Constructing a Cat House for Multiple Cats

A cat house provides outdoor cats shelter from inclement weather.
A cat house provides outdoor cats shelter from inclement weather. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Whether you have outdoor cats that don’t always make it inside at night, or wish to provide a safe refuge for feral cats living in your community, there is an easy way to provide a safe, warm haven for them when the weather gets rainy or cold. Constructing a cat house for multiple cats allows our furry outdoor friends a place to call their own.

Things You'll Need

  • Plywood
  • Boards
  • Measuring tape
  • Chalk
  • Hammer
  • Saw
  • Carpentry nails
  • Tack nails
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Straw or bedding

Pick your spot. Decide on the best location for your cat shelter. Look for ease of access, the presence of walls or trees to provide shelter against the wind, and higher or sloping ground to prevent water pooling. Be sure there is adequate room for your cat house to sit stable once constructed.

Design your shelter. The key here is you will be building a single structure with multiple, closed-in compartments. Each compartment will shelter one to two cats, so it should be large enough to be comfortable, yet not too big to facilitate heat loss. In general, a square foot of space will work per cat. Each compartment must have its own separate entrance. Once designed, buy your wood accordingly for size and strength.

Cut two sheets of plywood to the full dimensions you chose for the entire structure; this will be your flooring and your roof.

Measure off the individual compartments on both pieces of plywood using your measuring tape. Again, the compartment size can vary, but keep in mind the comfort and insulation factor for the cat. Mark the compartment dimensions with chalk on both the floor and roof.

Cut the "wall" boards to their proper dimensions. These are the boards that will form the walls of the individual compartments. They need to run flush to the edges of the structure. You can be flexible in the thickness of the boards. Each level of the shelter need be no more than 5 to 6 inches in height, and the dividing boards can be as thin as 1 inch. Boards will provide the side exterior walls and the compartment dividers, but not the front and back walls.

Nail the divider boards to the floor piece. On a flat, stable surface, stand the divider boards in position, laying the floor piece over top with bracing to keep it steady. Line the exterior side boards up flush with the plywood edges and nail those in first. Then align the other boards, centering your chalk mark on each, and nail them in one at a time.

Cut two pieces of plywood for front and back exterior walls. Measure the size needed to cover from the base, to the roof, from end to end, and cut your plywood accordingly, so one single piece covers the entire wall.

Create doorways. For the front wall, where the entrances will be, line it up to the base lying flat and mark your entrances with chalk. Keep them as small as possible but big enough for the cat to enter. Once marked, saw the plywood to cut out the entrances. Make the entrance flush to the floor, so you can saw from the bottom edge of the plywood.

Nail the back and front walls to the ends of the boards to secure them to the shelter.

Lay the roof piece across the structure, making sure it is lined up properly, then secure it to the structure by nailing it to the divider boards using the marks you made earlier as guides.

Measure your plastic sheeting to cover the entire roof of the structure, plus an inch or so of excess on all sides. Cut it to size and tack it to the roof using small tack nails. This prevents moisture from leaking into the shelter and also helps preserve the wood frame.

Place the shelter at your chosen site, preferably slightly elevated on bricks or boards to keep it off the ground. Paint with water seal paint if desired and fill it with straw or other bedding.

Tips & Warnings

  • When designing, keep in mind options to optimize your ground space. You can do a single row of compartments, or double the width and halve the length by doing two rows, opening front and back, or do two stacked levels of compartments. Cats can still easily access the upper level.
  • Remember, this is about shelter and refuge, not grand living. Smaller compartments and doorways allow better insulation from the cold.
  • For bedding, use straw instead of cloth. Cloth absorbs moisture. Straw allows cats to nest and conserve body heat.
  • Change the straw regularly and consider sprinkling flea powder in the bedding.
  • Adding a front lean-to, a piece of plywood attached by hinges to the roof, and angled out, will cut down on wind or rain getting in the structure.
  • Always be careful using tools. Brace wood to keep it from shifting while sawing or nailing.
  • Check to make sure nails are driven securely with no sharp points protruding.

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