In the U.S., it has become common to keep cats solely indoors. Indoor cats live longer – they are not run over by cars, hunted by coyotes, or injured in cat fights.

However, there is a cost to this safety and security. Indoor cats have fewer opportunities to exercise and don’t receive the mental stimulation from hunting and exploring the outdoors.

Both cats and zoo animals are captives in the environments we provide for them. Like zoo animals, cats need enrichment to maintain their health and welfare.  A safe place outdoors can provide cats with enrichment from the scents, sounds and views of the outside world.

a catio is a safe place outdoors for cats

I lived in a townhome for 13 years. The common grounds in the complex were spacious and like a park.  I was able to walk my cats daily; I also built a small cat enclosure (footprint was 3′ by 6′) that the cats could access by a pet door in the sliding patio door.

I moved about a year ago to a larger, two story house and had plans for a grander cat enclosure.  A catio is a safe place outdoors for cats that is large enough for some humans to hang out in.  There is a deck on the back of my house which was not being used very much and seemed to be a purrfect place for a catio for me and the cats to hang out.

Due to finances and the desire to get an enclosure up quickly, I chose a pre-fabricated cat house.  The Aivutuvin-AIR52 is a frame structure made up of galvanized mesh panels.  The footprint is about 6′ by 10′. It has a peaked roof (height about 6′) and has a door for human access in the front.

I had assembled the smaller cat enclosure at my townhome myself.  This time, the size of the project was intimidating, so I hired a professional handyman to help with the installation.  This proved to be a good idea as assembling the panels that make up the sides, back and front were a 2-person job. 

The catio opened for use yesterday.  Here are some snapshots of the construction process.

The location: south-facing porch. A “sail” has been put up to offer some shade.

Pet Door in Window

An insert with a pet door is put in the window adjacent to the catio.

Catio construction

Construction phase: note the shelves for the cats to sit on and the swinging bridges.

Catio Completed Construction

Construction is complete.  A tarp will go over the rear half of the catio to provide more shade.

Cats in catio

The catio is open for business. The cats have successfully negotiated entering the enclosure using the pet door in the window insert.

Cat coming in pet door in window.

Time for a break and a snack.  Gus comes inside using the pet door in the window.

A catio is a safe place outdoors for cats.   I will still leash walk my cats daily, weather permitting, but the catio will allow them  to choose to go outside when they want to.  It is large enough for some deck furniture and I am looking forward to spending time outside on the porch with my cats.

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Cat fence with rollers
Cat in fenced yard with Oscillot roller system. Courtesy

It has become more and more common to keep cats solely indoors. Indoor cats live longer – they are not run over by cars, hunted by coyotes, or injured in cat fights.

However, there is a cost to this safety and security. Indoor cats have fewer opportunities to exercise and don’t receive the mental stimulation from hunting and exploring the outdoors.

Both cats and zoo animals are captives in the environments we provide for them. Like zoo animals, cats need enrichment to maintain their health and welfare. An outdoor safe place is a great way to enrich your cat’s life!

The compromise: Outdoor Safe Places

Do you live in an apartment? Or in a house with a backyard? There are many options available to you and your cat for an outdoor safe place.

 systems with netting – flexible

In these systems, a sturdy net or mesh is attached to rope or wire rope that forms a frame. The wire rope versions have turnbuckles to tension the mesh. Although some more nimble cats can climb this mesh, most cats seem to leave it alone. These systems can be customized to fit apartment balconies and porches, and enclose areas next to your house.

Cat enclosures

A commercial cat enclosure kit has access from a pet door in the sliding glass door.

These are basically outdoor cages. They range from portable to larger dog-kennels to elaborate enclosed systems with walkways linking cat doors to larger enclosures.
You could repurpose a standard freestanding dog kennel to be a cat enclosure but be aware that you have to secure the top with netting or mesh to keep the cat from climbing out and extend the fencing below ground to keep more adventurous cats from digging under the kennel.
Purrfect Fence sells enclosures consisting of a box-style frame with net stretched over it.
Purrfect Fence also markets a freestanding cat yard using supports, gates, and netting. This cat yard could enclose your entire back yard or just part of it. The netting forms a fence and there is no “ceiling”.
Each fence support has an arm that forms an overhang. Each arm is spring-loaded and buckles if a cat tries to climb over the netting fence, dropping him to the ground. Other vendors sell similar systems.

