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Outdoor Cats Without the Risk

Posted by at 5:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)


Outdoor Cats Without the Risk by Lisa TowellMost cats adore the great outdoors. They like to sniff the smells, taste the plants, and watch the birds. But the outdoors can be a death trap, even for a wary cat. Nibbling on some common garden plants can result in poisoning or kidney failure. Cars are a constant hazard. Cats can be attacked by dogs or other cats resulting in injuries and infections. Potentially deadly diseases such as feline leukemia and feline AIDS can be spread by contact with an infected cat. Spilled antifreeze and rodent or insect poisons are lethal. And, sadly, cats are easy targets for people who don’t like animals on their property or who are just plain cruel. Wandering cats have been shot, drowned, burned, and impaled by arrows. The average lifespan of an outdoor cat is just four years.

Our two cats are blissfully unaware of all these hazardsthey just want to be outside where all the fun is. We decided to build them an enclosed cat run where they could play and explore safely. Our house has an unused side yard about 5 feet wide. We attached a wooden frame for the cat run to the side of the house and stapled wire fencing to the sides and top of the frame to make it completely cat-proof. (We used a sturdy welded galvanized steel wire with 2 by 4 inch openings.) The run is 3 feet wide and 20 feet long. We made one end of the run tall enough to enclose the bathroom window. Voilàwe just open the window and out go the cats. Right next to the window, we built a tall cat tree with lots of shelves, allowing the cats to look into the neighbor’s yard or see what’s happening on the street. We also put a door on one end of the run so that we could get in for cleaning.

We’ve never been able to have a dog door in our house, since it would be an escape route for the cats. But once the run was built, we realized that the dogs might enjoy it, too, so we installed a dog door in the side wall of the house.

Now the dogs have somewhere to go for quick potty breaks, and the cats have figured out how to work the dog door so that they don’t have to wait for us to open the window. The cats love their new freedomScooter and Genet go outside rain or shine, sometimes spending all night enjoying the sounds and smells of the neighborhood.

If you need some help designing a custom outdoor enclosure, drawings and instructions are available from Just 4 Cats. If you don’t have space for a permanent cat run, here are some other ideas for protecting your cat outdoors.

You can make or buy a cat-safe enclosure for your entire yard. The general idea is to fence in the yard, then attach a cat-proof barrier to the top of the fence to prevent your little mountain climber from fleeing the scene. Purr…fect Fence and Cat Fence-In offer ready-to-install cat barriers. Purr…fect Fence also has options available for yards that don’t have an existing fence. You’ll need to make sure your yard or enclosed area doesn’t contain any plants that are toxic to cats.

If you can’t put up fences, try Kittywalk for portable cat enclosures that can be set up on a lawn or deck. These are great for apartment balconies, and they can be paired with a pet door to allow your cat full-time outdoor access.

If you have no outdoor space at all, Kittywalk offers an enclosed stroller so that you can take your cat for a walk. Or you can give your cat a comfortable shelf or perch next to a window with a view. Hang a bird feeder outside the window for endless hours of cat TV.

PETA has more useful tips here. Have fun watching your cat enjoy the outdoors!

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    Samantha Nichols says...

    September 13th, 2010, 4:56 pm

    Wonderful article about cat enclosures! The sites you mentioned all offer great cat enclosure products. I would love to tell PETA’s readers about http://www.catiodesigns.com. We offer DIY cat enclosure plans in various sizes and for a fraction of the cost of pre-fabricated cat enclosures. Please visit us if you are looking for a safe, secure alternative for your indoor cats and a cat enclosure aka catio is what you would like to build.

    thanks
    samantha

    Samantha Nichols says...

    September 13th, 2010, 4:57 pm

    I forgot to mention that we are launching at the end of this week so stay tuned and leave your name and email address to be notified when the Catio Designs Guide is live!

    Kim O'Bryan says...

    September 16th, 2010, 5:46 pm

    We’ve had a Cat Fence-In system for just over 15 years, we back up to the wild. We love the sense of security, we’ve never had a breach!
    I highly recommend them

    Mrs. Trish GEIDEL says...

    September 17th, 2010, 3:30 am

    We have 4 indoor cats (2,3,12,&13 yrs old ) who have only ever known, what it’s like to live indoors with the added bonus of a “cattery ” attached to the back door.
    My hubby built it himself with wood frames & galvo mesh as mentioned above, but he also included shade cloth onto 75% of the structure, as we do have hot summers here in S. Aust.
    We also use a “cat flap” door insert, so the cats can come & go as they wish.
    Hubby attached several high shelves with run up ramps inside the Cattery, cos these cats sure love being up high looking down on things. !

