If you want to get your cat outside without all of the risks, there are several safe outdoor options.
Leash walking is a great way to give your cat access to the great outdoors without putting them or local wildlife in danger. It seems so very unlikely, but experts agree: Cats can be trained to walk with a harness. Your neighbours will get used to the sight! It’s a good idea to avoid dog parks, though. Watch the Vetstreet video to find out if your cat is a good candidate for harness walking. For more information on how to train your cat to a leash, check out animal behaviourist Joanna Berger’s guide here. Note that it’s always best to use a harness rather than a collar, to prevent injury to your cat.
If your cat isn’t into harness life but you want them to enjoy the great outdoors, you can create a protected outdoor space.
There are lots of options, all with the common goal of keeping a cat safe while allowing them access to the outdoors. We don’t recommend any particular style or brand, but we hope to make it easier for you to keep your cat safe.
Cat-only catios or enclosures can be small and inexpensive to build, fitting in an otherwise unused space. Or cats and people can share a space created by screening in an existing porch or building a new addition to your home. There are pre-made kits, designs for sale, totally DIY options, or you can hire a contractor. How you provide access for your cat also varies – a window or door, a cat door, a wall cut, directly through a tunnel, or you can carry your cat to a free-standing structure.
Additional enrichment possibilities include ramps, cat trees, cat-safe plants, rocks, climbing apparatus, driftwood, scratching posts, fountains and perches. A litter box is optional, but if you intend to leave your cat in the catio for any length of time, be sure to provide water.
Habitat Haven (Toronto, Ontario), Catscape (Brentwood Bay, B.C.) and Hellas Pet Enclosures (Edmonton) offer a variety of solutions, from ‘catios’ to dens to larger enclosures. There are also some relatively inexpensive tent and portable enclosure options available at pet stores. Of course, you can also build your own!
Additional enrichment possibilities include ramps, cat trees, cat-safe plants, rocks, climbing apparatus, driftwood, scratching posts, fountains and perches. A litter box is optional, but if you intend to leave your cat in the catio for any length of time, it’s a good idea to provide one, as well as water.
Fencing is also an option. There are several varieties of cat-proof fencing available. While fencing won’t entirely prevent birds or wildlife from coming on your property, it will limit your cat’s territory and thus their hunting opportunities. And of course fences keep your cat safe from cars and most other outdoor dangers! See a handy list of suppliers below.
Here’s some inspiration from our community of safe cat owners:
Here are some handy catio tips:
Click here to see the pre-made chicken coops that are easily adapted for cats available from Home Hardware.
This blog has some great tips for building one of your own out of wire-cube storage units.
This pet-resistant screen comes highly recommended and is great for use in a catio.
There’s a video by the good folks at Cuteness.com on how to make an inexpensive catio out of Ikea shelves that you can watch here: http://catsandbirds.ca/research/cat-enclosures-and-catios/
And there are lots of videos on YouTube, with a huge variety of budgets, designs and approaches. Check them out here.
There are several companies selling cat fencing, offering a way to keep your cat safely in your own yard. You can add a barrier to a current fence, or create an entirely new cat fence. Cat fences can also work to keep neighbour and stray cats out of your yard if you’re trying to create a bird-safe space. Purrfect Fence and Cat Fence In are two of the most popular options.
Download a copy of this resource here.