We love to watch our pets roam freely, to see the smile on the dog’s face when we remove the leash and let him run in the field. Mine makes huge circles around me, like the true circus Rat Terrier that he is. Nature, cats and dogs go hand in hand. Hmm, hand in paw. We readily accept the dog and leash relationship, but are far more reluctant to contain our cats.
Animal behaviorists and zoo keepers make the same observations: Felines in captivity, when they are loved, well fed and provided with access to a safe, natural setting, will develop a comfortable daily routine within the confines of an enclosure in much the same way as they do out in the wild. They are creatures of habit who find comfort in returning to the same spots.
Yes, but cats like to hunt, we interject. The experience of the hunt can be found in play. Cats that live with playmates and receive loving attention from their human families do not show any sign of deprivation from natural behaviors when they are contained in a humane way.
Most of the harnesses on the market that guarantee your cat won’t slip out simply do not meet the test. Cats are designed to sneak out of these things. But did you know that cats will not climb a fence that does not appear sturdy?
Cat enclosures work. It can be as simple as a 4-foot high chicken wire fence (with no top landing) accessed from a backyard door or window, or as fancy as a custom-designed sun porch enclosure, complete with shelves, hammocks and plants. Provide opportunities for play, real plants for a touch of nature and a favorite snoozing pad or chair and your little lion will feel like the king of the roost.
We humans have transformed the natural world with beautiful structures and landscaping, but also with roads and equipment that are deeply hazardous to the well-being of domestic animals. We have the ability to keep them safe and it makes sense to do so.
A well-planned enclosure does not necessarily cost a lot and it can be an oasis for cats. In fact, you can build an attractive 14′ x 8′ patio covered enclosure in 1 afternoon for less than $200! The long-term benefits are significant too: fewer visits to the vet due to undesirable close encounters, reduced exposure to diseases carried by other animals and good relations with neighbors, whose painstakingly maintained garden looks like an attractive playground and giant litter box to your cats. Most of all, peace of mind for you. The “kids” are safe.
As a former city dweller who has lived with cats for more than 3 decades, I have used several types of enclosures to provide safe access to the outdoors for my feline children. From the third floor screened-in balcony, to the chicken wire fence in the backyard, I have watched my cats adopt a favorite spot under a tree or on the second step of a deck and spend entire afternoons there, purring away, looking up at me with their deeply intelligent eyes that said, “Ha! Life is good. I think I will continue to lounge for the rest of the afternoon. How about you?”
Here are links to 3 very good resources for distributors and ideas.