3. Shelter, etc…

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What Dogs and Cats Need Every Day…

Shelter, Light, Fresh Air and Room to Move


Dogs are creatures of habit. They will often sleep in the same location they have been trained to use. An indoor dog will require a location that has a moderate temperature and is well ventilated. An outdoor dog must have accessible to a stand-alone shelter at all times with a solid roof and walls that prevent wind, rain, and snow from getting inside. The structure must also have a solid floor constructed to stay dry. The enclosure must allow the dog to enter and exit comfortably, stand fully upright, be able to turn around and lie down comfortably.

Dogs usually prefer loose bedding, such as straw. Some warm blankets can provide a comfortable place to sleep as long as they do not get wet, especially during cold weather. It is important that a dog’s space is kept clean on a daily basis to keep the dog comfortable and healthy.

Dogs need shelter that is safe, clean, dry, and comfortable.

What does the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Code of Practice for Kennels say about shelter needs for dogs?

“Fresh Air & Ventilation

  • Proper air circulation is essential to the prevention of respiratory disease. The number of air changes per hour is extremely important and is dependent on the number of dogs being housed and the size of the facility.
  • A source of fresh air is critical. Recirculation of inside air circulates contaminants, viruses, bacteria and moulds. When ambient temperature reaches over 26°C, additional ventilation, such as exhaust fans and/or air conditioning, should be available. Drafts, chilling, and excessively high humidity are detrimental to dogs of all ages and promote respiratory disease.


Lighting must be adequate so that all areas of the interior of the kennel can be clearly seen. Emergency lighting should be available. Maximum lighting should compare to the length of natural daylight hours and should get at least 8 consecutive hours without artificial light to ensure quality rest.


Barking is a form of interspecies or intraspecies communication and is part of normal social behaviour. Dogs are social creatures; therefore, their isolation from other dogs or humans can lead to behavioural problems such as repetitive barking. Kennel personnel should avoid encouraging undesirable barking behaviour by, for example, refraining from yelling or shouting.


  1. Use materials that optimize soundproofing when building or renovating a facility.
  2. Maintain an environment in which the average sound level is less than 85 dB.

Temperature & Weather

  • Dogs should be kept in temperatures as close as possible to the comfort zone for the breed, age, and health status. For instance, a Newfoundland or Saint Bernard will have a different comfort zone than an Italian Greyhound or a Toy Poodle. Short-coated breeds require supplemental heat during inclement weather.
  • Older and infirm dogs will require a warmer and more comfortable environment. Many breeds of dogs tolerate lower temperatures as long as they are dry, away from drafts and have had adequate time to adjust to the temperature.
  • Consideration must be given to the individual dog, taking into account factors such as age and overall health.
  • Insulating materials can be toxic to dogs, and should therefore be inaccessible.
  • Interior conditions should be consistently maintained. Avoid fluctuations that may cause discomfort during extremes in weather.”
Excerpts obtained from the Code of Practice for Kennel Operations (3rd Edition, 2018), Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.


Cats can live in indoor spaces or in a protected outdoor space. Indoor cats do best with spaces for resting and hiding, so they can control the amount of interaction with people or other cats. Cats always need to have spots for hiding, so they can be alone and undisturbed whenever they feel the need. Respect cats when they are in their safe spaces and teach others to do the same!

A cat’s space should allow them to enter completely, be able to turn in a full circle and then lie down. Cats are climbers, and feel safe when they are able to do so, and so, they also like “vertical” spaces, such as a cat tree with a place for rest. 

Separation between food, water,  urination and defecation, and resting areas should be maximized. Close proximity between feeding, water, resting, and litterbox areas adversely affects food and water intake for cats. 

Some cats in multi-cat households get along very well, however, many cats in these situations merely tolerate one another or they don’t get along at all. When there is more than one cat in a house, it’s important to ensure that cats have access to their resources without competition from the other cats. This means providing multiple feeding stations, water dishes, resting places, perches and litter trays in different locations which can reduce fear and give cats a sense of control. A good rule to follow to determine how many of each resource you need is the number of cats in your house plus one (or at the very least one resource per cat).

It is important that the cat’s space is kept clean on a daily basis to keep the cat comfortable and healthy.

