You’ve got an indoor cat. When you see him looking longingly out the window, you wish you could let him hang out with you outside.
Yet there all those safety reasons to keep your cats inside. Total drag!
But wait, creative solutions do exist
Let me tell you what we did and help you figure out if you could do something similar…or different.
We recently transformed our deck into a fresh-air cat hangout and love, love, love it!
(If you are saying to yourself, “but I don’t have a deck!” or even “I don’t have a yard,” don’t despair. There are still options, which we’ll get to.)
Click a photo to see larger view.
Bonus things about cat enclosures
Besides making your cat happy, you may experience the following bonus side effects.
1. Cat behavior issues are likely to improve.
By tracking the advice of Jackson Galaxy and other cat behaviorists, I’ve noticed that one of the keys to resolving behavior problems is to give cats vertical spaces and ways to play and move around a lot. All of which happens naturally if a cat has a safe place to play outdoors.
Plus there’s something about fresh air that calms a cat’s soul. A human’s soul too, for that matter. Which brings me to the next points.
2. Cat health may improve.
Two words: exercise and fresh air. Our little Joel-cat has already developed new strength and can jump up to higher places in the house than he has before.
3. It’s fun for you.
I’m amazed at how much having this space has enhanced our own lives in just a few weeks!
Granted, it’s the Spring-Summer cusp and the living’s easy on a sunny deck, but we’ve spent much more time out there than before. I can enjoy the company of our cats while working on my MacBook. Robert’s napping outside with them as I write this. It’s also fun to do yoga outside in this private setting and enjoy the bonus oxygen rising up from the lemon tree, flowers, and weeds in the garden below.
Choosing the right cat enclosure: a checklist
In part 2, you’ll see a big range of options – including a video showing our Catfence-in system in more detail.
To choose the right one for you it helps to answer these questions first.
1. What type of outdoor space do you have? How will your cats access it?
In my opinion, the cat’s route from your home to the enclosure should not rely on you carrying her and putting her into the enclosure. Is it possible that could work? I suppose, but you’d may be setting both of you up for stress (and risk) over something that was meant to be fun.
Did you know there are some neat cat structures that can be built right off a window – require no yard or deck at all? You’ll see them in part 2.
2. Do you have a fence? are there holes in or under it?
Originally we wanted to add an enclosure attachment to the fence surrounding our whole yard.
But we couldn’t get past the problem of other critters (skunks, raccoons, both?) that kept digging holes in various places under the fence. We’d cover a hole up and it would appear again somewhere else. With the yard having a lot of corridors and hidden nooks and crannies, we wouldn’t be able to constantly ensure the fence was secure.
3. If you have a yard, are there a lot of trees or structures cat could climb to jump over fence?
There are cat-proofing structures for trees, but if you have a ton of them or if you have other structures too, the whole-yard solution could get way too complicated and insecure. Like us, you may do better with a smaller plan.
4. Are you willing to supervise – at least for the first couple months?
If not, I would recommend a 360 degree enclosure installed by a professional. We’ll look at some options.
Even our little “cat jungle gym” – the KittyWalk enclosure we used before the deck enclosure – had a snafu one day. Unbeknownst to us a squirrel had chewed a small hole in the fabric netting and Phil escaped when we had our backs turned. We thought he was Houdini for a minute there!
As for our new cat deck, Joel quickly discovered the one hole he would be most likely to get through – luckily I was watching and collected him before he scrambled through it. We’re fixing that now.
I say don’t let them play out there unsupervised – at least for the first month. Wait ’til they’ve had enough time to try every trick in the book and you’ve addressed all the weak security points!
4. What’s your budget?
Depending on how handy you are with tools you are and how big you’re thinking, a cat enclosure system could cost you anywhere from about $150 to thousands of dollars.
There’s always the enclosure-free option of training your kitty to use a “kitty holster” jacket leash instead, which will cost you almost nothing but a whole lotta patience.
With your answers to these questions in mind, check out Part 2 to see some really cool options and make your best decision!