How to Build an Outside Enclosure for Cats
Cats love the outdoors, but allowing your cat to roam freely in your yard is not the best idea for your cat, the birds and other wildlife in the neighborhood, or for neighbors who might be allergic to or annoyed by your pet. If you want to provide your cat or kitten with a taste of the wild without risking the dangers of a free-roaming lifestyle, you can build an enclosure that attaches to your home and keeps your kitty safe.
Planning the Enclosure
Think about your cats' needs.Larger cats tend to need more activity and space than smaller cats, and the characteristics of your cat also determine a lot. If you have a larger number of cats that you're building the enclosure for, it's recommended to build it so that every cat has an individual space; mix shady and secure places with large branches, or even small trees for watching birds.
- If you have large cats like Maine Coons, Norwegian Forest Cats, Savannahs, etc. or energetic cats like Ocicat, many levels to jump on and branches to climb isn't a bad idea. In that case you probably have already thought about building a larger enclosure than you would for a not-so-energetic cat. You can add levels and branches to an enclosure for calmer cats as well, but you won't need to set up as many.
- Do remember that a cat with a thick coat won't probably be that active in hot summer days and probably prefers to lay down under a shadow. You might also want to place a litter box inside of your enclosure to make the cleaning easier.
- Remember to provide a clean water source for your cats! If there's a lot of insects and bugs going around, check the water often. Cool, clean water is extra-important if the cats are outside during a hot day and have thick fur.
- You could put furniture, or shelves in the area for your cat to climb on. If it's something as fancy as a couch, make sure it's old and you don't mind the cat(s) using it as a scratching post.
Decide where to build the enclosure.Choose a plot that will give plenty of space for your cat. Choose an area outside that is preferably already closed off by the building, with no shrubs/trees in the way. Decide whether you want cats to have access through a window. Ensure that there is a mixture of soil, grass, concrete etc for the enclosure. This way, if it's hot, they can lie in the grass for example, the soil they can use as a litter box.
- The amount of the cats affects the space needed, and if you have cats that don't get along that well but will be spending time in the same enclosure, it's always a good idea to add some extra room.
- Cats like to be up high and perch so they can have a view. A polycarbonate roof is useful for an enclosed run as it gives in light and lets cats observe birds flying (with a wire mesh ceiling to stop them escaping out.)
Buy a ready frame of some sort, like a small greenhouse.In this case, you'll have to remove some of the wall panels to let the air flow in and out so that your cats won't be boiled inside on hot summer days. You can replace the walls easily with some chicken wire. You can also bend little bit of the chicken wire inwards and attach it to the ground so that digging-addicted cats won't get through. (Or small, cat-eating carnivores like foxes etc. won't get to your cats, if you live a little closer to the wild.)
- You can also build the frame yourself. This requires some craftsmanship but it's not overly hard either. Building the frame yourself also lets you to customize the enclosure to fit the surroundings and to be exactly what you want. Wood is a good material for the frame.
- You can use any material you wish, but keep in mind that they have to have what it takes to keep the cats inside and the enclosure standing even in bad weather. You can use chicken wire in this type of enclosure as well, but you'll have to buy a larger amount, depending on the size of your new enclosure.
Remember to cover the roof of the enclosure.Chicken wire, plastic panels, something, because cats know how to jump--and with small cats or kittens, you never know what's lurking in the sky looking for an easy meal.
- If you cover the roof with chicken wire, remember to create some place where the cats will be able to stay dry in case of rain or other bad weather, if they're going to be spending a lot of time in enclosure.
- If you cover it with something that the rain can't get through, make sure that the surface is not completely horizontal so that water etc. can fall off of it so that it doesn't destroy the material. You might also want to consider the amount of wind in the region where you live in: it wouldn't be nice to wake up and see that your nice see-through plastic-panel roof is all over the yard due to some windy storm.
Building an Enclosure with Storage Cubes
Buy six boxes of wire storage cubes (four cubes per box).You can get storage cubes via Amazon for about per box. The number you need depends on how large you want to build your enclosure. You will also need a few bags of zip ties (about 200-300) and a rubber mallet.
Choose an access point.First, you’ll want to think about how your cats will access the enclosure. If necessary, put a panel with a cat door on one end of your enclosure. You’ll want to install the pet door on the door or window that cats will use to access their kitty playpen. If you live in a mild climate, you can cut a cat door into a screen door and cover it with a cloth flap.