Cats need shelter that is safe, clean and comfortable. 


A litter box is like a little piece of ground that allows a cat to respond to its natural urge to eliminate wastes. Cats need litter boxes because cats live in houses with people who want a quick way to clean up urine and feces. 

A cat’s litter box should be at least one and a half times longer than the cat. The tray should be big and high enough to let the cat scratch, dig, turn and squat comfortably. The box should have enough litter material to allow the cat to go through all the steps of scratching, digging, and even covering up their feces if that is part of how the cat behaves.

Cat litter, sawdust, shavings, sand, or even shredded paper will also allow cats to satisfy their desire to dig. However, studies show that most cats prefer clay litter. 

A litter pan or tray should also have sides that are high enough to keep other things from getting into the tray and contaminating the litter. A cat might share a litter box with a litter of kittens if it is cleaned more than once daily. But there should be one litter pan per cat. A litter pan should be made of material that is easy to wash and disinfect every day.

Every cat needs a litter box that is not too close to the place where it eats and drinks water.

Cats are sensitive to details in their environment. A cat who stops using a litter box is usually not happy about some part of the experience. If you change the brand of litter to one with a stronger deodorant smell, the cat might not like it. Cats also dislike shiny, slippery or unstable flooring around the litter box. Cats do not only need to have their own litter box; some cats need to have the box in a separate room from other litter boxes. If the litter box is too exposed or too far away from things, a cat might not like using it. If covered litter boxes are used, it should be emptied more frequently because ammonia and noxious odours can build up inside more rapidly due to reduced air.

What does the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Code of Practice for Catteries say about shelter needs for cats?

“Cleaning and sanitizing should be carried out daily. Individual circumstances may require more frequent cleaning.

Daily cleaning and disinfection with appropriate products, such as bleach or quaternary ammonium, are necessary to eliminate odours and bacterial or viral contamination, as well as to control parasites. Cleaning and disinfection are integral to a good preventative health program.

Litter Boxes

  • Litter boxes should be of appropriate size for an adult cat (at least 1 ½ times longer than the cat). Trays should be of sufficient size and height to allow the cat to scratch, dig, turn and squat comfortably. Adequate litter material should be provided to allow the cats to engage in the complete sequence of elimination. Not all cats cover their feces. Commercial cat litter, sawdust, shavings, sand or shredded paper will allow cats to satisfy their desire to dig. 
  • Adequate litter pans should be provided to avoid contamination of the surrounding environment (high-sided rather than completely enclosed pans are suggested) and without having to compete for facilities. A litter of kittens and the queen can share one large pan if it is cleaned more than once daily; the recommendation in any colony is one litter pan per cat, plus one. The litter pans should be of a material that is easily washed and disinfected daily, and of adequate size.

Fresh Air & Ventilation

  • Proper air circulation is essential in preventing respiratory disease. Ventilation should be adequate to keep cat areas free from dampness, noxious odours, and drafts. A source of fresh air is critical in a cattery facility, as re-circulation of inside air distributes contaminants, odours, bacteria, viruses, fungi and molds unless an adequate filter system is included. 
  • When ambient temperature reaches 27°C, additional ventilation such as air conditioning or exhaust fans should be added. Drafts and chills should be prevented. High humidity promotes illness and disease, and should be avoided. 


  • All cat holding rooms should be lit during daylight hours and artificially illuminated for access during darkness. The minimum light requirement is 8 hours per day. 
  • Sunlight is the preferred means of lighting, provided that shaded areas are available. 
  • Lighting should be as close as possible to natural conditions of duration and intensity. The cattery should have natural darkness for a sleeping period of at least 8 hours. 

Temperature & Weather

  • Cats should be housed in temperatures as close as possible to the comfort level of the breed. For instance, a Persian, Maine coon or long-haired domestic will have a much different comfort zone than a Cornish rex. Most cats require supplemental heat during adverse conditions. Considerations need to be given to age and overall condition of the individual cat. Older, very young, and infirm cats will require a warmer and more comfortable environment. Temperatures should be monitored and adjusted if needed.”
Excerpts from the Code of Practice for Cattery Operations (1st Edition, 2009) by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association have been used with permission.

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