Why Use a Cat Enclosure?

Cat Enclosures cover a considerable breadth from small carriers to screened in verandas to light portable tunnels and towers to large framed areas to free standing fencing around the perimeter of a yard. For me it’s about choosing the right one that will give the care givers a safe choice for peace of mind and still keep your cats happy and content.

Cat enjoying his cat tree platform on outdoor deck, cat enclosure area.

Cat enjoying his cat tree platform on outdoor deck, cat enclosure area.

Let’s face it, country living can be very dangerous for cats due to predators such as coyotes, foxes, owls and hawks in addition to free range neighboring dogs.  City life can be safer than country life, but there are still many hazards from vehicle traffic, people who don’t like cats, and cats fighting for territory.  Hence there are many reasons to consider having a cat enclosure.

I was brought up with cats having an equal right to outdoor living and that still lives strongly in my heart. They are just as much a part of nature as we are, and their senses are so acutely tuned to experiencing the joys of nature.  However, I have recently been confronted with several traumas that have made me consider enclosures, even though we are living in the same location, such as:

  • cat traps in the neighborhood
  • neighborhood bully cats resulting in my cats getting injured
  • my cats not feeling safe in their own yard

But with new cats in our house and new cats in the neighborhood sometimes new solutions are needed.

We chose to build a veranda  enclosure…as a partial solution. We use it when we feel the need to use it. I think that a full fence enclosure around the whole yard (quite large) would offer an even better solution and keep the neighbourhood cats completely out of our yard. There are existing fence extensions that would work well for our situation since we have a wooden fence.

The smaller portable tunnels would work well for travelers who take their cats with them in a car or a trailer. They are also great for ‘indoor cats’ who are ready to enjoy some outdoor space. I think that many indoor cat owners would like to give their cats a little more freedom.

Kittywalk tunnel unit

kittywalk cat enclosures

They want their cats to have healthy, active and long lives. The outdoor sights and sounds of nature can add a great new dimension of living to any living being.  Some owners like to share more time with their cats and cat enclosures provide another way they can spend time together with their feline friends.  These portable units also can offer creative pathways around the yard or garden.

Cat lovers love to see their cats happy. In our hearts we know that cats, by their very nature, are outdoor creatures and deserve some kind of outdoor experience.  However, there are many factors that will determine how you will be able to do that. Enclosures and containment structures provide us with the best of two worlds…a safe area for the cat caregiver to have peace of mind about safety, and the cats to feel the area is protected, yet a designated area to be able to enjoy the beauty and gifts of nature that make life fuller.

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Alternative Cat Collar After Surgery

Don’t get caught unawares like I did. A few years ago my white cat had surgery for an abscess in which the vet decided to put drainage tubes into the abscess skin pocket which drained out in several places. The look of rubber tubes coming out of his skin was quite shocking but even more upsetting was my cat’s reaction to wearing a plastic hard collar. He absolutely detested it and initially shook his head until it came off and it had to be tied on tighter. He continued to writhe with the collar on. When he got home he was so spatially disoriented, walking with the cone he bumped into walls and doors and his light body bounced this way and that way, causing him to crash on the floor with each movement. He had to relearn his body space. It horrified me and I felt helpless! Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 6.55.28 PM

Also he had a lot of trouble with eating and drinking with the cone on and refused for several days causing me further distress but I didn’t think I could take it off of him due to his surface tubes that were stitched just under the skin and out. It wouldn’t take much to cause some serious damage to them. Of course I called the vet in a state of distress that my cat was not drinking any water…

I came close to having to take my cat in for some intravenous fluid support only minutes before he finally took a very long drink of water in a bowl that I put in the middle of my backyard. It’s stressful experiences like this, for both animal and caregiver, that have resulted in some veterinarians choosing to recommend soft cones and inflatable collars as alternative options for post surgery.

The problem was that I never anticipated the challenges of this situation, causing considerble stress… but there are, in fact, options to consider. My cat, Max, recently went through surgery where the vet offered me a hard plastic cone after a few days when my cat started to pull at his stitches. My vet also recommended other options such as an inflatable collar but did not carry them, referring me to a pet pharmacy to buy one. I began searching for other options such as shirts, vests and jackets and found some better solutions that worked well for my tuxedo cat, Max.

