Cats and the great outdoors can be a bit of a touchy subject…and for good reason. Cats can rapidly devastate a fragile ecosystem, repopulate at an absolutely astounding rate and the great outdoors isn’t exactly the safest place for our curious feline friends to be.
So why let them outside at all?
Because cats love being outside! Even the lifelong housecat can’t help but be curious about what lies outside the front door. A safe, portable outdoor cat enclosure can be a great way for brave cats to get a feel of the outdoors without being in any danger. It’s also easier than teaching your cat to walk on a leash since you simply place the enclosure where you want it to be and let your cat have fun!
But they aren’t just for housecats that are looking for adventure. A portable outdoor enclosure can be a great option for feral cat caretakers who want to help keep their colony safe without putting up a permanent structure. And while living outdoors can be dangerous for cats, a proper enclosure (even if it is portable) can help keep them safe and secure.
After days of research, decades of real-world experience, and some hands-on experience I’ve put together a list of my favorite outdoor and portable cat enclosures. I’ll be going over everything you need to know about buying an outdoor enclosure but if you want to skip ahead and see my favorites you can check out the list here:
- Best for Indoor Cat Playtime Outback Jack Cat Enclosure
- Best for Feral or Outdoor Cats: The Kitty Tube
- Best for Multiple Feral or Outdoor Cats: Petsfit 2-Story Weatherproof Outdoor Kitty Cat House
- Best on a Budget: Fooubaby Pop Up Tent
- Best on a Budget for Bigger Cats: LONGOU Outdoor Cat Enclosures
- Best for Catio: Aivituvin Outdoor Cat House
Who Needs An Outdoor Enclosure?
Any cat owner knows two things: cats hate closed doors and they love to look outside. So naturally, most cats want to at least see what’s outside the back door and get a little taste of the outdoors. While this article isn’t the place to break down the debate between indoor and outdoor cats, the fact is that in many parts of the world it’s normal to allow cats to go outdoors. While it’s been proven time and time again that indoor cats are healthier and live longer, there are still millions of outdoor cats in the world.
An outdoor enclosure can be a great way to give cats a safer space to hide, play, or just relax.
Outdoor enclosures are also perfect for feral cat caretakers who want to provide a safe place for feral cats to hide and especially stay warm during the colder months. An outdoor enclosure can also encourage feral cats to call a certain area home. This is critical since many urban-dwelling feral cats can find themselves in areas where they may be considered a nuisance. A well-placed outdoor enclosure within the feral colony’s existing territory can help them stay in a safer area.
Why Go With A Portable Enclosure?
But why would you need a portable cat enclosure? Let’s look at a few of the benefits:
Perfect for Renters
While the gold standard of an outdoor enclosure would be a complete catio (that’s a combination of the word “cat” and “patio” for those who are unfamiliar) it’s not something that everyone can do for their home. That’s because most catios actually connect to the house and while you can pull this off with an open window many setups will require some basic construction that not every landlord is going to be excited about.
Going portable can help you get all the benefits of a full catio without having to worry about your landlord getting involved. And if you still want the benefits of a catio-style enclosure without the hassle, you should check out number 6 on this list since it can easily be converted into a catio on wheels.
Make Sure Your Cat Actually Likes Going Outside
While most cats will show an interest in the outdoors the degree to which they enjoy it will be different. Some cats are actually pretty frightened of too much outdoor time. With a portable cat enclosure, your commitment is relatively small and you can test the waters without getting a larger stand-alone structure or breaking out the hammer and nails for a DIY job.
It’s also a great stepping stone to leash walking! Using an outdoor enclosure will let your cat get used to the outdoors first- then you can introduce the leash over time. Otherwise, making your first visit to the great outdoors with a strange harness can be a lot for any cat to handle.
Mix Up The Location
Going portable means your cat gets a little bit of a different experience every time they get to play in the enclosure! Since our main goal for indoor cats is to introduce some enrichment and playtime changing up the area is a great way to keep everything fresh and interesting!
Keeping a low profile can be especially important for feral cat caretakers since in many cases you don’t want to attract attention to the cat colony. Truly feral cats aren’t going to become housepets anytime soon and by having a stealthier, smaller, and portable enclosure you can ensure that the cat colony is less likely to be bothered.
What To Look For In A Portable Enclosure?
There’s actually a huge variety of outdoor and portable enclosures…and it can actually get a little overwhelming. So let’s break down the most important aspects to look for so you can figure out what one makes the most sense for you and your feline friend.
The biggest thing to look for is the material. You’ll find enclosures made of metal, wood, mesh, plastic, cloth, and more. For the most part, if you’re purchasing an outdoor enclosure for an indoor cat mesh and cloth are going to be the best best. These are lightweight, very portable, and usually, extremely cost-effective.