Design the enclosure.The panels are 14 inches square. You don’t want to build any section more than four panels high. Most sections should be no more than two panels high for cats.
- Decide whether you want a long run or an enclosure. If you choose a run, build it two panels high.
- Don’t install a bottom. Cats won’t enjoy placing their feet between the wire grates. So, either leave the bottom off altogether and let them run on the grass/concrete or install a wooden or plastic bottom.
Tap the panels and connectors into place.Once you’ve loosely constructed your enclosure, tap the panels and the connector tabs with your mallet to square up each section.
Building an Enclosure with Planks and Chicken wire
Dig holes for posts.Place a vertical 4x4x6-foot post every five feet for the entire perimeter of the structure. (t is good to make the holes at least a foot deep to make the enclosure sturdy.
- It is key that you pick a spot that does not get too mushy when it rains, for that will move the poles and make the enclosure look less neat.
Nail 2x4 planks between the posts for support.Cut and fit 2x4s, toenailed between the upright studs, about 2 inches from the highest ground point inside the enclosure, ensuring that this base is level and even all the way around. Then, cut and fit 2x4s, toenailed between the upright studs, one half inch from the top of the lowest upright stud inside the enclosure, ensuring that this ceiling perimeter is level and even all the way around.
- If your enclosure is wider than 10 feet, create a center line of upright studs to build support across the ceiling.
- If your enclosure is less than 10 feet wide, purchase 2x6x12-foot beams and toenail them across (on their sides) into the upright beams and upper ceiling perimeter lumber, every 3 feet.
Build a standard-height doorway with 2x4s.Buy or build a door--or cut out a weather-treated 3/4-in sheet of plywood--and attach it with the shed hinges. Use a metal handle and sliding latch for the door.
After the poles are in and your door is placed, go ahead and lay out the mesh around it.Using a nail gun or staple gun, fasten and overlap sheets of chicken wire onto the outside of the entire structure, including the door and the floor/ground. It is key to do this more than once going up the posts, making sure it is tall enough for your cat to not climb up. You should also make sure there are no gaps on the bottom for the cat to crawl out of. This prevents invasion by outside cats, dogs, and other animals.
- Use heavy duty staples to attach the mesh to the posts securely. Consider zip-tying the layers together so that there is no way for the mesh to become uneven in the seam; this could allow the cat to jump out.
- Be sure to use gloves to avoid cutting yourself on the chicken wire.
- You can use any material you wish for the walls, but keep in mind that they must have what it takes to keep the cats inside and the enclosure standing, even in bad weather.
Build or purchase a large doghouse for the cats and their litter, water, and shelter in the event that you are away from home when bad weather hits.
Consider building a ramp/tunnel to an open window or pet door from inside the enclosure.Be sure to line the opening with chicken wire. Consider installing an area of waterproofed flooring for the cats, especially if you include a weather-covered area for a litter box.
- Any flooring will require occasional hosing and thorough cleaning, as cats interpret the outdoors as their free litter box.
Building a Shelter with Plastic Containers
Acquire the materials.You are going to need a large plastic storage bin, a slightly smaller storage bin, insulation foam, an exacto blade or box cutter, hay or dry grass, tape, a towel (one that you have never used and will never use), and finally, a t-shirt or sweater.
- You can find insulation foam at most home-and-garden hardware stores.
- You can source hay from farms or feed-supply stores. You may also consider saving and drying grass clippings from your lawn.
First, measure the dimensions of the large storage bin.Cut your insulation foam, according to your measurements. Next, fit the foam on the walls of the bin. Then, place a folded t shirt or sweater on the bottom of the bin; you might need more than one shirt or sweater depending on how big your bin is. Then, put your folded blanket or towel on the bottom of the smaller bin.
- After you do all this, fill the bottom with hay or dry grass for extra comfort. Then, put the top for the little bin on.
Next, cut a door out with your box cutter or exacto blade.You can trace it with a marker to make the cut more neat. Be sure to do this to both bins as neat as you can.
- If you wish, you can cut a piece of fabric or washcloth and tape it over the doorway, so that it opens and closes.
Finally, put the top on for the big bin and tape it in place so that it does not come off.To let light inside, you can cut little openings on the top on the sides of the walls near the lid. Be careful not to make them too big!
- Write who the bin belongs to and your address (esp. if it is in your backyard or front yard and could get lost). You also probably want to put something heavy atop it so that it isn't blown away by harsh winds.
Video: Iguana Outdoor Enclosure Build Part 1
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