Have a backyard with an existing fence?

There are systems to cat-proof your fence by making it higher (6 feet or more) with an overhang that is difficult for cats to scale. The fence extensions are covered with sturdy netting. The Purrfect Fence extensions come with their spring-loaded arm. Deerbusters also sells fence extensions that are covered by netting.

Cons of netting

  • net can rip
  • clog with leaves or snow
  • trap birds or squirrels?

roller systems

If there is already a tall (6+ feet) fence around your yard, the Oscillot system could fit the bill! Oscillot is designed for fences 6’ and higher and can be adapted to a variety of fence types: wood, chainlink, masonry, wrought iron. The Oscillot System features x-shaped rollers at the top of the fence, that spin and prevent the cat from gaining traction to get over the top of the fence.

So far, we have been concerned with keeping our cats in but what about keeping other animals out?

Other critters….

You don’t have to live out on the range to have problems with raccoons and coyotes. These animals are increasingly becoming urban pests. Raccoons can climb as well if not better than cats and are not above viewing your cat as a snack. Coyotes are capable of jumping 6’ fences, so if you are concerned about coyotes or raccoons, a tall fence is in order and one of the roller systems can be effective.

Purrfect Fence observes that netting is difficult for predators to climb and once inside, they are trapped. They recommend giving a cat-free trial of  a new outdoor enclosure for a few days and see if any predators get trapped. Once trapped then freed, predators are unlikely to come back. Purrfect Fence does not recommend allowing your cat out in the fenced area at night.

Fully enclosed spaces (enclosures) should not have issues with predators although sometimes bats can find their way inside. Bats carry rabies so make sure your pets are up to date on their vaccines.

The low-tech Option…

Perhaps you can join your cat on a morning or afternoon walk in your backyard or neighborhood. After all, getting outdoors is good for us too! It never hurts to have your cat harnessed even in a fenced backyard – this way you can clip the leash on as needed. If you walk your cat in public places, make sure to have kitty in a harness with leash and  have a mobile “outdoor safe place” – stroller or backpack – with you.


A final word…

There is no substitute for supervision or training.  It is a good idea to keep an eye on your cats while they are in an outdoor safe place. Teach your cat to come when called. Remember, any time you call and your cat comes to you, make sure to reward him – no recall should ever go unrewarded!

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art by Cal Meyer

Cats and boxes are a purrfect combination.  An enclosed space like a box can be a safe place, help keep a cat warm and give him a vantage point to ambush “prey” (unfortunate insects, catnip mice…). Boxes are also popular with other animals – big cats are often given boxes for enrichment at zoos and refuges; dogs also like boxes to play in but some may tend to chew the box up!

Cats will also sit on just about anything, comfortable or not. Anyone who does craft projects well knows that once the fabric is out to be cut, a cat will be sitting on it soon enough. Years ago, cats sat on newspapers if you tried to spread the paper out on the table – nowadays, they park on computer keyboards. Some of this is attention-seeking behavior – Zelda only lets me type so long Sunday mornings before she gets up on my desk and threatens to contribute to the post if I don’t take her for her morning walk.

In 2009, the USPS came up with the Christmas slogan, “If it fits, it ships”.  A few years later, a variant of the slogan became an Internet cat meme: “It it fits, I sits”.  This gave rise to posts of cats in all sort of places, from egg cartons and shoeboxes, to bowls and sinks.

The Internet exploded again in 2017 as people used tape to outline squares on the floor for their cats to sit in. Cats were “trapped” in all manner of taped shapes, with cat experts offering explanations ranging from cats reacting to new smells (from the tape) to survival instinct, where the cats must investigate something new (the taped square) to determine if it poses danger to them.  Some felt that the taped square offered the cat a sense of security, much like a real box.

The phenomenon did not stop here – in 2020, during the COVID pandemic, a woman in the Philippines photographed stray cats practicing “social distancing” – the cats sat on circles painted on the ground 6 feet apart outside a food market.

cats and boxes: optical illusions

It is not surprising that cats in taped squares became the subject of a research study investigating cats’ responses to optical illusions. In a two month study in June-August of 2020, researchers at Hunter College enrolled over 500 cat owners to participate in a study to assess cats’ responses to a taped square, a Kanizsa square (which gives the illusion of a square), and a control figure.

