Cat confinement - enclosures and fencing
Contrary to popular belief, cats don't have to roam. Providing their basic needs are met, cats can enjoy longer and healthier lives when safely contained to the property.
Serious problems can occur if cats are allowed to roam outdoors, particularly at night (around 80% of accidents involving cats happen at night). Roaming cats can get hit by cars, injured in fights, catch fatal diseases (eg feline AIDS) or become lost.
Roaming cats can also kill native wildlife - even well fed cats will hunt. Roaming cats can annoy neighbours too, by spraying, fighting, yowling and digging in gardens.
Legally, you are not allowed to let your cat trespass on other people's property. If your cat is found wandering off your property and is not identified, he/she can be seized and impounded. You may have to pay a fine when reclaiming your cat from the Council pound.
Some councils also have laws prohibiting cats from certain areas, or requiring cats to be kept on their owner's property during certain hours.
You can keep your cat in the house or flat with you, or in the garage or shed at night. Just make sure he/she has a warm dry sleeping area, a litter tray and plenty of water.
Other options include buying or building a "cat enclosure" for your yard, or installing "cat proof fencing". Look under "Pet Shops' Suppliers" in the Yellow Pages, or do a web search, for companies that sell enclosures, netting and products to modify fences. For instance, a 'roller' type product is available, for installation along the top of existing fences (the roller prevents cats from getting a grip on the fence).
If you're handy and would like to save money, you can build your own cat proof fencing and cat enclosures. Refer to DPI's step by step DIY instructions with supporting illustrations and photos, for:
- Cat proof fencing (ie modifying existing fencing to make it 'cat proof', giving your cat free access to parts of, or your entire, yard);
- Cat enclosures attached to an existing structure (ie the house or a shed);
- Free standing cat enclosures.
The above instructions should be easy to follow for people with basic D.I.Y. skills. Staff at your local hardware store may also be able to help answer any questions. However if you find the D.I.Y. instructions too difficult, you may be able to pay someone else to do the building.
Ventilation is important if keeping cats in a confined area, especially if you have a number of cats, to prevent spread of disease and respiratory problems from a build up of fumes or stale air.
When training your cat to accept confinement, skip the morning feed and call him/her in at night to be fed. Don't feed your cat until he/she comes inside your cat will learn quickly that he/she won't get fed unless home by dusk. Once inside, don't let your cat out again until morning. If you wish, you can gradually extend the time your cat spends indoors or in an enclosure.
Most cats should adapt well to living indoors and in an enclosure, particularly if they have been kept in this way from an early age. However, adult cats used to roaming outdoors may have more difficulty in adjusting. If this is the case, you can consult your vet for advice. Desexing cats also reduces their desire to roam and helps prevent behavioural problems.
When confining cats for long periods you must enrich their environment. This will prevent them from getting bored or developing behavioural problems.
Note that the use of electric containment systems for cats is strictly regulated, in order to protect the welfare of cats.