Setting the scene.
It’s quite a big decision these days for some of us as to whether we should let our cats have the freedom of roaming outside or not. It’s also a decision that you need to decide for yourself, based on your individual circumstances and the purrsonality of your cat – we wrote about this in our article: “Should I let my Bengal cat go outside?”
If you’re uncomfortable with confining your cat indoors all day, especially when they’re looking longingly out of the window, yet you’re equally uncomfortable with the dangers that your loved one could face if you gave into them and let them out, a great compromise is to somehow cat-proof your garden so you really can have the best of both worlds.
There are five possible ways we think you could consider – some will be more suited to you than others and they all have their pros and cons, so we’ll look at them in turn. But before we go ahead, we are going to say from the start that we personally do NOT agree with any use of electric fencing, whether it is visible or invisible, nor do we like the hefty collars cats have to wear for radio receiver-type fencing, so we are not going to cover either of those in our article.
1. Metal Fence
OK, we know…. it sounds horrible! A metal fence? You don’t want to look like you live in a factory do you?
But the reality these days is that there are some wonderful metal fences on the market, and not only do they need minimal maintenance, but they also keep kitties confined to your garden because they can’t get the grip to climb over them, if they are tall enough at least. A simple yet effective solution and one which lets your cat have the entire run of your garden at their leisure!
The possible downsides of these are that you would of course need to have this around the entire perimeter of your garden, so it could be quite costly if your garden is large. Plus you need to watch out for anything else your cat could climb up (e.g. a tree or some garden furniture) which could be used as a spring board to get over the fence. Even if all that is OK, another possible drawback is that if any neighbouring cats have the ability to be able to springboard into your garden, they will be unable to get out again, which could cause major territorial issues and even some fighting. Finally, you would need to make sure that if there gates that give you access to your garden, that your cat can’t run out when the gate is opened either by you, visitors, or delivery people etc.
If your garden is very large, you might want to consider using metal fencing to partition some of it off to use for a cat garden (we’ll discuss cat gardens in more detail later).
2. Spiky strips
Yikes! These look very scary! These spiky strips go on the top of all your fences and, again, as long as your fences are high enough, they are said to prevent your cat from climbing over the top. They were originally developed to stop other people’s cats getting in to people’s gardens (non cat lovers, obviously 🙂 )
We’ve not tried these around the whole garden, though we do have them in a little part of our cat garden to stop the cats from jumping up onto a windowsill to use as a springboard to jump out and they seem to be effective. There’s lots of positive feedback online too. They are simple and cost-effective, though again you need to keep an eye out for possible “spring-boards” and gate openings.
3. Roller bars
Here’s another attachment you can put on your fence to stop your kitty from getting the grip to get over it. They look a bit less scary than the spiky strips and are said to be effective. You can also put them round sheds and trees etc to stop your cats using these as a lever to get out.
Again, if you have a large garden, these might be quite expensive and need to be fitted by someone with experience, particularly in the more complex areas such as around out-buildings etc. Although you could use them as a means to partition some of your garden which may reduce the cost.
4. Full Cat Enclosure
Full cat enclosures come in many shapes and sizes to suit all tastes and budgets. They’re very safe as they have a “roof” and many have double-entry doors, reducing the risk of escape when the doors are opened or closed. You can also get ones that attach to your house so there is direct access for your cat to come in and out, making your life much easier.
Some enclosures even have cosy sleeping areas so your kitty can enjoy a good catnap or two:) Many of them are also able to be dismantled so if you ever move house, you can take the enclosure with you. Enclosures almost eliminate the risk of other cats fighting with yours as they can’t actually get in, though some cats can get distressed if the neighbourhood cats are marking their territory on the perimeter of the enclosure.
Overall, cat enclosures are great but there are some possible downsides: They are quite expensive if you buy one from a cat enclosure retailer, or even if you build it yourself, the materials can all add up. For that reason, they can also be quite small though if there are plenty of activities such as logs, platforms, toys etc this will help. You can also try hiding your cat’s treats / food in the enclosure to give them something to hunt and make life more interesting for them 🙂 Always make sure any plants in the enclosure are kitty-friendly and non-poisonous. Here’s a list of plants to avoid.
5. Cat Garden
Those of you who follow Bengal Cat World may be very familiar with our cat garden. We built it for our Bengals’ own safety and it is loved by both hoomins and cats alike! We found it too impractical to be able to cat-proof our entire garden because it’s quite large, and also we have trees and other “spring boards” at the perimeter. We felt that a full cat enclosure would be too expensive for the size we would have wanted, so we developed the cat garden ourselves, a much more cost-effective solution which also gives more space than an enclosure.
Our cat garden is a very generous size and of course you can choose any size that’s right for you as this design is so flexible. Using the existing fencing as two of the borders, we then partitioned off the rest using a trellis-type fencing ,so it had an “open” feel – the hoomins can see into the cat garden and the cats can see out 🙂
The trellis fence was then covered in a wire mesh as it wouldn’t have kept the cats in otherwise and a gate was made using wooden poles and the lovely wire mesh too.
Of course, this design is not enough to keep most cats in, they will just jump right over the top! So this is where the wonderful wire mesh and a few supporting rods came in handy once more! A metal rod was attached to the top of each fence post, the wire mesh was then attached between all the rods and then it was all bent over at an angle.
Despite numerous attempts, none of our agile Bengals have escaped over the fence, though they will always try!
The next things to consider are any “spring boards” – you need to remove anything around the perimeter that clever kitties could use to jump right over the fence. If there’s something you can’t move, you will need to protect it further with wire mesh.
A good test is to put your cat(s) into the garden and watch them closely – see if they can work out any weak areas and hatch their escape plans! The only time our cats have escaped (other than through the gate being opened) is when Lula managed to dig UNDER the fence – she found a weak spot in the ground and took full advantage 😯 Needless to say, that area was quickly strengthened 🙂
Then comes the good part! Fill the garden with cat-safe plants and grasses and toys and platforms and let them play to their heart’s content while you’re happy because you know they’re safe! It will take a while for your plants to mature, but it will only get better with time! Here’s some photos taken recently of our garden, bearing in mind we built it exactly a year ago 🙂
So there you have it, we hope you’ve find our guide useful, maybe given you some ideas you can use or adapt 🙂 Our cats really do love playing in the garden and have adapted well (considering they had been allowed to roam free previously), but it doesn’t stop them from keeping an eye on the neighbours!