If you’re looking for a mobile enclosure for a feral colony, on the other hand, a sturdier plastic or wood enclosure is going to make more sense since it’s a lot more likely to stay in one place. Tougher materials will also help in keeping cats safe from the elements.
Safety and Security
Safety should be one of your biggest concerns. Not only do not want your cat to injure themselves on the actual enclosure but you also don’t want your inexperienced indoor cat to get out. After all, that’s the entire point of supervised outdoor time within the enclosure.
That’s why I’d recommend avoiding enclosures that have an open top and you won’t find any of those on this list. When cats see a clear escape path they’re likely to get focused on how to escape rather than spending time in the sun. Adult cats can easily jump over many of these and I’ve seen plenty of kittens make the climb completely up and over a metal enclosure. Neither of which is safe.
Is your cat ready to get active or do you think they’re more likely to curl up in the perfect sunspot? Naturally, more active cats will need a larger space. Luckily, you can actually connect some of the enclosures to create a larger space.
Weight and Portability
Finally, you’ll want to consider the weight of the overall enclosure and just how portable you need it to be. Some mesh enclosures only weigh a few pounds while large pieces can weigh as much as 100 pounds. They’re still technically portable thanks to a set of wheels but they’re still worlds apart. You’ll need to consider the ideal fit for your space and how much you plan on moving your cat enclosure.
Best Outdoor Portable Cat Enclosures
Now that we’ve broken down what you need to look for, let’s break down some of my favorite enclosures!
Best Overall For Indoor Cats: Outback Jack Outdoor Cat Enclosures
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My pick for the best overall is a simple tent and tunnel style enclosure from Outback Jack. With more than 1,700 five star reviews on Amazon, I’m not the only one who loves this mesh enclosure!
It uses a tent pole design which might seem intimidating for folks that have had some camping mishaps but because the poles are so much smaller than what you’d find on a human tent it’s actually pretty easy to set up. You can pick up just the tent or just the tunnel but I think it’s the combination that really sets this enclosure apart from the others. Some cats (like mine) go crazy for tunnels and tubes so I really like this addition.
If I’m spending a few hours outside, I’ll actually cover the tunnel with a light blanket to create some shade. Debbie (my cat) likes that she can hide in the tunnel and it also ensures she’s got a cooler spot if she wants to get out of the sun for a bit.
When it comes to the overall size of the enclosure, you get about 30 sq ft of playable space. While that’s plenty for older cats that just want to sunbathe if you’ve got a wild kitten you might be better off going straight for a harness and leash so they can get some more energy out. Because it isn’t huge, you can also consider assembling this inside your house for an extra play area when you’re not using it outside.
The Outback Jack uses a lightweight mesh exterior that lets in plenty of sunshine and breeze while allowing your cat to see everything around them. However, the downside is that the determined feline would be able to breakthrough this mesh exterior with some effort. Again, that makes this portable enclosure better for adult cats that are more likely to soak in the scenery rather than try to escape.
When it comes to portability, it’s tough to beat this enclosure. Because it’s made almost entirely from a lightweight mesh, the entire enclosure weighs only 7 pounds and fits compactly into a small carrying case.
Overall, if you’re looking for a simple, budget-friendly option for getting your cat into the great outdoors the Outback Jack makes a great option for most cats. Kittens and committed adventurers might need a more durable material. You can read more reviews and see the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
Assembly Rating: A+
Durability Rating: B-
Weight: 7 pounds (3.1 kg)
What I Love About It: You can set it up indoors or outdoors for a super-versatile and super-fun play space. Also, most cats will love the tunnel and there aren’t a lot of other enclosures that include a tunnel.
What I Wish It Had: I’d love to see a tougher mesh used. While the material does give cats a full view of the outdoors, some rambunctious kitties might be able to scratch their way through.
Best Overall For Best for Feral or Outdoor Cats: The Kitty Tube
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The Kitty Tube is one of the few cat enclosures built specifically for feral or outdoor cats. While it might be a bit smaller than what some folks would consider an enclosure it’s perfect for keeping outdoor, feral, or community cats safe, secure, and happy.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the Kitty Tube absolutely lives up to its name with its low-profile and simple design. While it doesn’t exactly have a lot of style, that’s not something you’re looking for anyway with a feral cat enclosure, and the simple exterior shell is even guaranteed for life.
But what makes it ideal for feral or outdoor cats?
First, it’s heavily insulated- especially when compared to your traditional pet igloo or plastic outdoor pet house. It’s also specifically designed to prevent leakage with raised flooring and covered openings that prevent rain and snow from leaking in. Finally, the small openings make it the perfect size for cats but too small for predators like coyotes.
If you’re looking for an enclosure for more than two cats then the kitty tube just isn’t large enough and you’d be better off purchasing more than one. However, because it’s not the most budget-friendly option, that might not make sense for everyone. If you’re looking for something a little larger for outdoor cats, check out the next option on this list.
