When heating an outdoor cat enclosure, appropriate temperature and safety are of equal concern. Despite their fur, cats require temperatures above 1.67 degrees C just to avoid hypothermia and need even more warmth for optimal health. Many cats chew electrical cords and investigate or snuggle up to heat sources, so pet-safe heating and correct installation procedures are critical. Heated beds, heat lamps and underfloor heating are all options for providing warmth in your outdoor cat enclosure or cattery.
Provide each cat with an indoor/outdoor heated bed raised off the floor. Weather-proof electric pet beds have chew-resistant cords and thermostats to prevent overheating. Temperatures stay between 37.7 and 40.0 degrees C, close to the cat's body temperature. If the cat enclosure has no outlets, use a microwaveable heating pad. These can stay warm for up to 12 hours.
Install a light fixture and insert a 75 to 100 watt incandescent light bulb. Cover the fixture with a metal shield to soften the glare and block the cat's access to the bulb. Leave the light on all night to provide moderate warmth in spring or autumn.
Put in a brooder lamp to heat your outdoor cat enclosure. Brooder lamps, found at feed stores, provide significant warmth in an enclosure of up to eight feet by eight feet. They are safe to leave on all night. As of mid-2009, small chicken and pig brooder lamps cost between £6 and £13. Larger models, appropriate for bigger enclosures, go for over £65.
Mount an indoor/outdoor radiant heater on the wall. In winter, an electric quartz infrared heater can efficiently heat an outdoor cat enclosure of up to 10 feet by 10 feet. For safety reasons, choose a model with a thermostat control that turns the heater on and off according to the cattery's temperature and oxygen levels. As of mid-2009, these cost around £162.
Install an underfloor radiant heating system. Hot water and electric underfloor heating is contained entirely beneath the floor, with no hot objects above ground that could harm the cat. While an efficient source of heat, it's more appropriate for a professional cattery, since installation can cost several thousand dollars.
- Place heat sources where the cat cannot sleep closer than within two feet of it. Cats like to get close to heat sources and may burn their fur on lamps or heaters.
- Cover all electrical cords with cord protectors or secure them to the floors or walls by covering them lengthwise with electrical tape.
- If you use space heaters, provide good ventilation and monitor the enclosure's carbon monoxide level.
- Don't use a heating pad designed for humans for your cat. These pads reach temperatures too high to be safe for pets.