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These steps will help you convince your skittish outdoor cats to take shelter in your warm cat house.

How to get a feral cat to use a cat house

When caring for feral cats, you want to keep them safe. This means making sure your community cats are well-fed and have a toasty shelter to sleep in. Unlike stray cats that previously lived with humans, feral felines may be extra cautious around you. So how can you convince outside cats to try your heated feral cat house? You'll need to use a little creativity to tempt those skittish kitties inside.

These steps will help you convince your skittish outdoor cats to take shelter in your warm cat house.

Entice Them With Food and Water

One of the most reliable ways to get feral cats to use a house is by connecting it to food and water. Outdoor cats will often dig deep for bravery when it means getting tasty food as a reward. Start by feeding the ferals on a regular schedule and in the location where you plan to add the feral cat shelter or have already set it up. This will get them used to the routine of going to that location.

Remember: it's ultimately better for them to eat and drink near their shelters, so they don't have to travel far when it's cold, or the weather is bad. The Outdoor Two-Story Kitty House with Dining Room is a great way to give the cats shelter and keep their food and water nearby and out of the elements. Plus, the house is available in heated and unheated options.

The K&H Thermo-Kitty Café makes a great feeding station near your shelter because it keeps the water and food warm even when it gets very cold. Protect the food and water from bad weather by placing the café in the K&H Outdoor Kitty Dining Room.

If you need extra water bowls, try the K&H Thermal-Bowl Heated Outdoor Water Bowl, which comes in four sizes — all the way up to 1.5 gallons. The Thermal-Bowl keeps water from freezing at temps as low as -20°F.

Put the Cat Shelter in a Secure Area

It's important your feral kitties feel secure about their outdoor cat house. Ideally, place it in a gated area where stray dogs won't wander but where the cats are already used to hanging out. Don't put it out in the open, such as in a vulnerable position in the middle of your backyard. Instead, try to place it in a barn, garage, covered porch or under an overhang of some sort. You want it to be sheltered from the wind, rain and snow if possible. Elevate the shelter off the ground by putting it on a flat, stable surface.

Keep the opening just big enough for cats to sneak through but too small for predators. Ideally, it will have two entrances so the kitty can escape if cornered. Cats will be more prone to check out shelters like these.

Warmth Will Attract Them

Cats love warmth. Sometimes it feels like they can sense a warm spot from miles away! That's why heated feral cat houses will always win over cold kitty homes in the winter. If you're making a shelter, try to insulate it with straw (not hay) or shredded newspaper. And keep the shelter small so the warmth will radiate when two or three kitties sneak inside to snuggle together.

Use Sturdy, Warm Shelters Meant for the Outdoors

A warm, secure shelter can be extra enticing in the winter. You'll find many different styles of heated houses for feral cats, depending on your preferences. Here are five options to get you started.

The K&H Thermo Outdoor Kitty House comes in heated and unheated varieties and in multiple colors and patterns. It's insulated, weather-resistant and has two exits for safety. The K&H Thermo Outdoor Kitty House Extra-Wide is also heated and has a similar design, but it's built to house more cats.

K&H Thermo Outdoor Kitty House Extra-Wide Olive

The K&H Thermo Outdoor Multi-Kitty A-Frame is perfect for up to four cats and comes in heated and unheated styles. (Plus, it looks like an adorable A-frame cabin!) It's made of heavy material to protect against rain, snow and wind.

K&H Thermo Outdoor Multi-Kitty A-Frame Chocolate

For a different look, consider the K&H Thermo Mod Kitty Shelter. This cute shelter has a heated pad that covers half the floor, letting cats choose if they want to lie on the heated or unheated portion. It zips together and is built to withstand winter weather.

K&H Thermo Mod Kitty Shelter Gray

If you already have a shelter and just want to warm it up, try the K&H Extreme Weather Heated Kitty Pad. This beauty is made for outdoor use, and the cord is steel-wrapped to discourage chewing. And it comes with a fleece cover.

You can entice skittish feral cats to use your shelter by setting it up near food and water and making it look like a secure place where they can sleep safely. Your feral kitties will love taking warm winter naps in your shelter while the cold wind is blowing outside.

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