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How to Get a Feral Cat to Use a Shelter (8 Tips & Tricks)

Written by: Patricia Dickson

Last Updated on May 2, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cute grey cat in the straw

How to Get a Feral Cat to Use a Shelter (8 Tips & Tricks)

Feral cats scare some people, but when you’re a cat lover, you want to do everything you can to ensure the cats are warm and safe, especially during the frigid winter months. If you’ve taken the time to build a shelter for the feral cats in your neighborhood, you might be wondering how to get them to use the shelter.

Feral cats may not approach the shelter when the weather is warm and will probably only venture into it if it’s raining or freezing outside. However, it’s also possible that the feral cat will get so used to being around you that they will take up residence at the shelter near your house and never want to leave. If that happens, ensure you’re ready to give the cat a forever home. You can examine our tips below to ensure the feline uses the shelter.

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The 8 Ways  to Get a Feral Cat to Use a Shelter

1. Make Sure the Shelter has More than One Door

Most feral cats are used to being alone, and many are afraid of humans. A feral cat will not spend time inside a shelter with only one door because it makes them feel trapped. If a predator comes in one entrance, the feral cat wants to escape through the other entrance.

If you want to get a cat to use your shelter, ensure there is more than one door. It’s also best to have the doors on opposite sides of the shelter.

two feral cats
Image Credit: JancickaL, Pixabay

2. Sprinkle Catnip Inside the Shelter

If you want to attract feral cats to your shelter, there’s nothing better for enticing them than sprinkling a little catnip on the inside. You should put it just inside the door so they will go inside to get it and perhaps realize how warm it is and want to stay.

3. Leave the Doors Completely Open

When trying to attract cats to your shelter, keep the doors open. Feral cats will panic if they can’t get out of the shelter. Make sure there are no obstructions that stop the cat from being able to see outside. Once the cat is used to the shelter, you can add flaps or a cat door to the shelter’s doors, but not in the beginning.

Gray cat looks from its wooden house
Image Credit: ovbelov, Shutterstock

4. Consider Safety First

It’s best to build your shelter in a location protected from the elements and predators or neighbors who might not be as tolerant of feral cats as you are.

You should consider the safety of the cats and your family and household pets first. Place the shelter out of sight, in an area where only the cats can get in and out, and if you’re in an area with dogs, put your shelter in a fenced-in area that dogs can’t get into.

5. Use Straw Instead of Hay

Many pet owners trying to entice feral cats into their shelters for the winter use hay to line the shelter floor. It’s better to use straw instead since hay tends to mold if it gets wet, which is always a possibility when you need to leave the doors wide open.

Straw resists the elements, and it’s a cozy, warm material for feral cats to sleep on and wait out the storm.

Cat sleeping on straw
Image Credit: Alexandr Popel, Shutterstock

6. Consider Adding a Feeding Station

Experts agree that food shouldn’t be placed in or near the shelter since it attracts other animals when you’re just trying to protect feral cats. However, you can feed the cats while they are there. You can add a feeding station with food and water for the cats you’re trying to attract.

7. Avoid Using Blankets

While it may be tempting to toss a few blankets in the shelter for the cats to curl up under when the weather is cold, it’s best to avoid using blankets if possible.

Blankets, newspapers, and towels retain moisture and then absorb the cat’s body heat, making it colder than it already was. Instead, keep the shelter warm, dry, and full of straw.

old blanket
Image Credit: Piqsels

8. Be Patient

You’ll have to be patient if you want the feral cats in your neighborhood to come to your shelter when the winter season begins. Most stray cats have lived challenging lives, and some have been abused and neglected. They may take a while before deciding your shelter is a safe place to live. The best thing you can do is build the shelter and then patiently wait for the cats to come.

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If you want to keep the cats in your neighborhood warm, safe, and dry this winter, you need to be patient and wait for them to come to you. Start by using a shelter with more than one door and leaving the doors wide open so the cats can come and go.

If you decide to feed the feral cats, setting up a feeding station is ideal so that other wildlife won’t be attracted to the food. These tips should work well to attract the cats to the shelter. While they may not come in droves, you should get a few over the winter season.

Featured Image Credit: Peter Radcsi, Shutterstock

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