many people, a major deterrent to having a cat as a pet is
the problem of keeping it safe and well without restricting
it from leading a normal, happy, outdoor life. However, the
problem of keeping an active cat in a safe environment can
be solved without necessarily condemning the cat to a life
which have been kept indoors all their lives adapt reasonably
well to their environment provided that they are given ample
companionship and attention. However, such an enclosed environment
is far from ideal and a solution which permits the cat to
have access to a garden as well as the house is preferable.
advantages of providing an enclosed environment for domestic
cats are many. Safety is high on the list but there is also
relief from the fear of their being run over, of their causing
a problem by digging up the neighbour's best plants, or of
their being injured by predators. The need to provide a protected
environment becomes more important as the number of hazards
are two possibilities available to the cat owner. The first
of these is to fence the garden, either completely or in part,
to prevent the cats from getting out. Such fencing can, with
a neighbour's consent, be adapted to prevent outside cats
getting in - a solution which may be attractive to owners
of gardens full of plants constantly being uprooted by neighbourhood
cats. There can, however, be a problem if there are any perimeter
trees which overhang such a fence. The presence of such trees
will enable the cats to climb on top of the fence and escape
into the outside world. Judicious pruning may help, but the
problem remains that an active cat can both climb and leap
from branch to fence and so escape.
the trees themselves is a possibility by 'bonnetting' or giving
the tree an Elizabethan collar. Trees which pose a problem
can be trimmed up to a height of 1.8m (6ft) and made secure
by attaching wire mesh, horizontally, under the lowest remaining
branches to prevent cats climbing upwards into the trees.
Loosely attach a loop of wire around the trunk immediately
below the main branches. Attach another loop about 1 metre
(3ft 3in) out to the same branches. Stretch the wire mesh
between these loops, attaching it at regular intervals to
the supporting branches. Where such trees adjoin a fence,
the 'bonnet' can be attached to the wiring of the fence, effectively
boxing the cats in. Leaves and small branches growing down
through the wire soon make such fencing virtually invisible.
it must be stressed that, if you live in a designated conservation
area or any trees in your garden are subject to a Tree Preservation
Order, you must consult the planning department of your local
Council before trimming or pruning any trees.
vary in size and shape and what may be practical for one will
not necessarily work in another. Nevertheless, it should be
possible to create a safe haven in at least one part of a
garden. Problems with neighbours' fences, uneven ground, or
overhanging branches will inevitably arise and allowance must
be made for these when adapting the following suggestions.
make a garden cat-proof will require the creation of a border
fence of at least 1.8m (6ft) in height which, in the case
of a wooden structure, means uprights of at least 2.3m (7ft
6in) so that there is sufficient length to fix in the ground.
These uprights should be at least 8 x 5cms (3in x 2in) and
should be placed not more than 1.8m (6ft) apart. It is advisable
to ensure all timber below ground level is properly treated
with a preservative and that the posts are set in concrete
to provide a more rigid structure. An existing brick or stone
wall may be used and can be extended to the requisite height
with a wooden framework to form the basis for the wiring.
The use of trellis sections can improve the appearance of
safety fencing and will permit lightweight trailing plants
to be trained along it.
is always wise to discuss plans for a new fence or garden
wall with neighbours to ensure that no objections will occur,
particularly if there is no existing boundary fence. It is
also very important to discuss construction of fences over
2m high (6ft 6 in) with the Council's planning department
as planning permission may be required. Permission will definitely
be required for any fence or enclosure above 1m (3ft 3in)
along a road frontage. In some housing developments there
may be legal covenants and/or local restrictions which prevent
fencing being erected on either front or side gardens. Whatever
the situation, it is always advisable to check with your solicitor,
neighbours and the Council's planning officers before incurring
the expense of building the new fence.
actual escape-prevention system needs to be constructed at
the top of this 2m (6ft 6in) wall or fence. There are various
methods of doing this, using either a fixed framework or brackets
and stretcher wires. Likewise, the actual fencing may be rigid
or flexible, according to the type of wiring or netting used.