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Healing Cat

I will share a few tips for containing and caring for a cat during his healing period after a surgery. Recently, one of my cats required some surgery to remove a benign lump which had gotten rather large. I decided it was time to get it off, but I did not realize that my vet would ask me to keep my cat indoors or on a leash for the full 10 to 14 days while the stitches were in. Of course, I knew he would need a few days to recuperate but 10 to 14 days is a long time for an outdoor cat who thinks his job is to guard the property.

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Having an enclosure made life so much easier. It meant that Max could still watch over the back yard from the enclosed deck during his healing period, which was very important to him. He could still get some fresh air and sunshine to help his healing process.

In retrospect, I would have been more prepared for my cat’s healing period by purchasing a leash and harness to make some trips around the yard. A material vest style harness would have been perfect! I also would have checked out the inflatable collars to prevent Max from pulling at his stitches, as I do not like the plastic cat collars that vets give out, but a cloth harness jacket would have been the least stressful option I am quite sure. Fortunately, I had a baby undershirt (onesie) from long ago in the trunk that worked beautifully. He allowed us to put it on him with very little resistance and we could fasten the snaps on his back. It not only prevented him from bothering his stitches, it also toned down his activity level so that he was not jumping up to window ledges and high furniture so much.

Just a few tips based on my recent experience. I recommend preparing in advance if possible, as it takes time to find the right products for YOUR cat, and each day of the recovery period brought new and changing challenges.

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Cat Fence – Do Not Shock Them!

There are numerous cat fence options and outside cat enclosure options available to pet caregivers without using shock collars and invisible electrical containment fences. Cat Fence-In and Purr-fect Fence provide effective cat fence options. There are also DIY cat fence options using propylene deer fencing or chicken wire, not to mention the smaller outside cat enclosure and catio options that are growing in number each year.

In fact there are many reasons not to use shock techniques to contain your cats.

First, shock training is a form of punishment that creates fear and distrust because it inflicts pain. The e-collars are often uncomfortable as they must be fitted tightly for electrical prongs to make contact with the skin. When used improperly they cause painful burns. The collars can be a hazard for cats as they do not have release mechanisms in the case that the collar gets caught on something.

Second, the shock can sometimes be associated with the individual putting their collar on, instead of the electrical boundary. Some studies indicate that it induces more behavioural problems such as generalized fear or aggression as well as other responses indicating stress.

Third and very important, the invisible fence does not keep out animals that could be a threat to your pet, such as neighbourhood dogs, stray cats, and other wild animals such as foxes, wolves, coyotes… It also means that your collared pet is restricted to the electrical boundaries and cannot escape via routes out of the electrical boundary, while the other animals can. This puts them at a distinct disadvantage.

Protecting cats from hazards involves keeping potential dangers out of their territory, not just keeping them within a boundary. There are numerous fence options made of various materials that can easily provide cats with a safe environment and keep threatening animals and humans out of their territory.

There are also contingency situations to consider in which the training does not work for some reason or the batteries run out, or the devices malfunction, etc. I remember seeing some heart wrenching videos where cats experienced the shock for the first time. It was obvious to me that they were traumatized in that moment. Perhaps the techniques for shocking have been refined to travel through rubber contacts instead of metal prongs on a collar, and to be a lesser voltage if easily dissuaded, but it is still what it is, an electrical shock. Cats are extremely sensitive creatures. I really can’t imagine delivering this form of negative reinforcement = punishment training to condition a cat to their new boundaries. It certainly does not nurture trust with their environment or their trainers.

Punishment based behaviour training has been decreasing as more positive reward training techniques have been emerging for the past 15 years in the area of pet training, especially dog training. There are many Animal Behaviourist groups and trainers who favour reward training techniques that use positive reinforcement. Electrical Fencing for domestic animals seems to be taking us in the wrong direction.