Enrolled owners were sent booklets containing pairs of these shapes that they affixed to the floor.  The owners then took videos of their cats’ responses to the shape-pairs and submitted the videos to the research team.  They were to do this once daily for 6 days.

The results found that of the 30 cats that completed all six trials of the experiment, only nine of them “participated”, that is, sat in one of the shapes. These cats were just as likely to sit in the taped square as the Kanizsa square. Only once did one of the cats choose to sit in the control shape.

What does this tell us about cats? Are they susceptible to the optical illusion of a square? Do they recognize it as a square? I think more research will have to be done:

  • Only 9 out 30 cats actually sat in the shapes.
  • Cats are not as tall as we are and don’t see well close up. Can they see the squares from their vantage point?
  • I, for one, would like to know how many cats will voluntarily sit in a taped outline – I tried leaving a hula hoop out on the floor to see if any of my four cats would voluntarily sit in the circular outline. I did not have any takers!

This study is the first to use “citizen scientists” (the owners) to observe the cats in their home environments, thereby avoiding stress-induced behaviors that cats can exhibit in unfamiliar settings, such as a laboratory.

Back to cats and boxes…

Cats are practical. They prefer their owners to their owners’ T-shirts. I feel that they would prefer a physical box to a taped outline. A box is a great source of enrichment – it can be a bed, a den, it can be place to hide while ambushing a toy mouse going by. Shelter cats acclimate to their surroundings more quickly when provided a box to hide in.

Boxes that are too small to allow a cat to hide may make him feel good by putting physical pressure on his body, like when we wedge ourselves in the corner of the sofa watching a favorite TV program.  Pressure on soft tissue has been shown to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety in both humans and animals.

So, make sure your cat has a safe place – a place he can call his own, a place that is secure, secluded, a hiding place to retreat to, warm in the winter, cool in the summer. It can be a cardboard box in a closet or in a secluded corner!

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Sometimes there is trouble when we house a group of cats together in our home. How do we reduce the number of inter-cat squabbles?

Cats are socially flexible

  • they do fine on their own
  • they can live with other cats IF there are enough resources.

This is the sticking pointcats are territorial. Territory is all about resources – food, water, litter boxes, resting places.  Cat fights are frequently about territory and resources!

Cats of the same social group can often (but not always!) use the same resources at the same time. If cats do not belong to the same group, then they will often time-share, taking turns to use that heated bed every cat likes.

But sometimes even cats that are “BFF”’s have a spat. One answer is to “space” them – make sure there are enough resources spread throughout the house or apartment.

Space Cats Vertically > more space for everyone > Less fighting>less stress

Many cats like to perch up high. They have a great vantage point and can see who’s coming. Your apartment or house may have a small footprint but have you thought about the unused “cat space” up toward the ceiling?

cat tree access to high beam
A tall cat tree gives this cat access to a high resting place.

Vertical places can be valued resting places or alternate feeding stations.

We’ve all seen the videos and posts of those amazing cat houses but your vertical cat world does not need to be so elaborate or require as much work. It can fit in seamlessly to your decor.

cat trees


Cat trees, true to their name, have  small footprints and utilize vertical space. Some  have “hide boxes” for an undisturbed nap. A cat tree also can give a cat access to a high place or offer an alternate path to another part of the home.  Placing a tall cat tree next to a stair case might allow a cat to climb up and through the railing,  avoiding another cat on the stairs.

book shelves

Whether actually used for books or storage, the tops of book shelves can be a cat highway. “Step” bookcases can provide tasteful storage for you but give your cats a ladder to a valued resting place – perhaps the top bunk of a bunkbed.

access to stair landing
A “step ” bookcase gives a cat a different route to access  a stairway landing.

the top shelves of closets

  • Often unused space – after all the shelves are hard to get to. 
  • Good place for a secluded nap.
  •  A step ladder may get kitty up there. Baskets that  hang on the underside of the steps can give you storage.
  • Stack storage bins in a step configuration so your cat can climb to that top shelf 
  • An inexpensive single pole cat tree may provide access.

