Alley Cat Allies

Straw, not Hay, for Outdoor Cat Shelters

An outdoor cat house filled with straw, not hay, will keep your feline friends warm and cozy during the winter. The difference between straw and hay may seem mundane, but it can actually make a world of difference for cats. They look similar, but while straw makes excellent bedding for outdoor cat shelters, hay becomes a soggy mess.

Use Straw not HayHay is typically used to feed animals, like horses. It soaks up moisture, making it cold and uncomfortable for catsand has the potential to get moldy. And in the winter, a wet bed can even be dangerous, making cats more likely to get sick.

Straw, the dry leftover stalks from harvested crops, repels moisture, making it the best bedding for outdoor cat shelters. Loosely pack the straw in the shelter to the quarter or halfway point. That’s it!

The easiest way to tell the difference between straw and hay is the price: hay generally costs two or three times more than straw. Straw is tough, thick, lightweight, and yellow or golden. Hay is usually heavy and green, but there are varieties, so if you aren’t sureask the clerk!

Straw’s not too hard to come by. Check these places:

  • Pet supply stores
  • Farm, livestock, or agricultural supply stores/catalogs
  • Garden centers
  • Farmers (ask your neighbors!)
  • Ask your vet about local suppliers

Caregivers’ tip: Straw usually comes in bales but you only need a fraction of that to line a cat house. Just be sure you keep enough straw to freshen the shelter when the seasons change, keeping it clean and smelling good for the cats. Consider sharing a bale with other caregivers. Straw can last decades when stored properlyin a dry place and off the ground, such as a wood pallet.

Check out our feral cat shelter gallery and where to buy them
Read our winter weather tips.