Blissing out outdoors with indoor cats: choosing the perfect cat enclosure (part 1)

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!

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15 Responses to Blissing out outdoors with indoor cats: choosing the perfect cat enclosure (part 1)

  1. christina.mrs May 19, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    i have a kitchen door and on the left side of it a kitchen window .a small outside yard .is about 4ft wide 4 foot long .that leadds to a shared garden .i would like a catio to cover window and door .and a door on the outside for me to walk in the catio and allso out the other side so i can get to the garden as and when .is this possible .and is there a company that can fit one for me i liv in london uk .and any idea of costs etc .thank you mrs goodall

  2. Julie September 8, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    Hi Liz,
    Our cats are loving their catio and spend a lot of time outdoors stalking critters, birds and bugs. Recently Kasper started itching so we took him to the vet and were told he may have been bitten by fleas (even though we have not seen any on any of our cats). We thought we were safe since our patio is about 5 feet off the ground. The vet said that critters could still climb up there and leave fleas behind, and apparently they could also get heartworm from mosquitoes. Anyway, they advised us to put them on Revolution, which I’m not too happy about. I’m not sure what the other options are, though – especially for heartworm. I found this tag from Only Natural Pet and wonder what your thoughts are about it: http://www.onlynaturalpet.com/products/Only-Natural-Pet-EasyDefense-Flea-Tick-Tag/999024.aspx. It might help for fleas, however heartworm is still another story… for that we may not have much of a choice. Any advice you have would be appreciated!

  3. Debbie June 4, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    As a compromise to the inside/outside dilemma, we purchased a 10′ X 10′ X 6′ chain link dog kennel so our kitties could get some sunshine and fresh air.. It’s on our cement patio and our cats have 24/7 access to it through a cat door. The roof is mostly secure shade cloth. We filled it with old wooden patio furniture, plants,shelving, and a flat-topped dog house holds a big litter box. They have many soft beds in which to lounge or watch the birds.. Our “catio” was easy to build and could be dismantled in minutes. It’s secure, easy to clean, and sturdy, Our cats love and and spend lots of time out there. It gives them their own 100 square feet cat room.

    • Liz-cat June 11, 2012 at 11:41 am #

      Debbie,
      Thanks so much for describing your home-designed catio. Very clever and affordable! I just love that. If you send me a picture (lizzcat at naturalcatcareblog.com) I will find a way to share it!

    • jackieables July 24, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

      I have an association where I li ve.animals ha ‘ve to be o n collars my cats don’t want ANYTHING to do them. TheY are 8&10 years old.. I own the house and 15 feet of yard. There are so many stipulations. I tried supervision ( which I thought was ok as long as I kept them near me and away from neighbors. )I like the dog kennel idea but i want to enjoy being out with them.like a gazebo like thing or a anti bug thing that goes around a small patio. WoUld that work?

  4. Robert June 1, 2012 at 10:55 am #

    Another benefit it will improve your cats sleep – as if 14 hours a day weren’t already enough! Our cats are zonked after a day of excitement in the fresh air.

    • Liz-cat June 1, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

      Yep, that’s my Robert commenting there about Phil and Joel!

  5. Connie May 30, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    We built a catio, and the cats really enjoyed it, but I’ve shyed away from it in the past few years with concerns of heartworms and ticks..

    • Liz-cat June 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

      Hi Connie, I know, I heartworms are real challenge in some parts of the world and I don’t have an easy answer for those. I supposed mosquito netting all the way around would help. But Flea Treats, my favorite natural flea prevention, guarantees to repel ticks too or your money back.

  6. Ingrid King May 30, 2012 at 4:04 am #

    What a wonderful catio, and great advice on what to consider before deciding on how to build one. Your kitties must be so happy!

    • Liz-cat June 1, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

      Ingrid, thanks- it’s true, our cats have never been happier. They want to spend most of their time on the cat deck, and they are more relaxed and happy in the evenings too.

  7. Marie May 29, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

    Those are great! Of course, you’d need a yard or patio. When I lived in a sixth-floor apartment along a busy street, I had an enclosed balcony, which was better than nothing. I took my cat for walks on a harness, too, so he did get out beyond the balcony. I’ve also seen enclosed boxes/cat beds that you can mount in a window kind of like a mini-balcony. So that’s another option for city cats in rented apartments.

    • Liz-cat June 1, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

      Marie, yes indeed, those are some of the options I’m working into Part 2.

  8. Layla Morgan Wilde (Cat Wisdom 101.com) May 29, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    What a fun, safe spot! I believe cats are happier being able to experience the outdoors safely and catios, screened in porches, special fences give cats the best of both worlds.

    • Liz-cat June 1, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

      I agree Layla – catios are a joy! Thanks

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