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

Rosie and Theo, Chapter One 🐾🖤

It really is hard to believe it’s under a week since we finally completed the Biggest Little’s daily countdown and reached our long-awaited Kitten Day at last. On Wednesday I drove my way through beautiful countryside to the farm where some lovely little kittens had started their lives, and brought two of them, this lovely wee pair, who we’ve named Rosie and Theo, home to join our family. 🖤🖤

Even looking at that first photo I took, all secured in the car and ready to go, texting home to the rest before I drove them on their first journey, they look so unlike themselves now as we’ve got to know them. They’re just two unknown nervous little kittens in a carrier there – but now, a few days on, they are such absolutely wonderful characters, so full of their own very different personalities, and such a wonderful part of our family already.

Spending their Sunday afternoon dozing yesterday beside us all

As I type this, with an early morning coffee and the radio on in the quiet of the living room, kittens just up and kids not quite descended yet, Rosie is watching her first raindrops roll down the window with great excitement while Theo cuddles in beside me and watches her from a comfy distance – pretty typical of them both!

Rosie is the bigger of the two, and much darker, almost jet black although with the teeniest hint of her dad’s tabby hidden away under a black coat that is really similar to her mum Mindy’s. We always loved seeing photos and videos of Mindy looking after her kittens so well and hearing from her owner about her lovely character, and she was so friendly when we visited and then collected them. Rosie seems to be a little double of her mum except for a little flash of white on her chest, just a few hairs. Back when we visited when they were six weeks old it was little Rose with that distinctive little flash who was adventuring out to greet us and who I had a little cuddle with and took such a liking to. I was having a glimmer of nerves about whether we could handle two little kittens when we met them all and they were so little and fragile, but stroking her and seeing her such a calm and steady little cat in spite of how tiny she was, really settled me, and I’m so glad she’s come to us. Her adventurous character has stood her in such great stead as she’s found her feet here, and she’s got a lovely self assurance too as well as a really affectionate streak, both to Theo who she is very much the “big sister” to and looks after beautifully and to all of us who she loves to cuddle with.

Theo, our wee tabby boy, is just a wee dot. He was just 830g when he was weighed on Friday, and is much more kitten-like in appearance than Rosie, very fluffy and with a short tail and eyes that are still in the process of changing from blue.. so our wee tiny tiger still has some growing to do but at both his 8 week check with the breeder’s vet the week before he came home to us and at our vet now he’s been given a clean bill of health, just one of the little ones in the litter. 🖤 I absolutely love his coat, he’s so stripy in the light and a light brown sometimes depending on how the sun catches him. Not sure if he’ll darken as he grows but will be interesting to see. He’s very much Rosie’s follower, at the moment at least, though he’s got a determined streak when wrestling with a ball on a string and sometimes when he loses himself in the chase completely he growls and wrestles it from us and stalks off very defiantly with it trailing behind him, making us laugh so much.

Both of them have done so well to settle so well in just a few days. On Wednesday morning when I brought them home they shot straight to a low-down bookshelf and hid there, spending much of the next 24 hours peering out from behind a row of books, coming out gradually in short bursts to play and eat. We knew their life before had been so quiet, in a porch room set apart from the rest of the house, so we were worried in those first hours about how they were going to adapt to life in a busy young family home; but they have absolutely just slotted in. Everything that’s made them nervous they’ve met so bravely, and we’ve done our best just to consistently keep doing it – the kettle, the hoover, the kids’ noise and bluster – and they’ve warmed to it all so much quicker than I dared hope.

The children have actually been brilliant so far and given them their space despite their excitement, but the kittens seem to recognise their potential as playmates and just join in games with them and bounce around all together and then retire to the grown ups for their sleepier times! Already we’ve got little lap cats of an evening and I just love opening a door and having two wee ones purring round my ankles.

It’s early days as they’re really just finding their feet and are so very young and so very tiny (Rosie actually not much bigger than Theo at just 930g, both going to be petite like their mum I think). We’ve got a lot of work to put in socialising them to life here, but so far we’re so very lucky with how well they’ve settled and what lovely characters they seem to be.

They’re thriving on routine, running to the sound of food in a dish, taking themselves off to bed at night and greeting us the same way every morning; and every day are getting more and more confident in their games and interactions. It really is lovely getting to know them. Will update on how they’re getting on in a while!

Hope you’re all having a good week. X

Our very first weekend away as a four ❤️ lovely time staying with family, Scotland touring and rambling, and meeting our kittens for the first time.. 🐾 (Wordless Wednesday)

Travels down south – service stations, car games and dinner break, stopping off in pretty Roslin on the way home for an ice cream and a wee glimpse of the Chapel
Summer holiday read and enjoying lovely stay with family 🥰
Enjoying the winding roads
And meeting our beautiful little soon-to-be new family members 🥰