Before you jump into a DIY cat house project, consider these design and planning tips from a behavior expert. And then try our instructions for the easiest DIY cat house—ever.

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kitten looking out the door of a cat house
Credit: Oksana Kuzmina / Adobe Stock

You may be thinking of giving your furbaby a place of her own to curl up, rest, and relax—besides your fresh laundry basket. An indoor cat house may be just the ticket. Whether it's a do-it-yourself cat house project or a cat house you buy, be certain what you're planning is a good fit for your kitty and for you. Lauren Novack, a certified behavior consultant with Behavior Vets of NYC shared with us some of her best advice for creating a cat house your kitty is sure to love. 

Is your cat an introvert or an extrovert? Does she run and hide or is she a social butterfly? Is she a fraidy cat or innately curious? Most likely, she's a little bit of each of these descriptions. And if she's like most cats, she treasures her alone time, hidden away in her secret place, but also loves to snuggle and play with the ones she loves and check out what's new around the house. 

All of these things, Novak says, are important aspects to keep in mind when planning how to build an indoor cat house. "Watch your cat to see what she prefers. On what type of surfaces does she lie? Does she tend to choose places that are low to the ground or up high?," Novak says. "Each cat is different. If you're building something custom for your cat, you can build it to her preferences."

4 Features to Consider When Planning a Cat House 

 A few things, Novak stresses, are basic kitty requirements and should be considered non-negotiables. Others, she says, are totally up to you and your pet's peeves. 

Give Your Cat House a Hiding Place

Many cats like to find a hiding place where even their humans don't disturb them—and stay there for a while. This is completely normal kitty behavior. "Hiding helps to reduce stress significantly, so hiding spots should always be a planned part of a cat's world to ensure good welfare," Novak says. At its most basic, a cat house is an enclosed or covered cat bed where she can spend some quality alone time. 

Cat House Size (Doesn’t) Matter

For dogs, the size of a house or crate is really important. But for cats—not so much, Novak says. "Because you're not closing them in," she says, size isn't much of a concern. "However, if you want your cat to be acclimated to a carrier, consider getting a soft-sided carrier that can be one of your cat's hiding spaces."

Consider a Cat House Rich With Activities

Every cat should have access to places to climb, scratch, perch, and hide. "Pet cats need a variety of scratching posts, cat trees, cat wall furniture, and hiding spots where they won't be bothered," Novak says. Your cat house might provide all these options in a single piece of furniture, or you can provide various structures in different rooms or areas of the house. It's OK if your cat house is just a place for hiding or sleeping (see tip #1), but if that's the case be sure you provide other places for your cat to act on her other natural needs. 

Provide Reasons for Your Cat to Explore the House

If your cat isn't overtly confident and curious and generally requires new things to be introduced slowly, Novak says you can get your cat to try out her new house with these three tricks: "Catnip, treats, and play. To encourage your cat to use her new furniture, sprinkle catnip and place treats there when your cat isn't looking so she always finds something special. Play with her on the new furniture to encourage her to explore."

Step-by-Step Easy DIY Cat House

"Sometimes, the cardboard box that the furniture came in ends up being the cat's favorite place," Novak says. If you suspect that your cat might be perfectly happy with a simple cardboard box, give it a try! This might be the easy DIY cat house solution you are both looking for.

Made with simple materials, it requires no building, sawing, hammering, glueing, painting, or sewing. And doesn't everybody have (ahem) "a few" Amazon boxes hanging around the house these days?

Materials:

-Cardboard box in any size that your cat will enjoy
-T-shirt that will fit over the box
-Bedding materials

Instructions:

  1. Line the inside of your box with a cat bed or a towel, blanket, or other cozy sleeping materials.
  2. Stretch a T-shirt over the box so that your kitty can use the neck hole as a doorway into her new hideaway. 
  3. Change the box (new size! new shape!) when it's time for a replacement.

Giving your purr machine a safe spot to sleep can be a simple way to keep her happy—and might just save your laundry basket for actually holding clean clothes.

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