What Is the Best Bedding for Outdoor Cats?

outdoor cats hiding under a shed

Often they will find any small, dark place to sleep.

Setting up an outdoor shelter for a cat is a great way to keep them safe all year long, but what bedding is the best option?

While many people only think about shelters during the winter, a safe place to sleep and live is just as important during the summer, as well.

The bedding that is used in an outdoor shelter is important, as it will play a huge role in whether or not the cat is comfortable or safe.

Since there are a lot of misconceptions about the best bedding for outdoor cats, understanding all options and then learning which one is the best choice will help people make a smart decision.


Many people mistake hay for straw and assume that since they are similar, hay will make a great bedding.

While hay is generally inexpensive and tends to be easy to come by, which makes it accessible to a lot of people, it isn’t a great option to use in a bed for an outdoor cat. In fact, it is one of the worst options that people can use.

Hay is used for animal feed. It’s generally heavier and greener than straw, which many people think will make it a more comfortable option for bedding.

The problem with hay is that it soaks up moisture and will then keep this moisture. When the wet hay chills at night, then cats will have a difficult time staying warm and will get uncomfortable.

Additionally, since hay is a natural substance and will hold moisture, it can easily mold. This can contribute to cats getting sick when they sleep on wet or damp hay.

Blankets and Old Towels

cat on a blanket

Blankets are best kept indoors

Most people have blankets or old towels in their homes, and they assume that outdoor cats will love how soft and comfortable they are.

While indoor pet cats generally love sleeping on these plush and comfortable options, they are not a good choice for outside use, for a good reason.

Blankets and towels are best used with indoor cats instead of outdoor since they trap moisture. Outdoor locations are often wet and humid, and this means that the towel or blanket will soak up this water.

In this way, this type of bedding acts a lot like hay, with the same pitfalls. The wet blankets will retain moisture, which can chill a cat and make them more prone to illness or even dying.

Additionally, mold and mildew can grow in the wet fabric, which turns a nice outdoor shelter into a location that can easily make cats sick.

Pet Beds

Donating an old pet bed to an outdoor shelter for a cat can seem like a kind gesture, as these beds are comfortable, soft, and keep indoor cats elevated off the hard floor.

Unfortunately, they are best left indoors. Even new ped beds, and not ones that have already been used by another pet, shouldn’t ever be placed in an outdoor shelter.

These beds have the same problem as blankets and towels.

They trap moisture and can make an outdoor shelter very cold and wet incredibly quickly, which can chill a cat and is dangerous.

If a pet bed gets wet, it can be VERY dangerous during the cold nights

Additionally, used pet beds often smell like the prior cat or dog that used them. This is a huge turnoff for any outdoor cat, as it will not want to be near another animal, since it won’t feel safe.

Finally, unless the bedding is washed on a regular basis, it will harbor odors, bacteria, mold, and eventually become a very unhealthy option for any cat to sleep on.

Shredded Newspaper

shredded newspaper

Tearing up old newspapers is a simple DIY bedding

While not the best option, shredded newspaper is definitely a great second choice to use for bedding in an outdoor cat shelter.

It will get damp, but doesn’t pull heat from a cat the way that wet blankets, hay, and pet beds can. It is lighter and fluffier, which helps it to hold heat during colder winter nights.

Shredded newspaper needs to be replaced often to ensure that it is not dirty or messy and to help add another fluffy layer for protection.

When it is replaced on a regular basis and the old paper is discarded, then this is a great choice.

Since newspaper is inexpensive and easy to come by, many people opt for this bedding for their outdoor cat shelters, but keeping an eye on its condition and whether or not it needs to be replaced is key to happy and healthy outdoor cats.


pig on a straw bed

Not just cats enjoy straw bedding

Straw is the best option to use for bedding for any outdoor cat. It’s made from dry stalks that are left over after harvesting and does a wonderful job repelling moisture, which means that cats won’t get cold and wet when sleeping on straw.

The hollow stalks that make up straw also do a great job trapping heat, which is key to keeping cats from freezing during cold nights.

The body heat from a cat, when combined with straw bedding, is enough to warm up a small shelter.

Straw is a loose bedding and cats can nest and burrow in it, allowing them to become even more comfortable and to feel safer.

It does need to be replaced, but only every few months, making it a cost-effective option and one that doesn’t require a lot of care or upkeep.

When stored in a dry location, extra straw can last a long time, allowing people to buy a bale for a low price and then have plenty of straw to last throughout the year.

It’s easy to see why straw is, hands down, the best bedding option for outdoor cats.

While people may have their hearts in the right place when choosing one of the other bedding choices, they simply aren’t a great option.

Poor-quality bedding will give an outdoor cat a place to sleep, but can make them cold, retain odors and bacteria, and even start to grow mold, which is a huge health problem.

Knowing why to choose straw will ensure that people pick the best bedding when setting up a safe place for an outdoor cat.