Cats need exercise and if you do not provide them a structure to exercise they are likely to use you drapes, bookcases, couches, and fine furniture. They also like to hide in confined spaces, which is why you often find them hidden in the back of your closet with your old shoes.
This is natural as the African Wildcat (Felis Silvestris Lybica), from which all domesticated cats are derived, often sleeps in and gives birth in burrows and hollows. This protects them from larger predators when they are resting. This is why cats love to get into cardboard boxes that are often too small for them, which provides endless entertainment for us humans.
Cats are natural climbers and they use their claws when climbing, which is not ideal for your furniture. You should keep all this in mind when picking out a cat house, tree or structure. Look for a structure that allows you cat to climb, get exercise, and perch high about the savanna or at least the living room floor. Also the structure should proved an enclosed place that gives your cat the feeling of being in a burrow and being safe.
Cat Structures: Ease of Assembly, Transport, Storage and Durability
An important consideration when purchasing or making a cat house or structure is the ease of assembly. Most of us do not want to spend hours building a cat structure. This goal is sometimes in conflict with the ease of transporting the cat structure from the retail store to your house. Even if the structure is delivered to your house, you may need to move it sometime in the future.
Another important goal is how durable is the cat structure. Many times the easier the structure is to build the less durable it is or the more difficult it is to store. For instance, wooden structures are often more durable, but they are complex to assemble and usually heavy to transport.
Do Your Want an Indoor or Outdoor Structures
An outdoor structure will need to be more sturdy than an indoor structure. You will want an outdoor structure to be water proof and heavy enough that it does not get blown away or blown over. Remember the three little pigs?
How Easy is it to Clean the Cat Structure?
Some of the easiest cat structures to assemble are more difficult to clean. Cats are fairly clean animals, but you may want to take this into account. For instance, you may want a pad or a blanket in an outdoor cat house. You will want to be able to take the pad out easily and clean it.
Carpet vs Cardboard, Which is Better for Your Cat?
Putting carpet on cat structures for your cat to scratch has been the go to choice for years. If you select carpet you need to ensure that it is non-loop carpet. You kitty can get their nails stuck in loop carpet and this can be very painful for them. Even with non-loop carpet it is possible that your cat can get its nails caught in the backing.
In the wild cats scratch trees to sharpen their nails, to stretch their ligaments, to mark their territory, and to clean their nails. Scratching at trees keeps the cats’ nails clean and free from infections. Cats have a gland between their toes that releases a hormone when they scratch a tree, which signals their presence to other cats.
Cardboard is a wood product that comes closer to mimicking tree bark than carpet. Your cat’s nails will not get stuck in the loops or backing with cardboard. However, cardboard will shred and leave litter and it will also need to be replaced overtime.
Wood is not a good surface for you cat to scratch on, even though cats scratch trees in the wild. The wood in a tree is alive and therefore does not splitter easily. Lumber has been dried and splitters fairly easily and is likely to hurt your cat.
Should I Heat My Cat House?
The African Wildcat (Felis Silvestris Lybica) from which all domestic cats are derived is adapted to living in desert and hot areas. Your cat’s body temperature runs hotter than humans at 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.5 degrees centigrade). This implies that your cat is likely to be more susceptible to the cold.
On the other hand the domestic cat (Felis catus) is remarkably adaptable. As the Maine Coon cat and Norwegian Forest cat have shown, domestic cats can be well adapted to the cold.
While there are many ways to heat an outdoor cat house, such as heating lamps, a simple 120 watt incandescent light bulb, probably the best answer is a heated pad that is designed for the outdoors. These are likely to be more efficient and provide the heat right where it is needed.
A well padded outdoor heated bed can further reduce your electrical costs. The padding will insulate the heating element and therefore it will not run all the time. When your cat lies on the bed, the padding will compress and allow the heat to radiate out to your cat’s body.
DIY Cat House
Whether to buy a cat house or structure or build one yourself is ultimately a personal choice. It is possible that you will save money building your own cat house, but given the relatively low cost of commercial cat houses it is unlikely that you will save much.
The main reason for building your own cat house or other structure is that you have a vision for creating something special for you kitty.
Should My Cat House Have Two Doors?
A lot of people think it is important that your cat house have two doors so your cat to not be trapped by a wild animal. Many people think house cats are eaten or killed by foxes and coyotes. It is very unlikely, that a fox will attack you cat and it would have to be a very desperate fox to try to eat a cat, although it is not impossible.
Coyotes are quite a bit bigger than cats and could easily over power your cat, but again the coyote would have to be very hungery to see a cat as a source of food.
A more likely culprit is a bobcat. There seems to be much more evidence for bobcats killing and eating domestic cats. Also a skunk, beaver, or badger could stumble into your cat’s house and hurt your baby. Based on this, it seems like a reasonable precaution to make sure your cat house has two doors or a small door that severely limits the ability of larger wild animals to enter the cat’s house.