This super-safe kitty pod is also certainly portable with a weight of only 18.45 pounds. It can easily be picked up and moved wherever you need it and it’s small enough to fit just about anywhere.
With over 900 five-star reviews the Kitty Tube is a standout product in the world of feral cat shelters and enclosures. If you’re looking for an almost bomb-proof enclosure to keep outdoor cats safe it’s probably your best bet. But you do have to pay for quality. Still, with a lifetime guarantee on the exterior shell and a long list of clever design features, it’s pretty tough to beat the Kitty Tube. You can read reviews from other cat parents and check out the latest reviews on Amazon by clicking here.
Assembly Rating: A+
Durability Rating: A+
Weight: 18.45 pounds (8.4 kg)
What I Love About It: The durability and security from predators and weather are really second to none.
What I Wish It Had: A second entry point. Having only one entrance means that if an unknown cat tries the enter the Kitty Tube, the resident cat is immediately put into an uncomfortable situation with no chance for an additional exit.
Best for Multiple Feral or Outdoor Cats: Petsfit 2-Story Weatherproof Outdoor Kitty Cat House
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While the Kitty Tube is best for one cat, the Petsfit 2-Story Cat House is perfect for multiple feral or outdoor cats. With multiple entry and exit points, this two-story outdoor cat condo can help decrease the chances of kitty confrontations. There are also two perches outside the condo that give even more room for multiple cats to hang out in and around the condo. The slightly slanted roof could also make the perfect sunbathing location.
Made from cedar, the Petfit Condo is certainly durable but isn’t going to last over multiple tough winters. I think one Amazon reviewer summed up the durability of this enclosure perfectly which you can see here. It’s not going to come with the lifetime guarantee of the Kitty Tube, it’s still tough enough to withstand most winters.
This stylish cat condo is just over 2 feet tall and while they recommend it for only 2-3 cats, I could easily more ferals squeezing into the space during bad weather. While this will certainly help keep cats warm, the additional entries will let in more weather so if you’re in a colder area, you’re going to add some insulation. Simply throwing in some hay or other bedding can work or you can pick up a nice waterproof blanket from Amazon.
While I love the additional entry points so cats don’t have to push each other around to get in and out, it also makes the enclosure more susceptible to predators. Larger predators still won’t fit through any of the entries but they will have more ways to try to reach cats. Again, you’ll need to consider your area to figure out which outdoor cat enclosure makes the most sense.
While it might look a bit heavy, the Petsfit Condo still comes in at a very manageable 36.15 pounds. It’s certainly less portable than the other options on this list so far but it’s still not so large that you couldn’t fit into a small SUV on your own.
Overall, the Petsfit Condo is a great option for multiple outdoor cats that don’t need high-security. You can read more reviews and check out today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.
Assembly Rating: C+
Durability Rating: B+
Weight: 36.15 pounds
What I Love About It: The multiple exits which are extremely important for multiple cats in order to prevent fights and confrontations.
What I Wish It Had: A bit more protection from windy weather conditions since the entry and exit points can become a liability in inclement weather. An extra shutter or awning on the entry points would help a lot.
Best On A Budget: Fooubaby Pop Up Tent
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It doesn’t get any easier or more budget-friendly than the Fooubaby Pop Up Tent. With an extremely straightforward design, this small outdoor tent is only a fraction of the price of the other outdoor enclosures we’ve looked at but still gives cats plenty of room for some serious sunbathing.
Made of a lightweight mesh, the Fooubaby lets in plenty of sunlight and fresh air. But like any mesh enclosure, it may not be best for cats that are likely to scratch or try to escape. Still, the mesh is tough enough to withstand normal wear and with a price point this low it’s not too much trouble to replace it if an accident were to occur.
While it is small, I wouldn’t say it’s too small. Measuring in just under 4 feet, there’s enough room to play with toys or just flop around as cats love to do. To get a feel for the size with a cat in it, check out the picture connected to this Amazon review that will give you a very good idea of how much room is inside. That cat is also extremely cute so that’s a bonus, too!
There’s zero assembly required as the enclosure literally “pops up” and is ready to go in seconds. Weighing in at only 1 pound it’s also one of the lightest (and therefore most portable) options you can expect to find.
Overall, if you want a simple and extremely budget-friendly outdoor enclosure so your indoor cats can enjoy some sun it’s tough to beat this simple pop-up from Fooubaby. You can check out more reviews and see the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
Assembly Rating: A++
Durability Rating: C+
Weight: 1 pound (0.45 kg)
What I Love About It: The price makes this a low-stress purchase and a great way to see how your cat handles outdoor time.
What I Wish It Had: For the price, it’s hard to wish for much more but a slightly thicker material on the bottom would help since that area is going to get a lot of wear and tear. Still, it’s easy enough to place a blanket in the bottom.
