Outdoor cat enclosures offer your cat the chance to enjoy the outdoors in a safe and secure environment. As well as protecting your cat from dogs and rival felines, they ensure that local wildlife is protected from your cat.
Also known as cat runs, outdoor enclosures are sold in a variety of sizes, styles and designs. Search for one online and you’ll find enclosures specifically made for your porch, decking, patio, window, balcony and garden.
Safe to say then, that there are plenty to choose from.
To help you made an informed decision, we’ve put together this guide which covers pretty much everything you need to know about outdoor cat enclosures. If you’re unsure about proceeding with a purchase, then read on!
Let’s begin with the basics.
What is an Outdoor Cat Enclosure?
As the name gently infers, outdoor cat enclosures are enclosed structures intended specifically for cats.
To keep your cats in and the predators out, a typical enclosure may include escape-proof wire or mesh attached to wooden/steel frames.
The actual structures tend to be constructed with wood, although plastic and polycarbonate materials are also used.
In order to protect against the elements and prevent escape, most enclosures include some sort of roof – a feature that’s pretty much essential if you consider how adept cats are at climbing.
Types of Outdoor Cat Enclosures
As mentioned, there’s plenty of variety in the outdoor cat enclosure market. Most of the variants you’ll find online and elsewhere fall under the following categories.
- Free Standing Cat Enclosures
- Modular Cat Enclosures
- Custom Made Cat Enclosures
- Portable Outdoor Cat Enclosures
- Balcony Catios
- Window Catios
- Lean-To Catios
- Fenced Enclosures
- Fencing Conversion Kits
Free Standing Cat Enclosures
Many cat enclosures are of the free-standing variety. Made from either wood or metal, these versions are usually quite heavy which means they can be kept in place by their own weight.
However, screw pegs and bolts are often included so you can fix them securely to the ground. These are by far the most common types of cat enclosures.
Modular Cat Enclosures
Modular cat enclosures can be assembled in a variety of configurations. Their design provides owners with plenty of flexibility with regards to the size of the enclosure as well as the actual location.
Their adjustability is particularly important for people with restricted outdoor space. Additionally, certain variants also allow you to divide the run into partitions. This can prove really helpful if you’re introducing cats.
Portable Outdoor Cat Enclosures
A lot of outdoor cat enclosures are made from canvas with zipped openings, many of which come with carrying bags for easy transportation.
Because they’re so lightweight, they often include stakes and tie-downs for securing them in place.
You’ve also got metal cat enclosures mounted on casters that allow for easy movement around the garden.
If you want to mix up garden locations so that you cat can enjoy some variety, then portable enclosures are probably the way to go. But don’t expect a huge amount of vertical space.
A lot of companies and online retailers use the word ‘catio’ as a generic term to describe any sort of cat enclosure.
But if we take its literal meaning, a catio is an outdoor cat enclosure that’s connected to a house and which integrates a cat-flap, window, porch or door.
Catios are specifically designed for outdoor use and tend to be made with wood framing, galvanised wire and or transparent polycarbonate.
They’re available in a variety of configurations to suit different types of installations. Typically, the more elaborate the design, the more you’ll have to pay. Here are some of the most common catios.
Balcony catios are specifically designed for installation on a balcony or roof terrace. This makes them ideal for cat owners living in tower blocks or apartment complexes.
Typically, a balcony catio will be fairly limited in terms of floor space. To make up for this, many models offer plenty of vertical room. Extension kits are sometimes available too, allowing you to make larger enclosures.
If you’re thinking of buying a balcony catio, securing them is absolutely essential. Never purchase one that doesn’t include metal fixings such as clips or bolts.
These types of enclosures are attached to a house and integrate a window. Window box versions are mounted underneath a window sill and offer a handy extra space in which your cat can sample the outdoors.
Some models also include a cat door that can be mounted alongside the window. However, they don’t offer much room for felines are only suitable for slider or sash windows.
Lean-to versions offer much more space and can be constructed to incorporate an entire window. Because of the extra space, they can be used for outward opening windows too.
Typically, these types of outdoor cat enclosures for windows are suitable for multiple surfaces. Some are also tall enough to incorporate a doorway as well.
Fenced enclosures provide another option for owners looking to control their cat’s outdoor habits. There tend to be two options here: free standing fence kits and fence conversion systems.
Both types available from specialist manufacturers
Free Standing Fencing
Free standing fencing allows you to create an expansive outdoor space for your cat. Available in kits, these types of systems usually comprise fence panels that are embedded into the ground with stakes.
Most are modular which means that you can add additional panels, doors and gates as required. Some of the more expensive enclosures are mounted in concrete.