Some veterinarians and animal advocate organizations are standing up and questioning the ethical use of electrical pet containment, which was considered controversial due to insufficient research. Wales took the initiative to ban shock collars in 2010. More domestic animal advocates are stating that an electrical cat /dog fence is unnecessary when other options and better options are available to keep our pets safe. More studies are proving that e-collars or shock collars are overall more detrimental than helpful.

Electric wire has been used to reinforce fencing for cattle by farmers for many years, but I think invisible electrical fences have additional negative psychological affects. Have you ever seen a person try to walk into a glass door because they thought it was open? I’ve seen two people break the glass and have to recover from the physical and mostly emotional shock. It’s very unnerving, to say the least, because it defies the senses (even when the glass does not break); one thinks they are walking into space but they hit glass. Are not invisible electrical fences similar to this? Here is a situation where an unsuspecting young lady walks into an invisible electric fence with an activated dog collar. Electrical shocks inflict pain. Consider the fact that a human has 10 times more mass than an average cat and in that video the shock was intended for a dog about half her mass.

In conclusion, there are other simpler and safer cat fences and enclosures that will effectively contain your pets and also protect them from harm, which do not induce fear, distrust and pain the way that electric fences do. Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that emerging cases of animal abuse using shock collars shows that many humans are not able to manage e-collars humanely.

Here is a global petition for the banning of shock collars, as more and more cases of animal abuse emerge. Here is the Canadian Petition to Ban Shock Collars.

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Outside Cat Enclosures

More and more people today are choosing to buy or build some sort of outside cat enclosure for their domestic felines.

In some cases, indoor cat caregivers want to let their cats experience the sights and sounds of nature more directly. We know that nature is a joy for all life on earth. These pet caregivers often choose smaller, less expensive enclosures that allow their pets a taste of the outdoors.

In other cases, there are outdoor cats facing imminent dangers that exist in the nearby environment, such as wildlife, loose dogs, traffic, territorial cats or neighbours that trap trespassing cats, all of which, caregivers do not want to subject their pets to. These caregivers want to transition their cats from total freedom to partial freedom and can look to outside cat enclosures as a solution.

For years and years I had cats without any consideration or thought of a cat enclosure. We always had a dog that kept the neighbourhood cats out of our yard. Then life changed. Without a dog and with new additions to the cat household, various problems began to surface such as new bylaws that require licensing and allow humane trapping. Our venturesome kitten was trapped and neighbourhood cats that liked to fight were coming on our property). Someone who lived on a big animal farm sanctuary, suggested a cat enclosure to me, so I began investigating the idea and my options.

The portable net varieties like Kittywalk were too confining for my indoor/outdoor cats. Larger kits such as Cat’s Den were a consideration too but pricey, and I really felt that a full yard enclosure such as Cat Fence-In would suit me best and give my animals the most freedom. However our yard was so large and there were so many trees around the perimeter that would make it costly and challenging.
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In the end, my husband and I decided to make our own cat enclosure on our back deck made with a wood frame and chicken wire and two in-set doors. (Here is a resource for DIY cat enclosures.) We used it to confine our kitten for awhile. Well she was not too happy about her containment, and it did not seem fair that the other cats could be free. I decided to only contain her sometimes and over time she stopped wandering off the property. The enclosure became a great resource for night time and situations where I wanted to keep all the cats contained for a period of time. They don’t seem to mind being contained at night and on occasions such as when I don’t want them to follow me on a walk or when “stray” cats are coming on the property. I really like having it now. I consider it a great resource for managing my cat family.

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Do-It-Yourself Cat Fence

I was taking a good look at what’s currently available on the Net these days for Do-It-Yourself types. I think there are a lot of people that want to find inexpensive containment solutions for their cats. I know that I was willing to pay premium dollars to set up a safe environment for my cat family, but my husband was not, so we got stuck for awhile about how to proceed. I was considering how to invent a cat containment fence topper for our yard and essentially that is what this pdf article has done for us.

