Cats enjoy being outside, but the outside world also poses significant known dangers and hazards that can harm and even kill your cat. An indoor/outdoor cat can easily be made a totally indoor cat with perseverance on your part. They may resent their confinement for a short time, but they will adjust. Many cats live their entire lives without ever setting foot on grass. The difference in their life expectancy as well as quality of life speaks for itself.
Another option is a safe outdoor enclosure. It must be carefully constructed, as you need to keep other animals OUT, as well as your cat in. Screen porches work well, too, just be sure to give the kitty some way to get back into your house if they need to.
Some of the dangers of being an outside or inside/outside cat include:
- Being hit by a car
- Being hurt by people
- Being hurt by wildlife (raccoons, etc.)
- Being hurt by dogs
- Getting flea, tick, mite infestations
- Getting ringwormAlso known as dermatophytosis. This is not technically a “worm”, but a fungal disease of the skin and hair. Ringworm is contagious to people and other animals, particularly the young or elderly. infestations
- Getting parasite and worm infestations
- Getting diseases – Feline Leukemiasee FeLVFeline Leukemia Virus, FeLV, is a retrovirus transmitted between infected cats when the transfer of saliva or nasal secretions is involved, for example when sharing a feeding dish. The infection is responsible for more deaths among cats than any other infectious disease. There are three main types of the virus and FeLV-positive cats can be infected with one, two, or all three types including: FeLV-A causes severe immunosuppression or a weakened immune system. FeLV-B causes neoplastic disease (tumors and other abnormal tissue trowths). FeLV-C is the most rare and causes severe anemia. The virus replicates in the body once infected, then spreads via the bloodstream to other parts of the body, namely the lymph nodes, bone marrow, and intestinal tissues. – Feline Leukemia Virus, FIPFeline Infectious Peritonitis, FIP, is a fatal, incurable disease caused by Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus (FIPV), which is a mutation of Feline Enteric Coronavirus (FECV/FeCoV). The mutated virus has the ability to invade and grow in certain white blood cells, namely macrophages. The immune system’s response causes an intense inflammatory reaction in the containing tissues. This disease is generally fatal, but its incidence rate is roughly 1 in 5000., HeartwormThough less common in cats than dogs, heartworm is a large, parasitic worm that lives and reproduces inside the heart of a cat, generally in the right side of the heart and the lung. Heartworms are transported from one animal to another, through mosquitos, who carry microfilariae, which are microscopic versions of the heartworm. Heartworm can be fatal, and treatment is particular risks associated with it.
- Poisoned by antifreeze on streets/parking garages
- Poisoned outside – Grass fertilizer, garden fertilizer, slug/ant/bug poisons
- Exposure to sun and getting skin cancer – light colored cats
- Choking on cat collars – getting caught on fencing, tree branches, posts, etc.
- Fighting with outdoor cats spreads disease
There are so many obvious benefits to keeping your cat indoors. Indoor cats are no less happy than outdoor kitties.
Ways to keep your indoor kitty content including:
- Provide a window perch
- Put out a bird feeder for entertainment
- Scratching posts & cat trees to climb, sleep, and hide
- Interactive toys (a stick with a string with something fun on the end)
- Provide a safe outdoor enclosure/kennel/screen porch
Some of the reasons to build an enclosure include:
- Cats love to lounge, especially in the sunshine
- Cats are happier
- It’s inexpensive to build
- Save on costly vet bills
- Save your cat’s life and health!
- Happier neighbors
Your cat can fulfill his or her desire for the “outside” without the dangers of cat fights, dog attacks, attacks from raccoons or coyotes, toxins, cars, irritating your neighbors, or poisonings. Behavior problems (such as spraying or urinating) will lesson. You save on expensive vet bills.
Most importantly, by providing a happy, safe and practical environment, you are ensuring your cat has a chance to remain your loving family pet for a much longer life. And, kitty might just “get along” better!
Enclosures can be partially or fully covered; large or small; seasonal or year round; permanent or temporary. If you rent, you can plug the holes easily when you move, or maybe the landlord would want it for another renter.
Enclosures can be constructed inexpensively and can also be added to over time. The basic materials needed are 2x4s or 2x2s, and 1×2” galvanized wire or chicken wire. The frames base can be “nailed” into a cement patio, or, you can drive the long studs (nails) into a dirt floor or grass.
Some key decisions you will need to make:
Size – Big or small? You can build this to be window box size, or as large as you need! It can be a regular rectangle or an elaborately designed “room.”
Location – Where do you want the enclosure to be? You can build off an existing window, door, patio, or a “cat door” can be installed through an exterior wall to provide access.
Seasonal or year round? This will determine the type of roof and walls.
Accessibility – How will you access the enclosure? Make sure you provide a lockable outside access door. You can put shelving and tunnels for lounging and exercise – as well as an outdoor litter pan! You can also plant “kitty grass” in a pot or planter for your cat to happily chew on some greens (and not your houseplants!)
Kitty Furniture - Ramps are great for the older, less able pet. Don’t forget other kitty furniture, like a condo, a doghouse, or a tree limb for climbing or scratching!
We recommend that the enclosure has 3-4 sides and a roof. Cats have amazing climbing skills (as do some other critters) and you want to make sure that kitty stays inside where she or he is safe and the other critters, like raccoons, stay out. Really well planned enclosures can be an oasis for family and pets. Lattice walls and ceilings with lights and ceiling fans make an attractive patio room.
One builder created a 14′ x 8′ patio covered enclosure in one afternoon, spending less than $200! Another, used scraps for their outdoor enclosure! Check garage sales or Craigslist for “free” items such as carpet remnants, cabinets (which can be converted into kitty-condos), and rope and wood for scratching posts.
Here are more links for designing and building cat enclosures:
Here are examples of enclosures constructed by our members:
Figure 1: Constructed off living room window onto existing patio. Used chicken wire and 2x4s.
Figure 2: Tower is a bathroom vanity, turned on-end. The condo on the right is made from an old speaker box, a satellite dish, wine cases, and carpet remnants.
Figure 3 & 4: Constructed off living room window onto existing patio. Used chicken wire and 2x4s.
Figure 5: Constructed off kitchen with protective trellise overhead
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Figure 6 & 7: Constructed off back/side patio
Figure 8: Constructed off back patio with screen door opening to kennel
Figure 9 & 10: Cat kennel built in back yard with chicken wire and 2x4s