    Adam says...

    September 17th, 2010, 1:31 pm

    Hello, it´s a good idea this for cats that are not used to go outside, but people shouldn´t worry too much of having cats outside, as it´s natural to be free, but I know some places are not suited for outdoor cats, or there are dangers, like roads, etc. so this is a good idea.
    Adam from Catalunya (Barcelona, where bullfights will be banned in 2012) Horray!

    Keisha says...

    September 17th, 2010, 6:56 pm

    I got my cat as an older cat and she was already used to being outside and inside, she is so stuborn as soon as it looked the slightist bit dark she would hide somewhere so she could spend the night outside, luckily our street is not full of idiots in cars etc, and my cat is now 17 years old!

    Lena says...

    September 17th, 2010, 8:04 pm

    my husband and I have cats and we hate keeping them inside! One of my cats has learned to do as I say and I will let him outside and I will stay outside with him to watch over him and when I say lets go in, he goes in! If he sees something that scares him, he runs to the front door. But I would love to let him outside and not have to go out too.

    I didnt see it mentioned but you prolly did, it is a good Idea to put Screening around the outsides of it, to block out mosquitos and help prevent heart worms!

    I love this idea and I can’t wait for hubby and I to start on one of our own! This is great for cats! Cats need to be outside cause that is their nature and its great that they can and have a security!

    melinda says...

    September 17th, 2010, 9:04 pm

    One important thing that should be mentioned here is that cats are very effective predators, often killing animals in play as they naturally hone their hunting skills. One cat may seem quite small against the backdrop of the local landscape, and the occasional casualties of natural hunting behavior may be dismissed as unfortunate and sad but insignificant in the grander scope of things. However, if you consider the great many domestic cats free to roam the outdoors as they please and then add to that the substantial number of homeless and feral cats, you may be able to appreciate the reality of the devastation which domestic cats can and do cause to a variety of local wildlife and the ecosystems which depend on them. With our wild places and the creatures who inhabit them teetering delicately on the brink of disaster, this is easily as important if not even more pressing an issue to consider when we make choices regarding our pets.

    Nicole says...

    September 17th, 2010, 9:16 pm

    As for the bird feeder by the window, it should be moved a fair distance so that the birds don’t fly into the window.

    Ruth says...

    September 18th, 2010, 8:44 am

    My mom had a cat he was an indoor cat but my mom would put him outside so he could get fresh air, he never moved from the same spot he was scared to go anywhere.

    He was such a good kitty and we loved him so much, he passed 8 years ago and I still cry for him.

    Renata says...

    September 18th, 2010, 4:38 pm

    I really, really liked this article. In England everyone seems to think that cats “must wander outdoors”. Statistics say that a cat is killed in a car accident every two min and a half in the UK. However there is NO animal group which supports a more responsible attitiude and when we mention this, either they look at us in embarrassment as if we were mad, or they even attack us saying we are cruel. We built a beautiful “catio” in our garden with high and low shelves and posts to climb. We also have a bench and chairs, table, parasol for us (and for them!! with confy cushions) and we eat there every time the weather is good enough. It’s our private summer restaurant al fresco! They have a catflap for them to be independant.
    Our cats enjoy it very much and now also our puppy who can stay all the day out (if he wishes) without risking ending up into our neighbours’ gardens. Of course we also take him to run in the park, but when he is at home he has a safe outdoors place.

    meghan says...

    September 19th, 2010, 12:28 pm

    i have a cat named Cameron, hes outside cat and he just turned 14 this summer!!! we have cat doors, and he goes out whenever he wants but doesnt wander far maybe over to the neighbors, but usually he sits under the tree and when we pull up in the car he walks up to the car and walks us inside, hes my bodyguard. lol i love that cat

    Lisa Cyr says...

    July 11th, 2011, 3:39 pm

    Do any of you have photos of your cat enclosures/catios that you’d be willing to share? I’ve never seen one before.

    Caboodle Cat says...

    August 12th, 2013, 5:53 am

    I really, really liked this article. In England everyone seems to think that cats “must wander outdoors”. Statistics say that a cat is killed in a car accident every two min and a half in the UK. However there is NO animal group which supports a more responsible attitude and when we mention this, either they look at us in embarrassment as if we were mad, or they even attack us saying we are cruel. We built a beautiful “cation” in our garden with high and low shelves and posts to climb.

    Jordan Walker says...

    November 6th, 2014, 4:59 am

    I really like this article. It’s a good enclosure especially for cats that love going out all the time. They didn’t know the risk of going outside. Thanks for sharing.

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