If you’ve got a cat who lives or spends a lot of their time outdoors, or if you care for feral cats you’ll worry about making sure they have some kind of outdoor cat shelter.
You want them to be warm, able to stay out of storms, rain and other foul weather, and have a place where they can take refuge and sleep in safety with no fear of predators.
If you’re working for a rescue shelter or caring for cats in the community then having a fixed location outdoor cat shelter makes it easier to monitor the cats you’re looking out for. It also makes it a whole lot easier to know where cats will be so you can find them when you’re doing Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR).
Choosing an outdoor cat house that serves all those needs means looking at a whole bunch of solutions.
And there’s a lot of options from DIY polystyrene boxes, through modifying a garden shed to a whole range of custom outdoor cat houses that might fit the bill.
So, why do we rate the Kitty Tube above all others?
Kitty Tube Gen 4 - The Best Outdoor Cat Shelter
In our test of the Kitty Tube we had two issues that we later raised with the manufacturer, which they dealt with immediately and to our satisfaction (which we’ll discuss below).
We then donated the Kitty Tube we had on test to our local shelter and they’ve found it to be perfect for their needs and rate it very highly.
These are the main reasons it gets our vote.
Kitty Tube Gen 4
The best outdoor cat shelter
That list of pros and cons highlights why we recommend the Kitty Tube as the best outdoor cat shelter, but let’s go a little deeper.
Insulated Outdoor Cat House
We’ll dig into the features and how our experience testing it and our discussions with the manufacturer shaped our recommendation below, but there’s a core reason why this is the best outdoor cat house you can buy.
The Kitty Tube is properly insulated and many of its features are designed to keep the heat in.
At the most basic level, what an outdoor cat needs is shelter and warmth, so that’s why Kitty Tube focuses on that need and solves it.
They do this by having high R-rated insulation throughout the Kitty Tube so that the circular wall and both the top and bottom are covered with insulation. In fact, this latest model has increased the bottom layer of insulation by an additional 15% to help keep cold from coming through the floor.
The insulation on the Gen 4 is an updated version that comes with what the manufacturer calls ‘Scratch Guard’, and they claim it won’t be damaged by moisture, mold, or bacteria. Some owners had noted that the insulation on older models of the Kitty Tube could become soggy from water or cat urine but we have not seen any evidence that this is possible with the latest insulation.
In fact, the recommended cleaning method is to wash out the Kitty Tube and the insulation sections (which are removable) with water and a pet-safe laundry detergent. The insulation and Kitty Tube itself will air dry and the insulation is designed to cope with that level of liquid.
The single small entrance door (with a flap and a gasket) is another design element that exists to improve interior warmth because it allows as little heat as possible to escape from the shelter.
Your cat (or cats) will be generating heat inside the cat house and you want to keep as much of it inside as possible and the design of the door does that.
Condensation and moisture are also controlled by both the design of the insulation and the ‘Scratch Guard’ but also by the design of airflow through the Kitty Tube. This latest generation has a vent cap with a gasket that prevents moisture from building up under the lid. In addition, the handles now have an awning to protect from water getting in and these allow for further ventilation.
Overall, the materials used and the design are all focused on keeping the heat inside the cat house and we feel that Kitty Tube does this better than the competition.
Competing outdoor cat houses tend to have a lot less insulation or, in fact, none at all. For example, the K&H Heated Kitty House Cat Shelter, has no added insulation and relies on a heated pad (which is an acceptable alternative way of getting the heat into the shelter). And the much respected Ark Workshop wooden outdoor cat houses (which we also think are great) come with insulation as an option, but this is standard styrofoam. These rely largely on the snug nature of their design for retaining warmth.
There are many other options for outdoor cat houses but, as far as we have seen, there are none that offer the level of insulation and ‘designed-in warmth’ that Kitty Tube have reached in this latest version. It is in a class of its own when it comes to insulation and retaining warmth.
If you really want to make the Kitty Tube as toasty as possible, there is the option of adding an extra layer of insulation, with the same ‘Scratch Guard’ coating.
This double insulation layer fits inside the existing layer of insulation and so makes an additional air gap between the two layers which further adds to the insulating properties of the Kitty Tube. It does slightly reduce the internal area so that only two rather than three cats will fit, but the heating pad and pillow will still fit perfectly well.
Is Additional Heating Needed in the Kitty Tube?
The simple answer is that in the depths of winter in colder climates (essentially where the temperature regularly drops below freezing to 32℉) we would suggest adding the optional heating pad.