Best On A Budget For Bigger Cats: LONGOU Outdoor Cat Enclosures
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If you want to stay budget-friendly but you’ve got a bigger feline friend (maybe a Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest Cat) then the LONGOU makes a great budget alternative. Coming in at almost 5 inches taller than our other budget option the LONGOU also features a somewhat sturdier tent pole design that’s still super easy to put together. It’s still very reasonably priced and budget-friendly, too.
The LONGOU features 4 stake poles which allow you to secure the portable enclosure into the grass or if you’re a bit more creative you could use the loops to tie it down onto a back patio. This can be handy if you want to leave your enclosure out to have it ready to go whenever you want to take your cat outside. While it’s a small feature, these stakes (and the required loops to attach them to) can be a great addition for larger felines.
There’s also a good amount of room inside the enclosure and you can see that this reviewer on Amazon was able to fit in a small litter box, food dish, blanket, and some toys. Oh, and a super cute kitten!
Like most of the portable enclosures on this list, the LONGOU also features a mesh exterior that lets in sunlight and fresh air but may be a scratch hazard. Luckily, you won’t break the bank if you need to replace it.
With a weight of only 2.5 pounds, it’s certainly portable and folds nicely into a 23-inch carrying case.
Assembly Rating: A
Durability Rating: B
Weight: 2.5 pounds (1.13 kg)
What I Love About It: The extra stake poles and the loops to attach them are a nice feature that helps keep this enclosure secure in place. This can be really nice if you want to leave it set up outside between uses without it having to worry about it blowing away.
What I Wish It Had: While the extra height is great, I wish it had a bit more width to it.
Best For A Catio: Aivituvin Outdoor Cat House
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If you’re looking to go big or go home then the Aivituvin Outdoor Cat House might be exactly what you’re looking for. While it’s not exactly the most portable outdoor enclosure on our list, it does feature small wheels that will work on a smooth surface. But if you’re trying to wheel this bad boy around pavers, gravel, or something similar you’re going to have some trouble.
The Aivituvin makes a great option for folks that want a ready to go and relatively portable catio that they can connect to their home. With a little home improvement skill, you can convert a window into a cat door and connect this kitty enclosure. This makes a great option for people who want to give their cat the joys of a catio but can’t modify their home in any big way. When you move, the Aivituvin can easily be wheeled off to your next house. You can see this set up in the photos connected to this Amazon review. Just be sure that your cat can’t squeeze through any open space if you go this route.
This enclosure is the largest (by far) on our list measuring 5.9 feet tall. That means there’s plenty of room for indoor cat roommates to climb around without getting each other’s way making this a great option for multi-cat households. You can also fit a lot into the enclosure including food, water, litterboxes, and more.
While the Aivituvin will require more assembly than the simple pop-up enclosures on this list, most Amazon folks won’t have a problem putting it together and you can get it done with just a Phillips screwdriver.
If you can dance and build this thing then it can’t be too difficult to put together.
The enclosure has several platforms for cats to hang out on and a nice hide-away-hole for cats to get some shade or just some quiet time. There’s also a removable layer at the bottom that makes this super easy to clean since most dirt and debris is going to shimmy its way down to the bottom layer. This enclosure is made of wood and wire which definitely helps improve the overall durability and security of this enclosure but it’s not going to do much of anything when it comes to keeping out the elements which makes it a poor choice for our feral or outdoor feline friends.
Overall, if portability is your number one concern then the Aivituvin probably isn’t going to be your number one pick. While it is portable, the wheels aren’t made for constant use, and at almost 6 feet tall and 67 pounds it’s not something you can just pick up and carry away. But if instead, you want a still portable cat enclosure that can quickly be converted to a catio then this is could be a great option. It certainly doesn’t have to be a catio though and this enclosure works just fine as a stand-alone enclosure, too.
Assembly Rating: B+
Durability Rating: A+
Weight: 67 lbs (30.4 kg)
What I Love About It: It’s huge! With multiple levels, there’s plenty of room for cats to jump, climb, and crawl into the perfect spot for sunbathing and bird watching. You can also turn this into a full-time catio with a little home improvement skills. Finally, you can purchase a second one later and connect them to create an even larger outdoor space!
What I Wish It Had: While it is considered portable since it’s on wheels, it’s too large to toss into your vehicle. This outdoor enclosure works best for people with a nice smooth patio or sunroom.
Portable cat enclosures are a great way to get your cat exposed to the outdoors without the hassle and costs of building a fully functional catio. While some folks might think that cats won’t be satisfied with a small pop-up tent just think about how often you find your cat tracking down the smallest little corner of sunlight for a nap. If they like that little square of sunlight, imagine how much they’d love to actually be in the sun!
Going portable is always a great first step to a dedicated outdoor space or leash walking. But even simpler, it’s just a fun activity for you and your cat to enjoy!