A rigid wiring may well out last the softer fruit netting
but is easier for the cat to climb. In either case, the basic
approach is the same.
the fence or wall has been raised to the necessary height,
a horizontal section should be constructed, jutting out at
right angles into the garden for at least 0.5m (18in - 2ft),
thus creating an overhang. Alternatively, this section may
be built at an upward angle of 45 degrees. This has a slight
advantage in that the cat is less likely to jump on to it
from above if there are trees nearby but, since it is easier
for a cat to climb, it may require a longer vertical drop
down. This drop down should be attached to the garden edge
of the horizontal or angled section, to hang parallel to the
original wall or fence. It should hang down approximately
these sections, the horizontal or angled section and the drop
down, may be built of a rigid framework. Alternatively, metal
angle brackets can be attached to the wall or fence and stretcher
wires run between them to support whatever wire mesh or netting
framework or brackets should be covered with either welded
wire mesh or chicken wire, which should be firmly stapled
to the wooden framework or tied to the metal brackets. Wire
mesh should be of 16 gauge (1.6mm) and the mesh size not more
than 2.5cm (1in). Chicken wire is cheaper than wire mesh but
may not last so long. It should also be of 2.5cm (1in) mesh.
The use of a larger mesh may permit a small cat, an Oriental
or a kitten to push its head through the mesh and get trapped.
The same applies to chain link fencing which has sufficient
'give' in the mesh to trap a cat by the head.
wire fencing or netting should be carefully erected and the
joins between sections made secure. This can be done by weaving
a lightweight stretcher wire through the mesh or by tying
the mesh to the stretcher wire at regular intervals of not
more than 25cms (10in), preferably less.
rigid fence is easily climbed by most cats, so too are wooden
uprights, no matter which side the wiring is attached. One
attraction of the 16 gauge wire mesh is that it does provide
a strong climbing frame and play area for active cats. However,
an agile cat which can occasionally cope with the first horizontal
overhang cannot normally cope with the second drop down section.
It is obliged therefore, to stay in its own garden. Where
the bottom of the wire is not attached to a solid structure
(timber framing or a stone or brick wall), or where the ground
level is uneven, the wire should be buried to a depth of at
least 10cms (4in) since persistent cats can bend the wire
sufficiently to crawl out underneath it. Equally important,
other animals can attack the wire from outside the garden
and gain access to the cat run, so preferably bury the wire
as deep as is practically possible.
this type of fencing be developed into a T-shape or a Y-shape
rather than simply the upside down L, it will also serve to
prevent outside cats from entering the garden. However, any
branches which overhang the fence or any tree growing within
2.5m (8ft) of it will permit an agile cat to jump on top of
the fence and so cross to the other side - in either direction.
In other words, a neighbouring tree may allow an unwanted
cat to have access. It will then find it cannot escape! To
angle the horizontal section upwards at 45 degrees generally
prevents such acrobatic behaviour as cats are more loath to
jump on to a slanting surface.
gates giving access to the garden will have to be given similar
treatment. If the gate is tall enough, the fence can run continuously
across the top of it - but not, of course, attached to it.
Any gap below the gate must also be dealt with. For example,
ground level may be raised by laying paving stones or the
bottom of the gate extended by the addition of an extra cross
bar and wiring to reduce the gap to an absolute minimum. If
the gate opens on to a road, planning permission may have
to be sought before any additional fencing is erected. If,
however, it stands at the side of a house between neighbouring
properties, then extension to a height of 2m (6ft 6in) may
be permitted. Again, it is always wise to check with the planning
department before undertaking such work. Of course, any gate
must inevitably be opened at some time and offers a splendid
opportunity to the cunning and adventurous cat. A 'please
shut the gate' notice may help here.
the entire garden will present no problem of access to the
house for cats but may be impossible to achieve because of
the size or the nature of the garden. The alternative solution
is to create a purpose built enclosure specifically for the
cats. Here, provision must be made for the animals to be protected
from the weather throughout the year, either by having access
to the house through a cat flap or window or by the provision
of a purpose built cat house or chalet.
purpose built enclosure can be constructed to provide a special
cat run within, or as part of, the garden. It may be open,
in the sense that its 'walls' are constructed with the same
type of fence and overhang as described previously for the
whole garden, or it may be totally enclosed with a roof, this
roof being made either of wire mesh, like a fruit cage, or
of PVC. If the need is for a large protected area, then a
PVC roof with a UV filter is undoubtedly the best solution.
