There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to creating ideal feeding stations for outdoor cats. Not only is it tricky making sure food bowls stay clean and dry when bad weather hits, it’s also incredibly tricky at times protecting cat food from pests like ants and other insects as well as raccoons, birds, and other larger animals that may get to a cat’s food before he or she can even have a bite.
There’s a lot you can do to tackle problems you might have, and while none are completely weather and pest proof, you may find the perfect combination that deters all of the issues you’ve been having just enough that you can live with any of the remaining problems without being too bothered.
To break up this article in a way that made sense, I’ve split the discussion on outdoor feeding stations for cats into two. Part I includes discussion on the bowls and feeders that are excellent at solving mostly pest related problems, from ants to stray cats who may also be after your outdoor cats’ dinner, to those extra-tricky raccoons who heaven knows can be ridiculously hard to work around in terms of how dexterous they are and how clever they can be.
I also mention a few options that may help you out if you have a cat who likes to eat regularly though out the day, but has issues with weight gain if you leave out too much food, as well as for cats who (like mine) eat food way too quickly, scarfing down food faster than lightening if left to their own devices. Eating too fast isn’t the worst problem a cat can have, although it can lead to vomiting or indigestion. Still, it’s quite an easy fix with a really inexpensive bowl if you have no other problems to deal with, and if you need food dripping in throughout the day, I’ve come up with a solution for my indoor boys that would work very well for outdoor cats as well.
But I have a lot to cover, so let me just jump in without more discussion here in the intro.
Outdoor Cat Feeding Stations Part I: The Bowls & Feeders
If you’re looking for something to help keep your cat’s food safe from the prying hands of raccoons as well as from strays and feral cats and other animals around the area, the SureFlap feeder is an excellent way to go. The concept of microchip pet feeders is that pets that stand directly in front of them that have either an approved RFID tag or an approved microchip number will be allowed access to the food, while for others, the plastic cover will remain closed for. It works well if you have one cat who likes to polish off all the food at once, and another who likes to graze though out the day as well, as that way the grazer can continuously come back to eat without having all the food stolen by the food-polisher.
Is there a downside to these? You should definitely be keeping this one dry. If this is hard for you to do, this may not be the feeder for you. Other than that, in certain cases, if a cat with an approved microchip or RFID tag stands in front of the feeder and another cat stands right next to it, the food thief can eat at the same time as the pet the food is intended for. But this is a really specific kind of situation, and one I’d recommend a different technique for.
If you’re looking for an ant proof pet bowl, I’ve got a number of recommendations here, but the WDD Design Co’s 3-in-1 Ant Free Pet Dish looks like one of the better options out there. As a heads up, I strongly recommend looking through the negative reviews on ant proof bowls before buying one. A lot of pet parents have taken the time to outline ways to improve on their design, either by replacing the water that’s intended to be used as a moat with something like diatomaceous earth or with something like a mixture of dish soap & water. Super handy tips, in my opinion!
I have this pet feeder for my indoor boys and I absolutely adore it (my review of it is here). I have it set to go off roughly every four hours, so my boys never get hungry even though they never save any food for later. I have the pet feeder drop into a cat food toy, the Catit Food Tree, which is amazing because it keeps them mentally stimulated and helps slow them down a bit when they’re eating. It’s the best system ever and I would 100% have the exact set up inside a cat shelter, or in a conservatory that had a little cat door in it if I had outdoor cats.
I’ve seen so many pet parents talk about how this pet feeder is one of the only ones that seems to actually be raccoon proof as well (you can check out more raccoon proof feeders here). One reviewer mentioned raccoons walked off with it through her door, out onto the driveway, and still the food was safe inside it. There’s videos of raccoons trying hard (and failing) at breaking in, and one reviewer even mentioned an excellent DIY hack in case you do run into problems with raccoons getting into yours, as unlikely as it is.
As much as I love this thing (it’s a lot, I would 100% buy a second if this one broke, not that they break basically ever), I’m sure I would love it even more if I struggled with raccoons eating my outdoor cats’ food and couldn’t find a solution before this thing. A++++
It feels like there’s no end to the number of slow feed cat bowls on the market – there seem to be new shapes and designs on the daily. They come in plenty of materials, from metal to ceramic to plastic, and there are even some that work with wet food. If you’re feeding outdoor cats who scarf down their grub, no reason not to give one of these a shot. So easy to wash and put outside as though they were regular cat food bowls. Check out this list of slow feed cat bowls to make sure you get the perfect one (or ones, if you want to help keep things interesting) for you and your furries.
