The 6 best outdoor cat houses to keep them warm and dry

This article was medically reviewed by Karie Johnson, DVM, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.
collage of best outdoor cat houses in 2022, including the The Kitty Tube, K&H Kitty House and Petsfit Outdoor Triangle Cat House
Amazon; The Kitty Tube; Chewy; Alyssa Powell/Insider

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In winter, cats that live or play outside face freezing temperatures, wind, and wet weather. Although the weather conditions a cat can tolerate vary depending on age, coat type, and certain medical conditions, cats are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia the same way humans are. 

A well-designed, insulated cat house can keep felines warm and dry in the worst conditions. To understand which features are essential to a good outdoor cat house, we consulted with three experts on outdoor cats and pet safety.

We then applied their advice to an extensive survey of the market in search of the best outdoor cat houses, including heated, multicat, and wooden models. Our experts also shared tips for crafting an affordable DIY shelter.

Learn more about how Insider Reviews tests and reviews pet products.

The best outdoor cat houses in 2022

Best outdoor cat house overall: Petsfit Outdoor Cat House, $89.99 at Amazon
The weatherproof Petsfit Outdoor Cat House has a pitched roof, asphalt awning, and removable floor boards for easy cleaning. 

Best heated outdoor cat house: K&H Pet Products Outdoor Heated Kitty House, $58.99 at Petco
The K&H Pet Products Outdoor Heated Kitty House comes with a fleece-lined heating pad to keep its interior cozy and warm.

Best outdoor cat house for winter: The Kitty Tube Outdoor Cat House, $169.99 at Amazon
The super-tough Kitty Tube is insulated with foam and straw and its waterproof shell is guaranteed to hold up for life.

Best multicat outdoor cat house: K&H Pet Products Extra-Wide Outdoor Kitty House, $72.83 at Chewy
The K&H Pet Products Extra-Wide Outdoor Kitty House provides warm shelter for multiple cats when temperatures drop.

Best wooden outdoor cat house: Feralvilla Outdoor Cat Shelter II, $98.95 at Feralvilla
The two-level Feralvilla Outdoor Cat Shelter II has a fully insulated and protected "bedroom" that keeps kitties warm and dry in bad weather.

Best DIY outdoor cat house: Rubbermaid Brute 14-gallon and 20-gallon totes, from $27.99 at Amazon
With Rubbermaid's Brute 14- and 20-gallon totes, you can make an outdoor cat shelter that is affordable, waterproof, and easy to maintain.

Best outdoor cat house overall

red and white A-frame wooden cat house on lawn with white and brown spotted cat standing outside and two white kittens inside, best outdoor cat house in 2022

The weatherproof Petsfit Outdoor Cat House has a pitched roof, asphalt awning, and removable floor boards for easy cleaning. 

"A good outdoor cat house should have plenty of insulation and be waterproof," said Dr. Stephanie Ninnemann, a veterinarian at VCA Spring Creek Animal Hospital in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Size matters, too. "There should be plenty of room for the cat to stand and turn around but not too much room for them to get cold," Ninnemann explained. For added warmth, all three of our experts recommend cat houses with a single door and outfitting the interior with straw, which won't retain moisture like cloth or wool.

At 20 inches (l) by 20 inches (w) by 21 inches (h), the easy-to-assemble Petsfit Outdoor Cat House is the ideal size for keeping a kitty warm in cold, wet conditions. The pitched A-frame shelter is made with spruce wood and lined with high-quality plastic sheeting for waterproofing. An asphalt-covered awning over the front door keeps out the rain and snow. 

This house's floorboards are removable for easy cleaning and have an opening for threading the power cord of a heated bed. Although the house has a second escape door, it's partially protected by a swinging plastic flap. For better weatherproofing, Whitney Phillips, a volunteer with Alley Cat Project in Seattle, recommends covering it with vinyl weather stripping.

Best heated outdoor cat house

green cat house with orange tiger cat lying inside, best heated cat house in 2022

The K&H Pet Products Outdoor Heated Kitty House comes with a fleece-lined heating pad to keep its interior cozy and warm.

Phillips told Insider Reviews that heated cat houses may be an excellent option, especially in regions with frigid temperatures. These structures must be connected to an electrical outlet and, because they are not waterproof or insulated, they're only useful when they can be placed in a sheltered location near a home. 

These houses are warmed with low-voltage electricity. While they aren't likely to catch fire, the wiring should be concealed and kept away from water to prevent shocks or electrocution, according to Lindsey Wolko, founder and CEO of the Center for Pet Safety in Reston, Virginia.

The K&H Pet Products Outdoor Heated Kitty House is just large enough for two cats to snuggle up together, measuring 22 inches (l) by 18 inches (w) by 17 inches (h). The shelter consists of lightweight vinyl-backed nylon and has a removable zippered roof with overhanging eaves. 

Its fitted with a fleece-lined heated pad that is MET safety listed, meaning it's been evaluated and approved for safety by an independent lab. The pad is removable — its fleece cover is even machine washable — and so are the plastic door flaps, which attach to the house with velcro. It's available in several colors as well as barn- and cottage-themed prints.