DIY Fence for Domestic Cats

Netting for 2 Types of Fences and Chicken Wire Free Standing Fence

Here is a resource that looks very good: http://www.alleycat.org/document.doc?id=100 It provides us with a netting solution for several scenarios and a chicken wire fence. The needed tools and materials are also given:

SECTION I
Installing Net Fence on Existing Chain
Link Fence Under Five Feet

SECTION II
Installing a Chicken Wire Fence

SECTION III
Installing Net on Wooden Privacy Fence
Five Feet or Taller

The added notes and tips suggest that all of these options have been tested out with various types of cats for their effectiveness, with certain things to look out for, monitor and prevent. This Resource is from Alley Cat Allies, a National Feral Cat Resource.

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Bob, the Street Cat

Recently I heard about this duo, James and Bob, the cat, who are getting a lot of publicity.

James’ life on the streets in London, England was turned around by a cat that needed him just as much as he needed the cat. Both of them were homeless and living rather haphazardly and hopelessly when Bob, the orange tabby cat arrived in his life with an abscess that James decided needed some medical attention. Soon the cat was following him everywhere. Once Bob followed him right onto a bus. James, who was a street musician, started looking after the cat. They lifted each other up out of the depths of poverty and homelessness that included a life of drugs. They changed each other’s life by bringing new meaning for living that encompassed love and caring.

Now they are renowned authors and motivational speakers providing a voice for the street people and pets, who live in silent anonymity in every city all around the world. James Bowen has written several books on his street life with Bob, which he is sharing with the world. He is an eloquent story teller who captivates his audience as he vividly describes life on the streets with his special cat.

I am anxious to read his first two books which are rated highly by other readers, especially after hearing James’ audio reading of a portion of it. (There is also one book that is geared to older children and another to younger children being released in Oct.)

Oh one more thing, I have a feeling that former street cat, Bob, would not be in favour of cat enclosures, at least for himself. After all, he had total freedom on the streets and as a result was able to find his soul connection to his beloved friend, James.

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Custom Made Outdoor Cat Enclosures

This past week I became acquainted with a fellow who has the exact same business name as me, Happy Cat Enclosures, but he’s from Australia whereas my market is North America. His name is Daniel Hennessy and he set up his business operation 3 years ago at approximately the same time that I did. How cool is that? Daniel seems like a passionate fellow who designs and builds cat enclosures for people in his community. He is also an activist in the area of eating vegan, which fits with his purpose of protecting animals.

I think that Australia has a higher need for enclosures due to some of the wildlife dangers that exist there. I have noticed in the past that the enclosures in Australia are all very well enclosed with the tops being covered as well.

Quality Constructions of Cat Enclosures made in Australia

Happy Cat Enclosures in Australia

Daniel’s designs and constructions look to be high quality – sturdy and secure. They are practical additions that are customized to each home. Many of them have metal frames with netting that make them less obtrusive then the heavier wooden homemade frame additions that I have seen built in the earlier days of outdoor cat enclosures.

My husband made a light weight wood frame cat enclosure structure with 2 inset doors that has served our occasional use needs very well.

Daniel asked me if we offer a similar outdoor cat enclosure design and construction service here in my area of Alberta, Canada, and at this point I don’t know of anyone who is doing this kind of focussed construction. So far, I have just seen people do their own constructions in very unique ways. I often refer people to take a look at the Cat’s Den kits by Habitat Haven.

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Use a Cat Enclosure at Night

These past summer days have been pleasant and quiet, with very little need for our outdoor cat enclosure. Our enclosure is homemade, with a light wood frame and chicken wire around the frame, and takes up a good portion of our back verandah. It has two doors set into the frame so that we can pass through the enclosure as we walk across our deck. When my husband first built the enclosure, it was wrapped with wire up to 9 feet high but we found that our cats did not challenge the enclosure, so we were able to take off a row of the chicken wire.

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I think the reason that my cats did not challenge the enclosure was because it is situated high off the ground and we only used it sporadically so they really did not view it as a prison. It was used more for protection for them when there were strange cats visiting our yard.

The big hairy neighbourhood cat that used to come over to torment my kitties no longer comes into our yard, thanks to my big black cat, who works hard at diligently surveying the property and letting the intruders know that they are on occupied territory.

