Building Cat Habitats

Cat Habitat Benefits and Construction Methods

At the Ark Cat Sanctuary, we have observed that many cat behavior problems are solved by providing the cat with adequate outdoor time. Cats need exercise that is consistent with their instinctual hunting nature and access to the outdoors is the best of all options for a cat.

We have taken in many indoor cats over the years that owners have given up on for litter box related reasons. All of these cats, without exception, have had the problem resolved and reverted to using the litter pan after they came to live at the sanctuary. We attribute this to one main factor: access to a safe outdoor habitat whenever the cat wants to be outside. A second factor is maintaining clean litter pans.

We live in coyote territory and have devised an effective way to keep our cats separate from the resident wildlife while providing the cats with the outside space that they need for cat activities such as climbing trees and hiding out in the landscape.

At the sanctuary we have as close to an ideal situation as possible. Every cat has access to a warm, clean, dry, home-like indoor space that has an attached outdoor “habitat". The outdoor habitats are fenced and landscaped areas that provide climbing, hiding and lounging opportunities for the cats.

Any backyard or barnyard can be enclosed in a way that keeps the cat safely contained at home while meeting the need for outdoor cat activity time.

The materials that we use to construct the cat fence start with 8-foot T posts driven into the ground to make a 6-foot vertical to support the 6-foot field fence.

The field fencing material is six feet tall, 2"x4", grid welded wire mesh. Welded wire performs better over time than comparable woven wire material. Most retail outlets such as Home Depot, stock only the woven wire product, necessitating a special order of the welded wire fencing. It is available in 50’ or 100’ rolls.

The top of the fence is horizontally capped using a 4’ wide version of the 2”x4” grid welded wire material, which is available through the same outlets as the 6’ fencing.

The outermost grids on the 4’ material are bent 90 degrees to give some rigidity to the top. The 4’ wide material is attached to the top of the 6’ vertical using tie wire wound around both pieces every three to four feet to hold the horizontal cap in place. 10 foot lengths of white PVC pipe are cut into 3 foot sections and notched at the ends to function as lateral bracing elements to hold the 4’ cap material into a fixed horizontal position. The PVC braces are attached to the outer edge of the horizontal top and to a grid on the vertical fence that allows the cap to lie in a horizontal plane. The notched ends of the PVC pipes are wired to a grid section on the vertical and horizontal parts of the fence.

For the entrance gates to the enclosure, we use standard 6’ chain link gates mounted to a constructed pipe or wooden frame. The gate frame construction requires the assistance of a person with a little mechanical savvy. The fence is simple enough for a non-mechanically inclined person to put up. It is a bit labor intensive, but the reward is a permanent safe place for your cats to enjoy.

The same basic idea can be adapted to already existing block walls or wooden fences (provided that they are at least 6’ high) using right angle brackets with a horizontal span of at least 1.5 feet spaced every 4’-5’ apart along the length of the fence to support the welded wire top grid that contains the cats.

We have some pictures to help clarify the verbal description of the mechanical situation. This methodology is less expensive and more effective and flexible in application than kit systems that are marketed as cat enclosures.

Our enclosures at the sanctuary vary in size from 800 sq ft to 6000 sq ft depending on the needs of any particular group of cats - all with the same result. Litter box problems go away and the cats and humans are content.

“Time spent with cats is never wasted.” - Sigmund Freud