There are times when it’s just plain easier to keep other cats and other animals away from your cat’s food by making sure your furries get an entire shelter to themselves, or get allowed access to your house in a way that makes sure only an approved animal can get into. In cases like these, microchip cat doors, which typically work with either microchip or RFID collar, are the only thing that really does the trick. Like with the feeder, they scan the animal that’s in front of them, and only if there’s an approved chip in front do they allow access. If you’re thinking of getting one of these, be sure to look through this list of microchip cat doors before you do because some work a lot better than others at tasks like keeping raccoons out and not allowing animals like foxes to push their way in. You don’t want a raccoon hanging out in your house if that’s where you chose to integrate one; nor do you want your cat surprised to find a raccoon in his or her snug little cat house. Fights would definitely break out – super dangerous.
I had to list it because I love this cat food tree to bits, I’ve bought sooo many over the years, given away a few, bought a new version of the older product, it’s great. The whole things is great. Also it’s plastic, so no big deal whatsoever if it gets wet after being outside, super easy to take apart and clean regularly. Keeps cats engaged and entertained while they eat and snack, and it even helped my first cat slow down eating when he was originally a completely scarfer. For a full review on this hybrid between a slow feed cat bowl and a food toy, click here.
Picture from post Our New Cat Knew: Stick Around Long Enough, They’ll Let You In
Outdoor Feeding Stations for Cats Part II: The Shelters
This is one of the best outdoor cat shelters, in my opinion, to use as a feeding station because it’s multi-level, and the top portion is incredibly easy to access thanks to it being able to open upward. I find when food stations are elevated, the risk of pests, from insects to animals, getting into your cat’s food is drastically reduced, though obviously not reduced altogether. This cat house is made of wood, and so is incredibly easy to keep clean, even if spillage or accidents in general happen.
Don’t want to bother with a multi-level cat house? Would rather something incredibly straightforward, easy to clean, roomy, and has a lot of height to it so you can place something like the Catit Senses 2.0 Food Tree inside, or even a covered litter box? The large Precicion Pet log cabin was built for dogs, so it might be the best option in that regard.
I’ve discussed whether outdoor cats need litter boxes before, and while they’re absolutely not necessary, if you’re a gardener worried about the flower bed you just planted out with gorgeous under-the-sea themed succulents, for instance, you’ll probably want an outdoor litter to increase the odds your cats will avoid digging up your lovely plants. This Precicion Pet has enough space for an outdoor litter box as well as a feeding station, and maybe even an outdoor cat bed or two as well. So easy to keep tabs on things, change litter, and top up on food by just popping the lid open for a look as well.
Just want a little pet shelter that’s roomy enough for a cat bowl to stay out of the rain? This is the perfect solution in my mind, a little wooden pet house with a lid that opens up a front door, and enough room for a cat waiting out a storm with enough grub to keep her belly warm and full.
I’m absolutely obsessed with the aesthetic of this particular cat house, and again, it being elevated means you’ve got a lot better chance of having pests – especially like ants – stay out of this one. Since it’s got long legs it stands on, you can easily put each of the feet into a container filled with water and a bit of dish soap if you find you’ve had it with the ants in your area, they can’t easily go through water in the first place, let alone water that’s got some Fairy liquid in it. As an alternative solution: you can use duct tape stuck facing out to prevent ants from walking up the legs. Supposedly as long as the tape remains sticky (eventually it won’t be if left outside as dust and debris are sure to stick onto it), tape is avoided by ants like the plague.
5. CozyCatFurniture Small Outdoor Feeding Station for Pets or Feral Cats with Extended Roof, Cedar Construction, Protection for 2-3 Food Dishes
In terms of traditional looking feeding stations for outdoors, that are plain and simple covers from rain, this is what I imagine. I don’t think they’re as ideal as more covered cat houses, personally, as I’d imagine enough wind would easily allow everything inside to be completely soaked, but they are available if that’s what you think would suit your needs best.
Just a regular old plastic pet house is an amazing solution for keeping cat food bowls out of the rain. They’re definitely not perfect, but they’re easy to pick up and move, stupid easy to clean, they’re for the most part waterproof, and they’re typically so much more affordable than anything else, it’s hard not to see them as a viable option for outdoor feeding stations.
There are a number of multi-level cat houses out there that would do well as feeding stations, this one in particular I think would be great in areas that get little to no wind. If your rain either pours down or doesn’t pour at all, chances are that top level that’s exposed to the air won’t get any rain in it on this cat house, meaning your cats could eat and you could easily spot low or near empty bowls when you pop outside to have a look without having to lift the lid of an enclosed area on a pet shelter.
Your Thoughts on Outdoor Cat Feeding Stations?
Have you ever had an outdoor feeding station for cats and if so, was it for your own cats or for strays and ferals in your neighbourhood?
Did you have pests in your area? If so, what type? Animals, insects – which kinds?
How do you think the ideal set up would look like for you in terms of keeping your cat’s food safe from weather and pest problems? Do you have any tips for other pet parents?
Your advice could really help out another pet parent, so please do take a moment to leave your thoughts in the comments down below!