Fencing Conversion Kits
It’s also possible to purchase fence conversion kits. These are basically cat proof extensions that serve as fence-top barriers.
These barriers can be attached to existing fencing and are angled inwards making it extremely difficult for even the most determined cat to negotiate
Custom Made Cat Enclosures
You’ll find that a lot of cat enclosure manufacturers offer made-to-order services – handy for owners with specific requirements. Many of the best companies will also install the enclosure as well.
Keep in mind though, that custom made versions can be more expensive because of the materials used. They also take time to build which means you’ll be paying for labour costs and possible installation.
Are Outdoor Enclosures Good for Cats?
This is a bit of tricky one. Most people will tell you that outdoor cat enclosures are absolutely ideal for cats. Not only do they allow cats to enjoy the outdoors in safety, but they protect rodents and birds from your cat’s wicked attentions. That’s fair enough.
But keep in mind that your cat isn’t going to be able to roam freely. Although outdoors, instinctive feline behaviors such as exploring, establishing territory and hunting are going to be curtailed, not matter how large the enclosure.
This obviously isn’t going to fit in with everybody’s philosophy about cat care, particularly those of you that think their pets should be able to roam free. That brings us neatly to another controversial question.
Can Cats Live In An Outdoor Enclosure?
It’s perfectly feasible for a cat to live in an outdoor enclosure. This is provided that the enclosure is large enough, offers sufficient shelter from the elements and protects against predators.
As far as feral cats go, this is a no-brainer. An outdoor enclosure is going to be a genuine haven for untamed felines who’ve learnt to live on their wits and endure the elements.
The answer isn’t quite so clear cut with regards to housecats, though. Not all cats take to enclosures, with some requiring a lot of supervision.
Certainly, if your cat has become accustomed to the luxuries of living in your house, moving him to an outdoor enclosure is going to be traumatic.
And there’s plenty to be said of the dependency that cats have with their owners.
Like dogs, they need love and affection too. Keeping your cat in an enclosure morning, noon and night, may get in the way of the closeness you enjoy with your pet.
Are Outdoor Cat Enclosures Safe?
Yes, in fact one of the main selling points of outdoor cat enclosures is that they allow cats to enjoy the outdoors safely.
Provided you purchase one from a respected retailer, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about. Most likely, the build quality will be good and the assembly straightforward.
With that said, try to source a cat enclosure that’s fixed with screws rather than nails. Screws tend to have a better holding power than nails. So there’s less chance of one popping out of the wood and harming your cat.
Remember too that balcony cat enclosures need to be secured properly to protect against high winds. This is an absolutely essential safety requirement.
And for the sake of stability and safety, free-standing enclosures should be installed on level ground.
Things to Consider
If you’ve decided to purchase an outdoor enclosure for your cat, there are a few things you’ll need to consider first.
Location is perhaps the biggest consideration of all. Identifying a suitable spot is going to have a big influence on your final purchasing decision. It’s also going to have a direct impact on your cat’s enjoyment of his new enclosure.
You’ll want to begin by evaluating the amount of space you’ve got to play with. Even if an enclosure fits into your garden, work out how much room you’ll be left with.
Keep in mind that squeezing sideways between your new cat enclosure and the garden fence just to reach the lawn isn’t exactly ideal. Remember that human beings are allowed to enjoy the outdoors as well!
If you’re short on space, a modular enclosure may be a good choice. As mentioned earlier, you’ll be able to configure it according to your spatial requirements.
Alternatively, you could buy a custom cat enclosure that’s made to order.
Another way to make use of a small outdoor area is by building your cat enclosure upwards. Cats love to climb and thoroughly enjoy vertical space. You could therefore consider adding shelves and perches in order to maximise the room.
Sun, Shade and Shelter
Cats enjoy basking in the sun – it makes sense then to choose a location that offers plenty of sunlight.
Shade is important for cats too – the sun can get a bit too much for felines after a while.
You should also identify an area that’s somewhat sheltered if possible. Should this prove tricky, you might consider purchasing a higher-end cat enclosure that incorporates a cat house.
Visual stimulation is really important for cats. In fact, studies have shown that feline well-being is improved by visual stimuli, particularly stimuli relating to the natural world.
So ensure that your cat is able to survey his surroundings from his enclosure.
Ground Must Be Level
If you’re buying a free-standing enclosure, ensure that the ground beneath is level. This will help to ensure stability and possibly safety.
Uneven ground is going to put strain on the structure which could lead to damage over the long-term
So how big should an outdoor cat enclosure be? This is going to depend on the number of cats you own, the purpose of the enclosure and the amount of space you’ve got.
Some experts, as cited on the Daily Paws website, recommend 20 square feet and at least 8 feet of vertical space. This clearly isn’t going to be possible for some owners.
