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sleeping kitten in straw for cat shelter

Straw for Cat Shelters: Ultimate Guide

grey cat lying in straw for feral cat shelter

Your feline friends are loved. You love them. We love them. A big question is, “What kind of bedding can I put in my cat’s shelter?” Whether you’re providing straw bedding for your cat or several feral cats, this question is an important one to answer. We’ll do our best to answer that question in this article. Let’s get started by asking, “What is the best straw for cat shelters?”

What is the Best Material for Cat Shelters?

The best material for pet or feral cat shelters is straw. Because of the intrinsic properties of straw, it serves as an excellent absorbent, insulator, energy user, and comfort to pet cats or feral cats.

In fact, straw’s hollow property allows for warm air to be trapped and saved much more efficiently, keeping a warmer cat shelter.

We’ll expound on most of this list further down, but here’s brief rundown as to why straw is the best material for cat shelters.

  • Insulation
  • Efficient energy usage
  • Dry loose material
  • Absorbs Moisture
  • Comfortable
  • Cost-effective
  • Natural material
  • Easily replaceable
  • High-altitude grown
  • Family Business
  • Fresh
close-up of straw for cat shelter for sale in united states

Pro #1: Insulation

Straw is basically the hollow stalks of grain or cereal plants. Because of its hollow stems, straw is able to capture and trap air, which is why straw is such a great product for cat shelter bedding.

Pro #2: Dry Loose Material

It’s important to have a dry, loose material as a bedding material in a cat shelter; that’s another reason why straw for outdoor cat shelters is so effective: it’s loose and dry, offering cushioning and softness while also capturing moisture and preventing the cat shelter from dampness. On top of this, a dry, loose material (like straw) for outdoor cat bedding material can easily be removed and replaced. This keeps a much more hygienic environment for your pet.

Pro #3: Comfortable Bedding

Straw for outdoor pet or stray cat shelters is a very comfortable bedding type because it wicks away at water (preventing dampness). As mentioned earlier, it also helps to insulate the shelter, providing a warm environment for your pet. For these reasons and more, straw makes a very comfortable bedding material for pets.

Pro #4: Cost-Effective

Straw is often a much more cost-effective option than other bedding materials for cat shelters. You can often find straw at your local pet store or Tractor Supply. Per sq. ft., straw from your local store may be cheaper although the easier option is to simply order online.

However, because of its additional pros and benefits, straw for cat shelters is relatively affordable. Combine that with the fact that you can get completely organic pet bedding, free of pesticides, preservatives, artificial colors, or flavorings from a family-owned company like Blue Mountain Hay!

graphic for organic straw for cat shelter for sale in united states

Pro #5: Natural Material

One huge distinction between straw and a lot of other cat shelter bedding products is that straw is a natural solution. Think about it, a lot of other popular cat bedding products–shredded newspaper, memory foam pads, heating pads, insulated tiles, cardboard–none of them are natural. Straw is a completely earthy, natural byproduct of grain or cereal plants. Plus, Blue Mountain’s organic bedding straw is completely organic, grown on USDA-certified organic fields in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. 

It’s also grown at high altitudes, which slows the growth of the plant increasing nutrition within each plant.

Pro #6: Easily Replaceable

It’s important to keep the cat shelter hygiene-friendly. That means cleaning out the shelter and replacing it with fresh straw periodically. With straw, it’s a super easy process: just sweep out the old straw and put in some fresh straw! You can even get more efficient with the process by signing up for a custom recurring bedding straw order. Plus, with Blue Mountain Hay, you can save up to 15% on each recurring order.

Pro #7: Efficient Energy Usage

By minimizing heat transfer, straw helps reduce the amount of energy required to maintain a comfortable temperature.

Pro #8: High-Altitude Grown

While we can’t speak for other companies, our organic bedding straw is grown in the high altitudes of the Pacific Northwest. Because high-altitude growth is slower (due to cooler nighttime temperatures), plants tend to absorb more nutrients. It’s also important to note that high-altitude grown crops may have thicker and stronger stems because of the slower growth rate.

Pro #9: Family First

For us, our story has been a family business helping others find natural and fresh products for their pet families, including natural cat bedding.

Pro #10: Fresh Bedding

We also highly value fresh products. Our bedding straw is delivered fresh to your door. Enjoy the fresh benefits of a recurring order of bedding straw for your loved cat!

To put a bow on it, straw is probably the best material for cat shelters on the market. Buying straw can be done at your local Tractor Supply store, possibly from a local farmer, or through Blue Mountain Hay online.

aerial view of countryside for straw for outdoor cat shelter blog

What Materials are Bad for a Cat Shelter?

There are several materials that are probably bad for a cat shelter; namely, hay and blankets.

  • Hay – It can quickly become logged with moisture. Essentially, the hay becomes damp and cold.
  • Blankets – Because blankets do not insulate, they can become cold and moldy. 

Do you use Hay or Straw for Cat Shelters?

Between hay and straw, it’s a very definite decision to use straw for cat shelters, instead of hay. Here are several reasons:

  • Hay is a poor insulator. 
  • Straw is more comfortable. 
  • Straw is more affordable.
  • Hay becomes damp. 

One important tip, however, make sure that your cat does not have allergic reactions to straw.

sleeping kitten in straw for cat shelter

What can I use instead of Straw for a Cat Shelter?

There are many other materials that you can use for a cat shelter, including shredded newspaper, heating pads, and insulated tiles.