Review of Cat Houses
Note these reviews are based on the above criteria and what others have said about these products.
K&H Pet Products Outdoor Multi-Kitty A-Frame - Chocolate 35" X 20.5" X 20" (Heated or Unheated)
This is a very easy to assemble cat house that is also easy to transport and store. If is very light weight at 7 pounds (3.2 kg) and reviews have suggested that you need to place it in a protected spot or it may blow away. It does have two doors for an emergency exit in case of predators. There are detachable clear flaps to hold in the heat and keep the elements out. The reviews for this product are very positive, although one review did say they added a tarp to make the house more waterproof.
Very easy assembly
Heated and unheated option
Petsfit 2-Story Outdoor Weatherproof Cat House Cat Condo
This is a cool looking cat house, not your typical box with a triangular roof. It is a wooden structure, which makes it sturdy. It does have predrilled holes, but assembly is more complicated than most cat houses. According to the Petsfit website it weighs 36 pounds, so it should be heavy enough to not blow away easily. This cat house is well designed for outdoor use. In the comments people said they liked the house, but they said the quality of construction and the painting were a little lower than their expectations.
Asphalt roof (weather proof)
Kitty Tube Gen 3 Outdoor Cat House : Perfect for Pet Owners that Want to Hide the Cat House
This is a popular cat house, but while it is easy to assemble it is bulky, making it hard to transport of store. This cat house only has a single door, although it is small enough to keep out large critters. Also some people complain that the door should be higher off the ground to cut down on the rain that can get into the house. In addition, a door higher up would help protect your cat from the wind. The door does come with a clear flap. The best thing about this cat house appears to be its ease of assembly. It also is sturdy enough for outdoor use.
Easy to clean
K&H Pet Products Outdoor Kitty House Extra-Wide Olive - Outdoor Cat Shelter (Heated or Unheated)
This innovative design is made with heavy nylon and assembles with just hook and loop fasteners and a zip on roof. It has two doors with detachable clear flaps so your cat cannot get trapped by predators. It is easy to assemble and transport, however its durability is a little less than a more solid structure. It is described as being water resistance. Its light weight makes it subject to blowing away. Customer comments are generally a little underwhelmed with how water resistant this house is, however most are generally happy with the house.
Heated option available
Tool free assembly
Petmate Kitty Kat Condo Outdoor Cat House Rain and Snow Diverting Hood Carpeted Floor One Size
This house is based on the popular igloo dog houses. This cat house is very easy assembly, however it is awkward to transport. The igloo shape makes this design stable in high winds, despite being relatively light. It does not feature two doors and the large door means that this house allows a lot of heat to escape. The reviews are mixed on this house.
This is a set of cardboard structures in differing shapes that you can rearrange to your and your cat’s desire. The structures can double as a bookshelf, shoe rack, or coffee table. They come with clips to hold the structures together. According to the comments these structures are surprisingly heavy and dense. Because of their fixed shape they are not easy to transport or store. However, the cardboard is the ideal cat scratching surface. Most customer comments were very positive. Because these are cardboard they will shred and leave bits of cardboard around. This is an acceptable trade for those who want to give their cat the best cat scratching material to clean and sharpen her claws.
Dual purpose as a bookcase, shoe rack, or coffee table
This cat tree is taller than most, which allows your kitty to perch up high and survey their domain. Users also liked the sleek design, commenting that many cat trees are ugly. It also has a number of areas for your cat to lounge on. This cat structure does require some assembly and is bulky making it hard to transport. Note that the carpet is not removable. People also commented that this cat tree is very durable.
K&H Pet Products EZ Mount Window Bed Kitty Sill (27" x 11" x 6") | Mounts to Virtually Any Glass Window or Door
This is a unique window mounted hammock for your cat. It takes up minimal space, which is particular nice for people living in small apartments. It makes an ideal place for your cat to sun themselves and survey the world outside. Customer comments said that this product was easy to assemble and the suction cups are more than strong enough to hold up their cat.
Easy to Assemble
Purrfect Sunning Spot
Cat Craft 12400301GRCOM Three Tier Floor-to-Ceiling Cat Tree, Grey
This is an interesting design for a cat tree that does not require a large base to stabilize itself. It uses a pressure fit between the floor and ceiling to hold the tree up, probably inspired by reading lamps of the same design. It is easy to assemble, but it does look bulky to transport or store. It has a stylish design and high perches that many cats crave. Most customers seem to like this product.
Aeromark International Armarkat Cat Tree Furniture Condo, Height- 60-Inch to 70-Inch
This is a more standard, tall cat tree structure that has a number of levels and places for your cat to hang out. Unusually, this cat tree uses a faux fur as its covering, instead of the usual carpeting. This is a fairly large structure, making it awkward to transport or store. Customer comments include that the faux fur holds up and people seem very satisfied with this product.