a huge difference to whether cats will actually enter and use the shelter.

Many people assume that using blankets or a pet pillow is a good idea, but these are not the best options.  Straw is actually a great choice for bedding.  It is inexpensive, so won’t cost a bundle.

It does a great job of keeping cats warm during cold nights and is replaceable.

Soiled blankets and pillows are much more difficult to clean or dispose of than old straw.  You can also compost the straw too…

Keeping stray cats warm when the temperature is near freezing can seem daunting at first, however, it’s easy to do with the right items.

Once you’ve blocked the rain, snow, and cold air from getting inside the house or container, cat lovers can rest assured that their favorite stray is warm all winter long.

If a cat isn’t using the shelter, but there are strays in the area, then adding a bit of catnip inside the shelter can help to entice them and make them feel much more comfortable about entering.

Once you’ve enticed the cat to the shelter do not use catnip again otherwise it may attract unwanted cats or predators.

Last update on 2022-08-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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