Shredded Newspaper

Pros: Easy to burrow in; sustainable; biodegradable; low dust; lightweight

Cons: not very absorbent (constantly replacing); costly (due to constantly replacing it)

Price: $0.50-$3 per newspaper

Description: Shredded newspaper is a common option because of its easy accessibility and “homemade” appeal. It’s a material that lets your pet burrow easily, while also a sustainable and biodegradable option, keeping it earth-friendly.

Additionally, paper is light, which means that litter cleanouts don’t need to be a gym session. A low dust solution, shredded newspaper also means you won’t have to be constantly breathing in debris.

However, it does have it’s downsides. As you can imagine, paper is not very absorbent, meaning it won’t take long for your house to smell like a cat haven. Consequently, you’ll have to very frequently change out the bedding in your outdoor cat shelter. Because of the high replaceability frequency, shredded newspaper can become a bit of a costly bedding material for your cat shelter(s).

Styrofoam Peanuts

Pros: lightweight; may be biodegradable

Cons: choking hazard; not a popular option; 

Price: $15-$25

Description: Although not a popular option, styrofoam peanuts could be used as a bedding material for feral cats. Although a danger by itself, one idea is to pack a bag with styrofoam peanuts, insert the bag into a pillowcase, and add this as an extra layer of softness on top of a layer of straw in your outdoor cat’s shelter. 

Left to itself, styrofoam peanuts are a pet-choking hazard and overall just not a great choice for feral cat bedding.

Memory Foam Pads

Pros: comfort; durability; odor resistant; versatile

Cons: a bit expensive; if it gets infected with feces or urine, it’s hard to clean; can be flattened eventually, which decreases it’s effectiveness.

Price: $25-$50

Description: Using a memory foam pad as bedding material for cats offers unparalleled comfort and support, conforming to each cat’s body shape and reducing pressure points. The foam’s insulating properties provide warmth and coziness, especially during colder months. However, memory foam pads can be initially more expensive than traditional bedding options, and some cats may be tempted to chew or scratch at the foam. Regular monitoring and providing appropriate distractions can address these concerns, making memory foam pads a worthwhile investment for a happier and healthier resting environment for cats.

Styrofoam Shipping Boxes

Pros: affordable; environmentally friendly; insulated

Cons: hard to clean; not as aesthetically pleasing

Price: less than $25

Description: Do you have a styrofoam shipping box lying around the house, creating clutter? You can cut out a hole for your cat to lay down and live out their happy existence. The insulation helps ensure that your cat is cozy and warm through the wind and chill of winter. If you want more instructions, be sure to visit Neighborhood Cats, the inspiration for this idea and many other wonderful cat shelter ideas.

Other Options

There are many other options including first aid blankets, outdoor cat beds, insulated tiles, and cardboard. Each of these options have their pros and cons. However, the best bedding material for your cat is generally straw. Here’s a breakdown table:

Organic StrawNatural; insulator; organic; comfortablePotential frequent replacing

From $39.99 or subscribe and save up to 15%Select options This product has multiple variants. The options may be chosen on the product page

The best option because of its organic, soft, and insulative properties.
Shredded NewspaperEasy to burrow; sustainable; biodegradableNot very absorbent; frequent replacement$0.50-$3A lightweight option that does not absorb cat urine well.
Memory Foam PadComfort; durability; odor resistantMay be expensive; possibly not most economical for feral cat shelters; can be flattened$25-$50A comfortable, expensive solution.(may not be best for a cat who urinates in his shelter)
Styrofoam Shipping Boxesaffordable; environmentally friendly; insulated
hard to clean; not as aesthetically pleasingLess than $25Provides warmth and insulation.
Styrofoam PeanutsLightweight; biodegradableChoking hazard; not a popular option$15-$25A lightweight bedding option but not popular and a serious choking hazard for cats.
sun in the distance for straw for outdoor cat bedding blog

How much Straw Should you put in a Cat Shelter?

The amount of straw that you should put in a cat shelter obviously depends on the size of the shelter; a good rule of thumb is a 3-4 in. layer across the entire cat shelter. In other words, it’s better to be generous with the amount of straw you lay down rather than frugal. Basically, you want to provide enough straw for your cat so that the shelter is insulated, cushioned, and warm.

Because cats move around and will probably disrupt the bedding within the shelter, it’s a good idea to regularly check in and add straw as needed. 

Does Straw Keep Outdoor Cats Warm in a Shelter?

Yes, straw does keep outdoor cats warm in a shelter for several reasons. One, straw is hollow, allowing it to trap air and function as insulation. Secondly, straw is a barrier between the cat and the ground, which prevents heat lost and retains body heat.

However, straw may not be the only thing you need to keep your cat warm. Depending on the weather conditions, a quality, insulated shelter may also be imperative. (Straw bedding for chickens also adds warmth to to your flock.)

What’s the Cost of Straw for a Cat Shelter?

While that depends on the company, here’s our cost range for straw for an outdoor cat shelter:

At Blue Mountain Hay, we want to make the order process as simple as possible. By hopping on a subscription plan, you won’t have to worry about re-ordering straw to replenish your cat shelters. It’ll be automatic, plus you’ll also save up to 15% on each recurring order!

white cat lying in basket for straw for stray cat shelter blog


Wrapping it up, straw for outdoor cat shelters is an ideal and premium choice. Blue Mountain Hay is a family-owned business that has served many happy pet customers over the years. We also pet food products, like organic alfalfa hay or timothy hay! If you’re interested in trying it out for yourself, we’d love to serve you! And for more education (yes, scholars!), check out our article on straw mulch for winter gardens and get your own garden straw mulch.