We only tested the Kitty Tube in the summer and with its best in class insulation and with the handle ventilation openings closed it’s going to stay warm inside on the pillow or straw base in most weathers simply because you’ve blocked out the wind.
But any cat living outdoors is going to appreciate some additional heat especially as the needle drops any lower than freezing.
The optional heating pad is a low voltage outdoor electric heating pad that is again an improved design for the Gen 4 Kitty Tube.
It comes with a fleece cover and is designed to operate at a touch above the usual body temperature of a cat, keeping the pad at 103℉. That'll feel just warm to the touch for a person, but it’s enough to allow a cat to be at stable temperature inside the Kitty Tube, no matter the conditions outside.
Again, you could also add the second layer of insulation to really ramp up the internal warmth.
Does the Kitty Tube Get Hot in Summer?
Although it’s made from black recycled plastics the Kitty Tube will stay sufficiently cool in the summer in most conditions.
If the sun is beating down, anything black is going to soak up that heat. Kitty Tube recommend that in the hottest weather you should try to keep the shelter in the shade or cover it with a white sheet.
The way that Kitty Tube is designed means that the insulation actually does the job of keeping the heat out in hotter weather. Further, with the handle openings fully open air can flow freely through for cooling ventilation, and the air gap between the top insulation and the lid creates a natural thermal barrier to help keep the heat down.
Kitty Tube Size and Materials
The Kitty Tube is designed to accommodate three cats (or two if you have the double insulation layer). It is 24″ (61cm) round x 24″ (61cm) tall with the lid on.
It’s made from eco-friendly recycled plastics (post consumer recycled milk and detergent bottles) that are guaranteed for life.
The shelter is a one-piece moulded construction that has a removable lid (which has its own insulation) and the seamless construction allows for a completely smooth interior so there is nothing for your cats to catch themselves on.
What’s Inside the Kitty Tube?
The Kitty Tube has a layer of removable insulation that we’ve detailed already.
When you purchase, you have the choice of either a padded pillow or straw, with the straw being $5 cheaper.
Kitty Tube told us, “We offer both straw and pillow versions. We find that cats who are both indoor and outdoor cats prefer the pillow, while true outdoor/feral cats prefer the straw.”
Kitty Tube Gen 4
The best outdoor cat shelter
Waterproof Outdoor Cat Shelter
After warmth, the next most important thing your outdoor cat needs is protection from the elements.
Kitty Tube have made incremental improvements to their design over the years and across the new generations of the Kitty Tube to make the latest Gen 4 as waterproof as possible.
When we tested it we had no water ingress at all, but some owners do state that they’ve had some water get inside. Most do acknowledge that this latest version has pretty much eliminated the issues that had let some water in on those earlier designs.
As we’ve said, the door now has a clear flap and an awning to keep the wind and rain out and this almost completely manages to keep the interior dry. We can see that if a gale blew directly into the face of the opening then there is going to be some water that gets in.
Additionally, your cat or cats may be wet before they enter the shelter and can bring the damp with them or track in some drops on their paws.
The openings for the handles also allow ventilation and could potentially let in rain, but these now have awnings to prevent most rain from getting in and can actually be fully closed so that water is kept out as shown in the image below.
On top of that, there is a built-in channel in the base of the Kitty Tube that allows the drainage of any moisture that might get in.
One area that does catch some water is the top of the domed lid on the outside. Despite the dome shape of the Kitty Tube, the center of the top is flat or even actually a little depressed so water can sit on top. However, this has nowhere to go and it isn’t going to get inside.
Whilst we had no issues with water getting into the Kitty Tube we had on test we’re not going to say it is going to be fully waterproof. What we can say is that the manufacturers have taken pretty much every reasonable step in this latest Gen 4 version to eliminate all the ways that water could get inside.
Cat Safety in an Outdoor Cat House
The Kitty Tube has a single door to retain warmth inside the shelter and many cat owners worry about there being no other exit in the event that a predator traps a cat inside the Kitty Tube.
In our video review, Holly thought that the Kitty Tube might actually attract other animals and that this could put a cat inside the shelter in danger.
We put this to the folks at Kitty Tube and they said:
“Holly’s point about predators being able to get into the Kitty Tube is misleading. That opening is very small and made intentionally that way so that only cats and very small predators can get in. Occasionally we will hear of a raccoon or other small creature going into the Kitty Tube, but these are not a significant threat to cats who are not defenseless.”