Best outdoor cat house for winter

gray and white tabby cat walking out of large round black plastic cat house surrounded by yellow and red flowers, Best outdoor cat house for winter in 2022
The Kitty Tube

The super-tough Kitty Tube Outdoor Cat House is insulated with foam and straw and its waterproof shell is guaranteed to hold up for life.

Cats are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia the same way humans are. While some cats do well outside as long as they have protection from wind and precipitation, even a heated cat house may not be enough to keep them warm in more severe conditions. 

"In general, if it's too cold for you to be outside for any length of time, it is certainly too cold for them to be outside without proper shelter," said Ninnemann. When below-freezing temperatures are forecast for more than a couple days, outdoor cats should be housed inside a barn or shed with access to heat, water, and food.

The next best thing is the Kitty Tube Outdoor Cat House, which is one of the most insulated, weatherproof shelters. Although it is the priciest option on our list, it stands up to harsh conditions and is very easy to assemble. The interior, including the floor, is protected by foam insulation and comes with wheat straw to add up to two more layers of insulating bedding. The house has a slightly elevated door with an awning to prevent water from entering. 

The shell is made from 100% recycled plastics with a lifetime guarantee against chipping, cracking, or fading. In warmer weather, its carry handles can be adjusted for increased air flow. At 24 inches in diameter and 23 inches tall, the Kitty Tube has space for two adult cats or a female with kittens.

Best multicat outdoor cat house

large red cat house with black roof and a white and orange cat stepping out of it, Best multicat outdoor cat house in 2022

The K&H Pet Products Extra-Wide Outdoor Kitty House provides warm shelter for multiple cats when temperatures drop.

Even if you need an outdoor cat house that will fit more than one feline, all three of our experts recommend thinking small. "If it's too large a space, it will be harder [for the cats] to maintain an internal temperature," said Wolko.

If you're setting up a shelter for feral or community cats, it's also important to remember that they may not want to bed down together. Ninnemann recommends setting up multiple houses instead of one large house if more than one cat in the neighborhood is likely to use it.

At 26.5 inches (l) by 21.5 inches (w) by 15.5 inches (h), K&H Pet Products Extra-Wide Outdoor Kitty House is big enough to house multiple cats but not so large that they'll struggle to warm it up with their body heat. It has a velcro-attached roof and door flaps and comes with a machine-washable, cushioned pad for added comfort.

K&H's extra-wide house is best for protected areas like porches, barns, and garages. This is because the shelter is made of vinyl-backed nylon that is not waterproof and there are two exits, which allow for more heat loss than a single entry point.

Best wooden outdoor cat house

white square cat house with slightly angled black asphalt shingle roof, Best wooden outdoor cat house in 2022

The two-level Feralvilla Outdoor Cat Shelter II has a fully insulated and protected "bedroom" that keeps kitties warm and dry in bad weather.

Wooden outdoor cat houses are sturdier and much more weather-resistant than their nylon counterparts. Plus, they are more customizable. They can be painted any color you like with exterior latex paint, which also extends the life of the shelter.

Although the Feralvilla Outdoor Cat Shelter II requires more assembly than all but our DIY recommendation, its unique two-level design makes it one of the best cat houses you can buy.  After entering via one of two doors on the ground floor, a cat will pass through a wind-breaking baffle and then can hop up through an opening to a completely protected, cozy upper level that is 20 inches wide and deep and 12 inches tall.

The Feralvilla is made from wood composite and comes lined with a half inch of foam insulation and heat-reflecting aluminum foil.

Best DIY outdoor cat house

A step-by-step guide to building an outdoor cat house out of a large box. On the left, there is a large box. In the middle, a woman stuffs an open box with hay. There is now a hole in the front of the box. On the right, a cat peers out of the box with the hole in it. Snow falls on the box.
Vicky Leta/Insider

With Rubbermaid's Brute 14-gallon and 20-gallon totes, you can make an outdoor cat shelter that is affordable, waterproof, and easy to maintain.

According to Phillips, there are three primary types of DIY outdoor cat shelters: those made from storage bins, those made from Styrofoam, and those made from insulated coolers. The first type is the easiest to build — you need two plastic storage bins and insulation to stuff between them.

"The big benefit of the bin outdoor shelter style is that it's waterproof," said Phillips. "It takes time and cost and muscle to put together, but it's easy to maintain, you just lift off the lid and stuff a bunch of new straw in."

Rubbermaid's Brute 14-gallon and 20-gallon totes are an affordable choice for building a DIY outdoor cat house. "You put the smaller inside of the larger and you insulate the heck out of it," Phillips explained. She puts pieces of Styrofoam in between the floors of the two bins, then lines the sides with Mylar sheets and stuffs them as full as possible with straw that is moisture and mildew resistant. 

