Building an outdoor area for the cats

This week we have completed a project we’ve been deliberating over since we first decided to bring home our cats almost a year ago now, and built them a secure outdoor area in the garden they can access from the house. They are absolutely loving it and thought I’d do a wee post just with the progress of it in case it helps anyone else doing something similar!

We live in quite a rural setting but on a really busy road that we’d never be happy letting a cat free roam on, so when we’d first started looking for one to join our family, we’d been looking specifically for a rescue who had already been used to living indoors and who would also be happy living with our young family. This turned out to be a bit of an ask however, and after a couple of months we started looking at whether it might be possible to have a kitten introduced to an indoor-only life from the off (and then ended up with two, but that’s another story 😬).

Theo looking out the front window over the road

I wasn’t too sure at first, always having cats freely accessing the outdoors growing up, but we found some really good articles and forums online with a lot of people who had chosen for various safety reasons to keep cats indoors, in cat-proofed gardens or with enclosures, and we started to explore it. Interestingly, we found out, this is pretty much the norm in some countries, either to protect cats and or to protect birds and wildlife; so when we started reading further we found lots of options on ways to let them out a little without letting them on the road.

Ideally we would have loved to cat proof our entire back garden, but although it’s a good space in many ways, and already had fencing we could definitely have worked with (when the kittens were little enough it was secure without us trying due to the height of the fences); the different levels in the garden and various extension and shed roofs made it too big a challenge once climbing was mastered; so we decided to go with a smaller “catio” enclosure in space just at our back door that leant itself to door and window access.

The kittens playing in the garden at a few months, before they figured out the scaling the fences thing!

We looked at a few different options – buying some panels with cat-proof mesh (which we found was recommended to be 16g) to put together, buying the mesh and posts seperately and doing it ourselves, or buying a ready-built enclosure; and in the end settled on the Omlet Cat Balcony Enclosure which fitted the space we had almost perfectly, and which we’ve made some adjustments to to attach it to the house and let the cats access freely from a small window in the kitchen.

I was worried that a small space would be too little for our Rosie, who is a big adventurer, and had already been trying to make a break for an open door at any opportunity; and also that Theo, who likes human company and is quite the opposite in terms of adventuring, wouldn’t particularly like it at all; but a few days in we are amazed at how much they love it!

Our space (spikes are next door’s and not part of our cat proofing!!)

On Thursday, we began work (overseen by the cats of course!) and started to get the enclosure itself put up. It was relatively easy to build between two of us and we were pretty impressed with it. We do plan to move in the next few years and it will be ideal for shifting to a new place, not being too permanent, and if we have a bigger space in the future it can also be added to with extension panels to any size.

By Friday morning, it was up, decorated with help from the kids and standing with all panels on and door access only; and Rosie and Theo had their first morning’s exploring – which they really enjoyed. Theo took a wee while to settle, but Rosie just sat as if all her dreams had come true chirping to the birds and enjoying the fresh air!

Later in the day, my husband did his handyman bit and began the DIY modifications to secure it to the house wall and remove a panel so that they could get in and out through the window.

This was huge hit with both of them and a game-changer for Theo who instantly warmed to it much more when he could come and go as he pleased – they have spent the entire weekend going in and out like a pair of little yo-yos and just loving their freedom.

Today some final additions have been added – a shelf to make access easier as the window was a bit awkwardly high (not that it stopped them!) and a ramp to make getting down easier too.

The result seems to be two happy cats and we’re so pleased to have done it. I’ll keep my fingers crossed the novelty doesn’t wear off and they start protesting to get further, but at the moment just having that little bit of the outdoors and their choice of in or out is making them very happy!

Theo flits between being in with us and having an explore out there, and Rosie can be found sitting out for hours on end just watching the world go by, between the deepest sleeps she’s ever had inside! (She’s also not diving for the door anymore as she knows she’s got her own route out which is a big relief!)

So far our little corner of Scotland has given them a crash course in just about every type of weather, and they’ve enjoyed zooming about in the wind and shaking their wet fur on their way back in out of the rain. One thing they’ve not yet got to do is lie in the sun, but I’m sure they’ll enjoy it when spring does come!

I still don’t know where I would land on contained vs free-roaming for them long-term – if we lived somewhere that felt safe enough in the future (and when they’re less reckless teenagers and more sensible grown cats!) I’d maybe like to see them finding their own territory, but I’m kind of a convert now to the idea of knowing they’re definitely safe, even if they could have a bit of a bigger space, and I’m relieved that for now it’s working, so we’re sticking with this for the time being!

Hope you all have a great start to the week! X

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