We took this question up with our consultant vets and the general consensus was that there are two schools of thought and they could see why Kitty Tube went for the single door. Indeed, a single small door.
The physiology of cats means that their shoulders are only connected by muscle which means they are uniquely able to squeeze through very small gaps. The door to the Kitty Tube is such a gap and this means that it is small enough to allow cats in, but animals that are any larger will find it impossible to gain entry.
That means that a cat can actually use the Kitty Tube as a refuge, a safe haven, from larger preadtaors such as wolves, coyotes or dogs who would simply not be able to enter the shelter.
In other words, any animal (even a smaller dog) that is small enough to get in (and, remember, that means one small enough to have slim shoulders) should not pose a threat to most cats. They will be able to see them off from the safety of the Kitty Tube.
The same school of thought runs that if you do provide a second opening (an exit door if you like) then a cat that felt cornered would likely try to flee.
The considered opinion of our vets is that fleeing a larger, stronger animal is very likely to mean that the cat is easier for the predator to catch. It is almost always better to shelter in place when hiding in a narrow opening shelter such as the Kitty Tube.
Owners have reported Raccoons taking shelter in their Kitty Tube, but adult cats have little to fear from a raccoon and even kittens and smaller cats are very rarely attacked by raccoons.
The last thing to remember about the Kirtty Tube choice of no exit door is that a single small opening takes you back to the primary purpose of helping to keep the whole outdoor cat house warm. Having a second opening lets out a lot of heat and creates a through draft - exactly the opposite of what you want.
All that said, there are many who steadfastly believe that all outdoor cat shelters should have two doors.
We, respectfully, disagree.
Assembling the Kitty Tube - Is it Simple?
When we tested the Kitty Tube, Holly found it a little tricky to put it together.
It wasn’t so much that it was difficult, but more that she felt it was unclear what the steps were and a few of them required a bit more physicality than she could bring to bear.
Again, we raised this with Kitty Tube after competing our review and they said, “The issues with assembly were understandable and we have had that before. Assembly issues usually happen when people try to do it without watching the videos first and when they do watch the video they are already frustrated. Also, assembly is harder for our older customers, so we do offer to send them assembled when they reach out.”
Kitty Tube seem to be saying that they know assembly can be tricky but that if you watch their assembly video before you start you’re likely to be able to do it. We have to admit that, in our case, we can see that our assembly might have gone more smoothly.
Here’s the official video explaining how that assembly should be approached.
Kitty Tube Cost - It’s Not Cheap, But Is It Good Value?
The Kitty Tube is a premium product in the outdoor cat shelter space and as such it is one of the most expensive options.
There’s a couple of good reasons for that.
One is that this outdoor cat house provides insulation as standard when others do not. Plus, it’s not ordinary or basic insulation. It’s specific high R-value insualtion and it’s treated to cope with moisture and mold.
The Kitty Tube is also made of eco-friendly recycled plastic and is made in the USA so the quality of the raw materials and the care put into making it adds to the cost.
That said, we think it’s good value.
Kitty Tube offer a lifetime chip, dent and scratch guarantee. You can tell when you handle this shelter that it is, to all intents and purposes, totally impervious to the elements and that it’s going to last a lifetime.
Quality comes at a price but that’s what you’re getting.
We know from our experience talking to the people at Kitty Tube that they care about the health and welfare of outdoor, feral or wild cats. They are passionate about their product and work hard to make sure it’s the best it can be. In fact, over the years they have refined the design in response to feedback from their customers which is why the Gen 4 addresses issues that people raised with earlier versions.
On top of that, they have a very good reputation for their customer service. Mentions of rapid and helpful responses to queries are found throughout their reviews on Amazon, even in cases where customers raised an issue but didn’t ask for anything specific.
As we’ve said above, their customer service is also happy to arrange to have a Kitty Tube delivered assembled if a customer thinks that might be an issue for them.
Kitty Tube Gen 4 - The Verdict
We tested the Kitty Tube Gen 4 and, despite Holly’s outdoor cats not taking to it immediately, we could see the quality in the product and the care that the manufacturers take in doing their best to make the best outdoor cat shelter.
When we discussed a few of the issues that Holly had, they showed that they’ve seen all these issues before and have improved the design of the Kitty Tube to take them all into account.
It sums up our experience with the Kitty Tube with the feedback we’ve since had from the shelter we donated it to. They and their always rotating collection of cats love the Kitty Tube.
That’s good enough for us.
Kitty Tube Gen 4
The best outdoor cat shelter