“Thinking  vertically” allows you to provide your cats with additional resting places and feeding stations. There will be less conflict if each cat can find his own space.

A stairway landing provides a feeding station, heated bed, and cat cube.

Release your inner cat and space cats vertically – spread out resting places and feeding stations!

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Aggression Between Cats After a Vet Visit

Zelda, my 5 year old Maine coon cat, went into the vet clinic on a Tuesday to have her teeth cleaned and to finish her lion cut that I started the day before. Zelda did well with anesthesia, teeth cleaning and lion cut. Upon returning home, Zelda stayed in the master bedroom for a few more hours for her anesthesia to wear off.

In the past, there has been some aggression between cats after one of the cats comes back from his or her veterinary visit.  In particular, Gus, my former street cat, has been aggressive towards the other cats when they come home from the hospital.  So, I made sure that the Feliway multi-cat pheromone diffuser was plugged in and bagged up the blanket Gus sleeps on for Zelda to use in her carrier on the way home.

In spite of all my precautions, Gus was agitated and aggressive not only with Zelda, but also with the older cats, Marley and Athena, when I let Zelda out of the bedroom for dinner. Not only did he strike at the other cats when they got too close, he went out of his way to strike at them if they were out of reach.

Cat in his safe place
Gus is in his chair in his safe place, the back office.

The aggression between cats continued into Wednesday and I found myself starting to lose my patience with Gus, who was the instigator. So time for some “tough love” – Gus was asked to go to his safe place. The door was closed and he spent the afternoon in the back office with some treats and his snuffle mat.

His attitude was much better when he was released at dinner time. The next morning, Thursday,  Zelda greeted him with a quick lick that he was not overly enthused about but he accepted.

What is the take-away here?

The smell of the vet clinic is disturbing to Gus – he associates it with unpleasant experiences. I also think he finds it confusing and frightening when his housemates smell like the hospital – he is not sure who they really are and this makes him anxious and afraid. 

The safe place smells familiar and is quiet. It conveys a feeling of calm and safety and this helped Gus change his emotional state. By the time dinner came around, Zelda’s “hospital” smell had faded a bit more and the dinner routine helped reassure Gus. He remained calm and did not go out of his way to swat the other cats.

Going to the safe place is not a like the time-out used with human children. The time-out spot for children is a spot with minimal stimulation and away from other people. The idea is to remove the child from whatever was reinforcing the undesired behavior and have him/her calm down, link his or her behavior to the wrongdoing, and change it. 

Your cat will not link misbehavior with being isolated (human toddlers have trouble with this also). The safe place is not a punishment – it has all your cat’s resources (litter boxes and toys) and allows you to remove him from whatever is stimulating the “bad” behavior, in this case, the aggression between cats. The safe place should convey a feeling of calm to your cat and change his emotional state, from one of possible arousal and fear to one of calm and security. Once your cat feels calm and secure again, you will be able to interact with him and communicate with him – he should be able to respond to any training he has had.  In this case, if reintroduction is not successful after some “quiet time”, you may need to try a more gradual reintroduction.  See Introducing Cats: A Short Guide

Easter Egg


Happy Easter from The Feline Purrspective! Click on the egg for cats playing an Easter game!


I got my first cat when I was 8 yrs old. Marty was a Siamese kitten that came from a litter owned by one of my father’s co-workers. Marty was an indoor-outdoor cat. We did keep up on his vaccines at his yearly veterinary appointment. There were cat fights and he went to the vet frequently to be patched up. My sister got a female Siamese cat and Marty mated with Mischi and a number of cats resulted from this pairing. Marty was neutered when he was 7 years old.

I took him to college with very little thought as to how the outdoor cat would adapt to being the indoor-only cat; he did all right although my college roommates were not taken with his scruffy, tomcat appearance. I adopted two of Marty’s grand kittens with little thought as to whether all the cats would get along. Luckily, the old cat and the two younger male cats (they were neutered) got along famously. Marty lived to be 15 years old.