Aim to set aside two square metres of floor space for each cat. In terms of height, try to ensure that your cat is at least able to walk around his enclosure with his tail pointed upwards without it touching the roof.
An outdoor cat enclosure should be made from durable materials that will stand the test of time. A lot here depends on the type of enclosure you decide to buy but also how much you’re willing to spend.
Many portable models are made from canvas which is strong enough, but not well-suited to being kept outside permanently.
Look for enclosures made with materials that include wood, metal/galvanised steel frames PVC and/or wire mesh.
The wood is usually treated to withstand the elements while PVC is renowned for its durability. This is also the case with galvanised steel which is highly resistant to wind and rain.
Things to Consider – Summary
- Available Space
- Sun, Shade and Shelter
- Ground Must Be Level
What Can I Put In My Outdoor Cat Enclosure?
So hopefully you’ve found an outdoor enclosure that’s going to be the perfect fit for your cat. The next step is to find suitable furnishings!
Toys are really important for cats, providing them with mental and physical stimulation.
Given that your cat may be restricted to his outdoor enclosure, he’s going to need an activity that satisfies his hunting instinct and keeps him fit and healthy.
Mouse toys are often a good option here. So too are hanging toys such as rope which can satisfy your cat’s urge to jump and pounce.
Consider including cat-friendly plants. They’ll lend the enclosure an outdoor ambience that will be of benefit to your cat. Wheat grass, Boston Fern, Rosemary and Thyme are good options.
Take care not to include plants that are toxic for felines, though. Some of these include daffodils, tulips and lilies
Feeding bowl placement is a subject that we’ve covered in another post. If your cat is going to spend a lot of time in his enclosure, it makes sense to include food and water dishes.
Be sure to keep both a good distance apart – felines don’t like having them placed next to each other.
For the sake of health and hygiene, include a litter box. It’s important for your cat’s well-being that his enclosure is free of excrement.
Also bear in mind that felines are typically hygienic animals. A foul and dirty enclosure is going to put your pet off from using it.
Being natural predators, cats love to sharpen their claws. And scratching posts allow them to do just this – should they be permanently confined to an enclosure, including one is going to be a good idea.
Cat Trees and Ramps
Cat trees, preferably those with multiple perches, are another great addition. They’ll keep your cat entertained and active, while also providing a perch upon which to sleep.
Purchase a tall one and your cat will be able to enjoy an excellent view of his surroundings.
Hiding is an instinctive feline behavior that helps make them feel safe and comfortable. However, some enclosures may cause your cat to feel a bit exposed.
To help, include a cardboard box, a small cat house or even a piece of furniture under which your cat can huddle.
A good number of enclosures also integrate cat houses into their structures – it might therefore be worth spending a little more so that your cat feels more secure.
Things to Put in an Outdoor Cat Enclosure – Summary
- Cat-Friendly Bowls
- Feeding Bowls
- Litter Box
- Scratching Posts
- Cat Trees and Ramps
- Hiding Places
What Makes a Good Outdoor Enclosure for Cats?
This depends on your requirements. If we focus on permanent, non-portable structures, then we’d suggest that a good outdoor cat enclosure will be sturdy, strong and able to withstand inclement weather.
It should also be made from durable materials that will help to ensure longevity. These include materials such as wood, galvanised steel mesh and/or pvc.
In addition, the enclosure should offer plenty of room for your cat, both horizontally and vertically. Depending on location, your cat should also be able to shelter from the elements too.
Are Outdoor Enclosures Worth the Money?
The word ‘depends’ crops up again, here. If you want your cat to enjoy the outdoors without having to deal with rival felines or neighbourhood dogs, then an enclosure is most definitely a worthwhile purchase.
It’s also a great option if you’re concerned about effect your cat is having on the local rodent and bird population.
In addition, should your cat be pregnant or ill, a cat enclosure provides a safe and secure outdoor environment that’s good for your pet, not to mention your peace of mind!
On the other hand, if you already allow your cat to roam freely and aren’t all that bothered about protecting his potential prey, then you may want to prioritise other purchases.
Benefits of Outdoor Cat Enclosures
- Safe Outdoor Space for Your Cat
- Provides Mental Stimulation
- Encourages Physical Activity
- Provides Shelter While Outdoors
- Offers Outdoor Space for Litter Box Placement
- Provides Safe Outdoor Space for Pregnant/Ill Cats
- Protects Local Wildlife
- Offers Peace of Mind to Owners
Dawbacks of Outdoor Cat Enclosures
- Can Be Expensive
- Restricts Cats’ Outdoor Access
- Can Take Up a Lot of Space
- Requires Maintenance