Straw—Not Hay—for Feral Cat Shelters
Straw and hay may look similar, but they’re very different when it comes to insulating your feral cat shelters.
Hay is used for animal feed—it draws and holds moisture, which you don’t want in your cat shelter.
Straw, the dry leftover stalks from harvested crops, repels moisture, making it ideal for keeping cats and other animals warm and comfy all winter long.
If you’re able to do a side by side comparison, the easiest way to tell whether you’re buying straw or hay is the price difference: while cost varies by region, hay should be two to three times more expensive than straw.
Straw is also usually tough, thick, lightweight, and yellow or golden in color, while hay is heavy and green. But hay comes in a number of varieties, so if you aren’t sure – ask the clerk!
So, where can you find straw? Check out these locations in your area to see if they carry straw for animal bedding:
- Pet supply stores
- Farm, livestock, or agricultural supply stores or catalogs
- Garden centers
- Try asking your veterinarian for local suppliers.
- If you live in a farming community, ask your neighbors!
What do I do with it? Loosely pack the straw on the inside bottom of the shelter—filling the shelter to the quarter or halfway point—to insulate it. Hands down, straw makes the best bedding.
Caregivers’ tip: Straw usually comes in bales, but you only need a fraction of a bale to line your cat shelter. Consider sharing a bale with other caregivers or holding a shelter building event in your community. The good news is that, when cared for properly, straw can last decades. Store straw off the ground (for instance, on a wood pallet) and keep it dry by storing indoors.
Check out our gallery of feral cat shelters and where to buy them.
Read our other winter care tips.