Changes in Cat Care – Things Are Different Today

  • In America, many pet cats are indoor cats now. In Europe, the cat flap is still a thing and cats tend to have more outdoor access.
  • Medical care for your cat has advanced – dental care and treatment for kidney disease and hyperthyroidism are more common now.
  • The dietary needs of cats are much better understood now. Not only are there commercial diets formulated to meet basic nutritional needs, there are also diets for treatment of medical conditions.
  • There are not many studies on the longevity of domestic cats but the general consensus is that the indoor cat lives longer than the outdoor cat, being protected from hazards such as cars and disease.

The Indoor-Only Cat



  1. The indoor-only cat has less risk of diseases spread through interactions with other cats, such as Feline Leukemia, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, Feline Infectious Peritonitis.
  2. The indoor-only cat has less exposure to parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, ticks, and heartworms.
  3. The indoor-only cat has little risk of a road traffic accident as long as she does not escape outdoors.
  4. Potentially stressful and injurious interactions with neighboring cats are reduced for the indoor cat – but…indoor cats in multi-cat households can get into fights.
  5. Living indoors reduces the risk of your cat being attacked by larger animals such as dogs and coyotes.
  6. Keeping cats indoors can protect wildlife species that are potentially prey for the domestic cat.


  1. Indoor cats are have a greater incidence of obesity and associated risk of diabetes. Your cat, designed to be a hunter, can become bored from lack of activity, and soothe himself by eating.
  2. An indoor only cat has less opportunities to engage in predatory behavior than the outdoor cat. Cat guardians must provide these opportunities through interactive and object play.
  3. Urine spraying, scratching and facial rubbing are normal behaviors for a cat.  Cat guardians need to provide outlets for these behaviors with scratching posts and areas for facial rubbing and be prepared to address house-soiling behaviors.
  4. Outdoors, a cat has control over its actions; the indoor cat can become frustrated since she is confined.
  5. Indoor cats in multi-cat households may not always get along.  Access to the outdoors increases the size of the home territory and allows cats to “space” themselves.

Making the Life of the Indoor-only Cat Fun


  • Play with your indoor-only cat every day.  Laser pointers and wand toys can simulate hunting.  Make sure that your cat has a successful hunt by getting a treat at the end or being able to have the toy itself at the end of play.
  • Keep your kitty on the prowl by feeding multiple small meals a day. Use food puzzles if you like or move feeding stations around.
  • Be sure to provide elevated places for your cat if she is a climber or boxes and play tunnels if he tends to stay low.





The Compromise

  • Your cat may enjoy supervised walks in the backyard on a leash. If you venture further, have your cat trained to a backpack or stroller for safety.


  • A catio can allow your cat fresh air and sunshine in a safe place.
Breakway Cat Toy
This cat toy can be “captured” by kitty. It is attached with velcro.
Feeder with Food Puzzles
Food puzzles are tucked into this automatic feeder. It can be moved to different places making kitty hunt for it.
Cat on Leash
This cat is enjoying a stroll on a leash.

My Cat Household Today

My current household has 4 cats. My two older cats, are 14 and 16 years old and have access to an outdoor yard if someone is home. The younger cats are 4 and 5 years old – their access to the outdoors is by once to twice daily supervised walks.  All cats have access to a small catio in the backyard and another on the second story porch.





Carrier Training Your Cat

Cats tend to be homebodies. Most are not very fond of traveling. However, with some training and attention to their needs, trips to the vet and even cross-country do not need to be a traumatic experience.

Choosing A Carrier for Your Cat

There are lots of options out there. The traditional plastic box works well; it is secure and easy to clean. Make sure the top is easily removable – some carriers have more bolts (9+) than necessary. If you have one of these, you can often remove about 1/3 of the bolts even if your cat is heavy.

There are more and more styles of fabric carriers – if you are looking for one, choose one that has side panels that open up, or a top that zips open. Think: How will you get your cat out of the carrier?  How will you get him back in (if he is reluctant)?

Make sure the carrier is big enough. Cats are masters at squeezing themselves into small spaces but the carrier needs to be comfortable in case your cat must stay in it for a bit. Your cat should be able to stand up and turn around in her carrier.

Method #1- Feeding in the Carrier


Using method #1 for carrier training your cat, you will feed your cat in his carrier.

Place your cat’s food bowl near his carrier.  Over the next few days to a week, you will move the food closer to the carrier, then put it just inside the carrier, then finally put it in the back of the carrier.

