What Do Outdoor Cats Like To Sleep In?

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Outdoor cats have certain priorities when choosing a place to sleep. These include somewhere safe and secure, somewhere warm and dry, and somewhere close to a regular source of food and water. Not much to ask, you might think, but a lot of thought and consideration goes into this. Cats living outdoors have many more potential threats in their environment compared to indoor cats, even more so when they are asleep.

Key Takeaways

Outdoor cats need access to a warm, dry, insulated, and correctly sized shelter, especially in winter.

Cats choose places to sleep that are warm and safe, and offer them protection from potential predators and the elements.

If you want to provide a shelter with bedding for outdoor cats, straw is a good choice as it repels water and cats can bury into it for warmth and to hide away.

Cats have different sleeping patterns from humans. It’s a common misconception that cats are fully nocturnal. Cats are actually crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. Outdoor cats will sleep at night for some time, as well as do all the other things we know they like to do such as hunting and mating.

Also Read: Nutritional Needs For Indoor and Outdoor Cats: Is There a Difference?

What Sort Of Cats Sleep Outdoors?

If you see a cat outdoors, there are a few things to consider. The cat you are seeing might not be an outdoor cat or a stray cat with no owner—they might be an indoor cat that spends time outdoors having a casual prowl about their neighborhood. Let’s explore the different types of outdoor kitties you might see in your neighborhood.

1. Domestic Cats That Are Allowed Outside

Balinese cat in basket

Pet cats might explore during the day but sleep in a warm, cozy bed at home.

Some cat owners allow their pet cats to roam around outside. They are usually let out at certain times or they will have a cat flap to come and go as they please. They are well fed, well looked after, and rarely will sleep outside as they will have a comfy warm bed at home to return to.

Some of them even still use their litter box at home instead of going to the bathroom outside. They just like to explore their surroundings and keep an eye on everything. They will very likely be affectionate and enjoy a stroke or a back rub. However be careful—not all cats like to be petted so approach with caution.

Also Read: How To Pet A Cat – The 3 Basic Do’s And Don’t’s

2. Stray Cats

Stray cats might be friendly or scared of people depending on their history.

These are cats that did once have a home, but now, unfortunately, do not. They might have gotten lost or escaped from a cat shelter, or their previous owner did not want them any longer. It’s hard to believe, but unfortunately, this does happen. They might be living in a small group with other stray cats or on their own.

Depending on their history, stray cats might be responsive to human affection or might be frightened. They usually scavenge out of bins or hunt together in a pack. They will sleep outside in their group.

Also Read: What Is the Difference Between a Stray Cat and a Feral Cat?

3. Feral Cats

Kind-hearted people living around a colony of feral cats might provide shelters for them.

Feral cats are completely wild. They will not have ever had any human contact and they will go out of their way to avoid it. You might have a colony of feral cats in your neighborhood and not even realize it. They live in groups with other feral cats. They are very territorial and protect each other and treat each other’s kittens as their own. Like strays, feral cats will sleep outside together in their social group.

Also Read: What Is The Best Food For Feeding Feral Cats?

What Do Cats Look For When Choosing A Spot To Sleep?

So now that we know what sort of cat is sleeping outside, let’s look at the things they will seek out.

1. Safety

Cats, above everything else, need to feel safe when they are switching off to sleep. Cats are well-equipped and make cunning predators, but they also make tasty prey, too. Due to their size, bigger predators lurking in the night see them as an easy target so it’s important that they sleep somewhere that they are going to be safe.

Cats search out places that are up high and and out of sight so they can survey the surrounding area without being seen themselves.

Also Read: 5 Best High-Sided Litter Boxes For Messy Cats

2. Privacy

Feral and stray cats like to be away from people as much as possible.

As mentioned above cats prefer to sleep somewhere quiet and private, out of the way of the busy hustle and bustle of the outside world. Cats don’t like surprises and they don’t like to be interrupted so they will choose somewhere remote and peaceful where they are unlikely to be disturbed. They usually pick somewhere they are sheltered from all angles so nothing can sneak up on them.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Sleep So Much

3. Warmth

Cats living strictly outdoors usually sleep together for warmth and comfort.

All cat owners know that cats love to be warm and cozy. They will not settle somewhere damp or wet or cold unless they absolutely have no other choice. Cats are very good at self-care in that they prioritize comfort.

Feral and stray cats will usually huddle together to sleep as they use each other for warmth and to guard younger family members that might be more vulnerable, especially in cold weather.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Lie On Uncomfortable Things?

4. Proximity To Food Sources/Drinking Water

If you choose to offer an outdoor sleeping area for your cat, keep the food and water dish close by.