The only time I really feel I want to use our outdoor cat enclosure these days is at night. It just makes me feel better to know that the stairs to the deck are blocked to night time prowlers coming onto our deck and peeking through the cat door.

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The other times I like having it is when I go for a walk in the neighbourhood and I don’t want them trying to follow me which some of my cats used to do in the past.

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My Cats are Happy Outside

JC lying on sidewalk

JC lying on sidewalk

My cats are happy with the lovely sunshine and warm weather. They like watching the birds stopping by to eat at the feeders, swoop by and hang out in the trees. There’s even a downy woodpecker family settling in for some nesting time in one of our trees. The male bird excavated a small hole in the top of a dead tree trunk.

Our cats love to crouch in the tall grasses and our big black male cat has discovered that rolling in our garden is a lovely pleasure for him. My hunter cat has become a little rounder and perhaps wiser and seems less focused on hunting, so that is also a nice development — less surprises with her trophies, something I never liked, but I was realistic and understood that it was natural to her cat instincts.

Every time I walk out into my back yard there seems to be a trail of cats that want to join me, so I feel honored by their loyalty in following me. I think they keep track of me energetically and just seem to know when I go outside. It seems that when I come inside they retreat to the deck and often come in with me.

The neighbourhood bully cat is keeping her distance from my house and my big male cat is managing her with diplomacy, so less cat fights are occurring. This has eased my mind a great deal and has made me relax more in giving my cats their freedom to come and go as they please. Mind you, I still close up the outdoor cat enclosure at night so that the cats must stay in during the night. They have become accustomed to the routine of coming in at night and staying inside the enclosure during the night. We all have a better sleep. If they want to go outside they can still go through the cat door and view the back yard from their enclosure. As a result we do not have cats asking us to get up to let them outside, plus no surprises of uninvited visitors.

It’s such a pleasure for me to be able to enjoy nature and the sunshine in my backyard with my cats. It was truly a delight when my little cat started leaping off the ground after a fluttering yellow butterfly. She didn’t catch it, but she had fun trying. It’s the little things in life which can be so delightful.

Cat sitting on the deck in the sunshine under his special cat tree.

White cat loves the warmth of the sunshine.

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Large Outdoor Cat Enclosures for the Whole Yard

Today I kept my 4 cats confined to the house and the outdoor verandah enclosure while my large black guard cat was recovering from a sore foot. It’s truly amazing how one day the foot looks sore and swollen and is being held up in the air, and the next day my cat is walking normally with his full weight on it.  Anyway I decided to limit his freedom a bit and keep all the cats in and supervised more strictly for a few days.

Today, I can hardly believe it but the 2 adversarial neighborhood cats have made several visits right up onto my back deck to peer in our glass doors.  In one instance, I heard my female cat growling through the patio doors.  She lets me know when there are unfriendly intruders in the yard.

As we move into the fall, this year has had several instances of injuries from cat fights. My white cat got an abscess, from an injury, the very week he was scheduled for some dental surgery at the vets, so I postponed the surgery.

Every time the unfriendly bully cats show up to taunt my cats or whenever my cats sustain an injury I long for a full yard outdoor cat enclosure.  My husband is not too keen to spend the money or the time to install it, but the idea keeps surfacing in my mind.

There are 3 containment fencing options I have been considering. They offer a large outdoor enclosure area for my animals.  All of them are extensions that can be added to an existing yard fence.

1) One is made by Purrfect Fence and is ideal, with its spring loaded lever, for keeping your cats inside your own yard, but not as effective for keeping neighbourhood cats out of your yard.

Cat Fence Extensions

Cat fence extensions provide a yard enclosure

2) Another one is called Cat Fence-In and is promoted for keeping cats out of your yard, as well as your own cats inside your yard. This one really addresses my issue. (brochure)

3) The third possibility is to construct our own fence extension that would do the same job of keeping other cats out of the yard.

They all offer a great solution to providing a safer outdoor yard space for my cats.  It’s not the stray cats or the friendly cats, but the neighbourhood bully cats that want to fight.  Their disruptive activity often leads to injuries and is, simply,  not welcome. 

On another note, I do not feel that electrical fencing or humane traps are options I would consider.

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