Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My cat, Beans, is 10 years old. I got him when he was just a few months old and I love him with all my heart. When I first got him, my family and I kept him strictly as an indoor cat, and during that time he was hard to manage to say the least. One day he got out and I thought that he would get run over or I would just simply never see him again. It broke my heart (I was 10). Surprisingly, he came back and has been living happily as an indoor-outdoor cat since he was two. I realize I made a mistake trying to cage an animal that wanted freedom. I’m living in a new town now and thinking about adopting a kitten but I want to make an environment for a cat that promotes freedom, but also makes sure they are safe and are healthy/well fed. any suggestions?
Siouxsie: Although many cats can live happily as indoor-only cats, it’s true that there are some who appreciate being able to enjoy the grass under their paws and the wind in their fur. If you want your new cat to have access to the outdoors, there are some things you can do to provide him with that access and keep him safe.
Thomas: First of all, the cat you adopt must be spayed or neutered. If you adopt from a shelter, that shouldn’t be a problem because every shelter we know of sterilizes cats before adopting them out. Intact cats of either sex can and will escape, and you’ll have to deal with pregnancy or injuries — or worse yet, death from cars, dogs or ignorant, hateful humans.
Bella: The first thing we’d recommend is building what cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy calls a “catio,” an outdoor enclosure on your deck or in your back yard with access from a window.
Siouxsie: These can range in size from a simple bay window design with chicken wire, which allows your cat to sit in the sun without setting foot on the ground, to huge, elaborate constructions that could take up half a back yard.
Thomas: The most basic cat enclosures are build with 2×4 lumber and chicken wire on all sides, including the top, so cats can’t escape by climbing out.
Bella: Of course, you’ll want to add some extra goodies like climbing posts, fountains and a shaded spot so your cat can have shelter from the hot sun or the rain while she’s outside.
Siouxsie: You’ll also want to have flea and tick control: you can use monthly preventive on your cat, and we’d recommend sprinkling the ground with food-grade diatomaceous earth on a regular basis, too.
Thomas: There are many pre-made cat enclosures on the market, ranging in price from a few dollars to hundreds or even thousands. The Stanford Cat Network has a list of resources for pre-made outdoor enclosures and fence systems.
Bella: If you have some skills and tools, you can also build your own enclosure. Just4Cats.com offers a low-cost book with plans for 65 different enclosures.
Siouxsie: If you want your cat to have the run of your whole back yard, Cat Fence-In and Purr-fect Fence can be installed on top of existing fences to keep your cat from escaping. Purr-fect Fence also has kits that include entire fences.
Thomas: These kits can be quite expensive, but Alley Cat Allies offers an instruction and materials guide for making your own cat fencing system.
Bella: So, Isaac, there are lots of ways you can allow a cat to enjoy the outdoors and be safe at the same time. If you do let your cat outdoors, we strongly recommend that he have a collar with a tag that contains your contact information, and a microchip: collars can come off, but if your cat escapes and finds himself at the shelter, a microchip exponentially increases the chance that you’ll be reunited.
Siouxsie: Good luck, Isaac, and please send us pictures of your cat enclosure once you’ve got it built!
thanks for the links and info :D
I have 3 indoor-only kitties, Puss has to stay in because he’s quite ill and i dont want him to get hurt, and the twins stay in because i lost a kitten last year to the road and i seriously couldnt bear it if anything happened to any of them !!!
im in 2 minds whether to attempt a catio or just get something fitted to the insides of the windows as Alex isnt the slightest bit bothered about going outside but Sophie is quite interested (to the point where i now have a nice scratch on my neck from trying to get her off the open window !!)
my back garden isnt really the right shape for a half decent sized enclosure and they would have to jump almost 2m to get in / out the window which Puss isnt able to do so it wouldnt be fair to him…
ive tried the twins on a harness a few times, Sophie was perfect with it the first time i put it on !! Alex, on the other hand, was not impressed… -id take sophie for walks on her lead if i could walk myself (i’ve got a few disabilities) but for now, it isnt an option :(
right… back to the drawing board… ((sorry i got a little carried away !! lol))
Jen you might want to Google “cat ladders” they are more used in Europe than in the U.S. it seems. You could have a cat ladder leading to a secure enclosure.
I had a wonderful 16 year old cat who was killed in June by a car. We did not find him for three days. Little Bit had arthritis, was somewhat in kidney failure, I believe, and most of his teeth were out but he ate well and always wanted to be indoor/outdoor. I tried to keep him in as he aged but he would cry at 3:30 in the morning and if I didn’t let him out at his insistance he would jump up on the bed and pee right beside me. As he got older it was hard for him to walk but he still cried to go out. His movements were always slow so I don’t know how he didn’t get hit before but I don’t think he would have wanted to be kept in. On the other hand I have 3 rescued females who I don’t let out. They act like they want to go but don’t seem to mind staying inside. Good luck on letting your kitty out. Theres really not a right or wrong answer. If it gets to the point that they are destructive in the house then you kind of have no choice. Some just love their freedom no matter what it costs.
I have to respond to this post ….. I am 62 years old and have had kitty family members my entire life and they have ALWAYS been indoor/outdoor cats….. my mother would not have it any other way and in fact my kitties growing up never had litter boxes either – they went outside – I am not advocating anything but at present, I have three feral rescues who co-habitate with my husband and I and they are indoor-outdoor kitties as well…… I truly understand the risks but this has just been my choice for my animals…. I have a large outdoor space and yard…..it is not fenced in but my three cats have marked their territory and they do have a cat door….. my veterinary caretakers know that this is our choice and we make sure that they are checked out regularly and provided medical care if they need it….. it works for us :)
it saddens me you & others want to leave your kitties outdoors!!! don’t you get it, they get killed, they are abused by people who hate animals & they get sick!!
SHAME ON YOU!!
I agree with the esteemed and knowledgeable kitties. If you want your cats to have the freedom of the outdoors and still be safe then a cat enclosure is the way to go. Yes, they can be expensive but you need to weigh the cost against how much you value your cat. If you buy the materials and build it yourself or with friends it could well work out cheaper. I am listing some websites for you that may give you some ideas on the type of enclosure you want to build. They are Australian sites because I live in Australia but as I said, they may be useful in giving you some ideas.
That last site in particular has some excellent photos of various different cat enclosures. I hope this helps, and good luck!