To make the door, Phillips traces the base of a plastic flower pot onto the bin's side, softens the plastic with a hairdryer, and uses a utility knife to cut out an entrance. Then she cuts off the base of the plastic flower pot and inserts the pot into the bin's hole to create a protected tube-like entrance. Be sure to add plenty of straw bedding to the interior. For more detailed instructions, check out Alley Cat Allies step-by-step guide.

How we selected outdoor cat houses

We conducted extensive research and spoke with three experts to develop our selection criteria for the best outdoor cat houses. We then looked at options available at major online retailers to select our top choices in six different categories. Here are the essential features we looked for:

Weatherproof: An outdoor cat house is only as good as its weatherproofing. To keep roaming and feral kitties dry and warm, we chose those made with water-resistant and waterproof materials that would prevent rain and snow from getting in.

Insulation: On cold winter nights, insulation helps keep a cat's core temperature from dropping to dangerous levels. We looked for cat houses with built-in insulation or ones that can be easily outfitted with Mylar, Styrofoam, and straw — Phillips' go-to insulators.

Ease of assembly: Prefab outdoor cat houses should require minimal assembly. We favored shelters that are quick and easy to put together. Of the DIY houses, we selected the one requiring the least technical skill to put together.

Not too large: If a cat's shelter is too large to keep their body heat from escaping, it can be difficult for the cat to warm up, Ninnemann explained. We looked for compact, cozy shelters and chose a multicat house that is just large enough for two to three cats to comfortably sleep. "You don't want massive [houses], storage containers, or Styrofoam boxes," said Phillips.

Elevated and weather-protected doors: The more doors on a cat house, the more likely they are to let in the elements. Although some prefer cat houses with two exits so a cat can escape if a predator comes knocking, Phillips told us that that concern isn't a priority for her. "You lose way too much of the warmth when you have two holes," she explained. "If the purpose is warmth, we need to design for warmth." Because cats tend to avoid entering through door flaps, she prefers to have elevated doors with awnings that keep out the rain. When possible, we selected cat houses with these characteristics.

Outdoor cat house FAQs

Do outdoor cats need a heated house?

It depends on the region you are in. In extreme weather, a heated shelter is better than an unheated shelter at preventing a cat from developing hypothermia. Most cats in many climates will do just fine with a well-insulated, waterproof house though.

Are outdoor cat houses safe?

Yes. Generally speaking, cat houses are safe. However, there is always the possibility that a predator may get into the house while a kitty is inside. Most commercially available cat houses are made with two exits so feline residents can easily escape if another animal comes calling. But Phillips warns that two doors also leave a shelter less protected from the elements. "Cats who are living outside are like raccoons. That's their natural environment, that's where they live, so as soon as they hear something, they are going to jet right out as fast as possible," she explained, even if there's only one door for them to escape from.

Where's the best place to put an outdoor cat house?

The best place for an outdoor cat house is always on private property, said Phillips. A cat house will be best protected if placed under an overhang, inside of a shed or barn, or in a location where predators can't go. "A fenced-in area may be ideal," said Ninnemann. "Facing the opening for the cat against a wall may make them feel safer." If the shelter has to be placed in a public area, Phillips recommended using a bike lock or another type of tether to prevent it from being removed or tampered with. She also suggested making a laminated sign to stick on the box explaining why it's there.

What should I put inside an outdoor cat house?

"Materials like fabrics or cushions absorb moisture and can freeze, creating an ideal scenario for hypothermia," explained Wolko. For bedding that won't retain moisture, use straw or wood chips. Electric pet heating pads can be used in cat shelters near your home if they are regularly monitored, cleaned, and dried. In cat houses near the home, Ninnemann said that small amounts of cat food can be placed inside to provide nutritional support, just not so much that it will attract animals like racoons.

Our sources

  • Dr. Stephanie Ninnemann, veterinarian, VCA Spring Creek Animal Hospital, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
    Dr. Stephanie Ninnemann earned her veterinary degree at Colorado State University. She worked at clinics in Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado before landing at VCA Spring Creek Animal Hospital. Ninnemann is passionate about veterinary education in the community and hosts a weekly radio show on the topic at KJAX 93.5. We consulted Ninnemann via email on January 8, 2022.
  • Whitney Phillips, volunteer, Alley Cat Project, Seattle, Washington
    Whitney Phillips is a volunteer at Seattle's Alley Cat Project. She has more than 20 years of experience building shelters for feral and community cats to protect them from the wet Pacific Northwest weather. We interviewed Phillips over the phone on December 19, 2021.
  • Lindsey Wolko, founder and CEO, Center for Pet Safety, Reston, Virginia
    Lindsey Wolko is the founder and CEO of the Center for Pet Safety. In her work, Wolko advocates for the safety of pet products and the pets who use them. She has also led various research studies and campaigns on pet safety including the Canine Biomechanical Research Initiative and the Companion Animal Travel Carrier Test Protocol and Ratings System. Wolko has been been interviewed by a variety of news outlets including CNN, ABC, NPR, and The Washington Post. We interviewed Wolko via email on January 3, 2022.

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