Cats are very smart, and also very good at conserving energy. They often choose places close to a reliable food source and clean drinking water so that they can nourish themselves adequately without burning off too much energy.

What Do Outdoor Cats Like To Sleep In?

So now we have covered all of that, what are the top places cats will choose to sleep in outdoors?

1. A Box

Boxes are popular cat sleeping spots, whether inside or outside.

Cats like to be protected from every angle, so a box with a small entry hole is perfect for snuggling up in and feeling safe. The smaller the better—cats like to feel confined. A box will limit exposure to the elements and make them feel secure.

Also Read: Why Does My Cat Chew On Cardboard?

2. In Outbuildings/Sheds

Cats are known for finding warm, dry, secluded sleeping places in barns, sheds, and other outbuildings.

Any large open building that your cat can gain access to can be used as a sleeping spot. Buildings such as sheds, outhouses, barns, or stables are perfect places for cats to sleep as they are usually warm and sheltered. They also quite often house other animals such as cows or horses so bonus points for extra warmth and some free help with surveillance from predators.

Stables and barns will also usually have straw or hay, which makes a very comfortable bed. They usually have a reliable water supply and some little furry mice-shaped snacks for hunting too. A very popular choice!

Also Read: Do Cats Cry Tears When Sad Or In Pain?

3. Underneath Our Cars

Cats often sleep under or even inside cars, so check thoroughly before starting your engine.

Quiet alarmingly, cats do love to curl up underneath our cars. Partly because there are lots of small enclosed, cat-shaped spaces. Also because if the car has been running recently then it will be oh-so warm and cozy. Cats often sneak into garages for this reason too.

Don’t be surprised if you find a cat snuggled up in the hood of your car if you have been somewhere in it in the winter months. It’s a good idea to check for cats before you start your engine when the weather is cold.

Also Read: What To Do If Your Cat Is Hit By A Car: A Step-By-Step Guide

4. Under Buildings/Furniture

Cats might feel secure sleeping in the crawl space under a house or beneath some patio furniture.

Some cats like to crawl under structures to sleep. This doesn’t usually give them a strong lookout post, as it’s not normally an elevated position. However, they might still prefer it as they are protected and concealed from all angles and it acts like a mini cat house for them.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture And Carpets?

5. Benches/Seats

It’s not unusual to find a stray or feral cat sleeping on a bench, especially if the back is completely enclosed.

Some cats like to sleep on benches or chairs with backs on them. They like to be at a vantage point above the ground and the back and side of the bench can offer protection from the elements as well as make them feel more secure.

Also Read: Why Does My Cat Steal My Seat?

Final Thoughts

Cats will sleep anywhere they feel safe, warm, and dry.

Cats are extremely clever and very resourceful. They use their natural instincts to find the best places to sleep. They will always choose places that are warm and safe and offer them protection from potential predators and also from the elements. Cats find safety in numbers, so given a choice, will always group together rather than sleep on their own.

Also Read: How To Care For Feral Cats: 4 Tips For Happy, Healthy Ferals

Frequently Asked Questions

Do outdoor cats like blankets?

Outdoor cats don't generally tend to use blankets. If given a blanket, they will lie on top of it instead of under it, so it will absorb their heat rather than help keep it in. Indoor cats often like blankets that smell of their owner to snuggle up to, but outdoor cats don't usually have owners so this doesn't apply to them.

What do outdoor cats do at night?

Cats love nothing more than to explore at night. They are usually most active at dawn and dusk. During these times they roam around, hunting or finding a mate. Cats do also sleep for parts of the night, too.

What is the best bedding for outdoor cats?

If you want to provide a shelter for outdoor cats, the best type of bedding to use is something like shredded paper or straw. Straw is a good choice as it repels water and cats can bury into it and hide away. Blankets are less ideal as they can get damp and soggy very easily and also cats tend to lie on them so they don't insulate the cat at all.

How can I help outdoor cats in the winter?

In the colder months, outdoor cats are at risk of frostbite or freezing if they do not have access to a warm, dry, insulated, and correctly sized shelter. You can build or buy a shelter for them to put on your property. You can also purchase heated water and food bowls.

Offering fresh food and water daily will help as cats can conserve the energy they would normally spend hunting. Line your shelter with fresh straw to help insulate them while they sleep.

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About Dr. Emma Chandley BVetMed PGCertSAS MRCVS

Emma graduated from the Royal Vet College in London in 2011. An expert in cat behavior and nutrition, she also has a keen interest in surgery. Emma went on to do a post-graduate certificate in small animal surgery and was then awarded advanced practitioner status in the same discipline.

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