Remember that if PVC is to be used, some form of timber roof
support will be required to fix the sheets and it would be
advisable to increase the size of the vertical supports to
100m x 50mm (4in x 2in) and to incorporate diagonal struts
to stiffen the framing. Once again, it is advisable to consult
the local planning department to check on any regulations
with regard to such structures.
planning both the size and position of such an enclosure,
the first question must be one of access, both for the cats
and for their owner. There are two options: 1) a totally self
contained run, where the cats can live happily all day until
they are taken in on their owners' return home; or 2) a run
attached in some manner to the house so the cat can have equal
access to both house and run.
self contained run will require some form of 'house' of its
own so that the cats can retire in comfort should the weather
prove inclement. A small summer house or garden shed will
serve the purpose but it should be insulated for temperature
control and lined with a washable surface to make it easy
to clean. A melamine faced hardboard serves this purpose very
well and will require less maintenance than a good coat of
gloss paint. Overall height must be sufficient to make human
access easy, whether the cats are permanent, twenty-four hour
a day residents, or merely daytime occupiers of their run.
A minimum height of 1.8m (6ft) is required. This allows sufficient
headroom for most adults without placing the ceiling out of
reach for cleaning. The size of this unit or chalet will depend
on the number of cats using it and the amount of equipment
provided for them. A minimum floor area of 1.5sq m (16sq ft)
will provide ample space for one or two cats. If the fenced
in area is large and contains a suitable toileting area, then
there should be no need for a litter tray in the chalet. Space
will still be required for a water bowl, feeding dishes, beds
for the cats and chairs both for the cats and for their human
visitors. Try to resist the temptation to use this chalet
as a garden shed, filling it with garden equipment. This will
only create problems later.
the cats are to be daily visitors to their outdoor house and
run, then the question of access has to be considered. How
will they get there? Will they be carried each way night and
morning, or would it simply be easier to build a run either
attached to the house or linked to it in some way. If the
cats are already using a cat flap, then access will present
no problems. Alternatively, perhaps access could be made through
a window. One solution is to transform half the garden into
a cat proof enclosure, the framework of which is attached
to the house. Such an enclosure can be camouflaged with climbing
plants. If the enclosure is constructed using part of a perimeter
fence, it may be necessary to consider roofing the enclosure
to prevent access by other cats. Once again, discussion with
neighbours is vital.
the question of access to food, bedding and possibly litter
trays arises. If access between the house and outside run
is open twenty-four hours a day, there should be no problem.
Cats which are used to being shut in at night may, in poor
weather, still prefer to use the litter tray rather than go
out into the rain. Clean drinking water must be available
at all times, so, if access to the house is limited extra
provision must be made for this.
type of enclosure is created, it is important to provide play
areas for the cats. If the garden does not already offer such
amusement facilities, then the provision of scratching posts,
shelves and climbing frames made from branches of trees may
prevent the cats from giving too much thought to the possibilities
question of maintenance arises with any structure which involves
wood. It is important not to use any wood preservatives which
contain substances harmful to cats. There are, however, a
number of products on the market which are eminently suitable
and a few which have no adverse effects provided they are
allowed to dry properly before the cats come into contact
with the treated surfaces. Likewise, the wiring itself must
be checked regularly. Stretcher wires, their attachments and
the ties joining individual sections of wiring should also
be checked. It is essential to ensure that leaves or heavy
snow do not sit on the wire as their weight can cause damage.
final comment needs to be made on the security aspect of any
construction which is left unattended throughout the day.
In the same way that the doors and windows of a house are
locked when no one is present, any doors or gates providing
human access to the cat enclosures should have a security
catch like hasp and staple which can be closed and locked
with a padlock. This is particularly relevant where the enclosure
is attached to the house and where the cats are permitted
access through an open window.
end result should be a contented cat and a relieved owner,
both enjoying the knowledge that the cat is well provided
for in conditions of safety which allow as much freedom as