Gus was trapped as a feral cat.  He was reluctant to enter the carrier, so we removed the lid for him.

Once Gus was comfortable eating in the bottom of his carrier, we placed the top on the carrier without the gate.

Once he was willing to eat in the carrier with the top on, we introduced the gate.

First, we had him eat with the gate open; the next step was to close the gate for a minute.  Some food on the gate helped him stay calm for this.

Feeding in Carrier Bottom


Cat eating in carrier


cat closed in carrier

Method #2 – Using Targeting

Carrier training your cat using method #2 is based on a clicker training technique called targeting.

  • you start by luring your cat to the back of bottom half of her carrier using the target stick.
  • once she will sit in the bottom half of the carrier calmly, place the top on the carrier. Have her enter following the target stick and then sit.
  • work up to having her stay for the count of 5
  • once she is calm with this, close the door and have her stay for the count of 5

Extra Credit:

Once your cat is comfortable in her carrier, lure her in with a snack or target stick, close the door and move her to another room. Upon arriving in the other room, open the door and reward her with a snack!

Make sure to take your time.  Cats are individuals and some learn faster than others. You may need to break up the training into smaller steps if your cat is reluctant to enter the carrier.  Gus, a former feral cat, is leery of things that may be traps – it took longer for him to accept the carrier than Zelda, who appears in the video above.

Cat in Carrier

A Better Vet Visit for Your Cat

From Your Cat’s Purrspective…


You know something’s up – your carrier is out. You hide under the bed but your human pulls you out and proceeds to squeeze you into the dreaded box.

You swing along in the air and then are loaded into a larger box that moves and smells funny.

You finally stop moving and swing through the air some more and arrive at another house where you smell lots of other animals. Oh no, not this place again! You can smell other cats – most of these cats too are afraid. As you move through the fog of smells, you arrive in a small room with a metal table.

A strange human opens your carrier door and tries to coax you to come out – you’re not sure what is out there but now your carrier seems like a good place to stay. Suddenly, your world tilts and you slide out of the carrier onto the cold, hard table.

You hiss your displeasure. Another strange human proceeds to look into your eyes, put a hard plastic thing in your ears, and presses a cold metal disc against your chest. Then, the strange human pokes you with a needle and you are finally allowed to escape back into the dreaded carrier – at least, it has taken you back home before.

A Better Vet Visit for Your Cat – What We Can Do

Cat Carrier Comes Apart


  • The plain-vanilla plastic carrier sometimes is the best option – safe and secure, easy to clean, and sturdy.
  • For your veterinary team, the removable top is a bonus. It allows your vet team to work with your cat in a place he knows – the bottom of his carrier.


cats with carrier and treats


  • It should  have a comfortable blanket or towel in it that smells like her.
  • Leave the carrier out a home – your cat may nap or play in the carrier.
  • Offer some food close by or in the carrier for her to enjoy. 
  • Play games in and around the carrier.


Cat and Car
Athena is ready to get in her carrier for a ride!


  • Start with short rides, maybe just around the block.
  • Work up to longer rides to pleasant places – if you have a cat stroller, you could work up to going for walks in the park.
  • ALWAYS move at your cat’s pace – if he is hunched up and hiding, slow down and shorten the ride.



  • Take time at home to handle her feet and head
  •  Work up to gently lifting her upper lip to look at her teeth.
  • Get her used to being picked up.
  • Make sure to reward her with tasty treats!


Spray Carrier Facial Pheromones
Spraying the carrier with feline facial pheromones signals that this a familiar place.



Treats to reward cats


  • Limit kitty’s food prior to the appointment
  • he will be more willing to eat some treats


The Cat Outdoors…

The cat is a born hunter. In the wild, a cat will spend a large part of its time on the prowl, looking for food. His vision is geared toward surveying the landscape for something moving; his large conical ears and broad frequency range of hearing, help him locate prey and also predators; his sense of smell too plays a role in seeking prey and avoiding predators and danger.

Being outdoors gives your cat opportunity to hone her hunting skills, and in doing this, she will be entertained and allowed to “be a cat” and do “ cat things”. What is a safe place for cats outdoors?

Risks of being an Outdoor Cat

Marley with truck

  • Injury or death from predators (dogs, wildlife such as coyotes)
  • Injury or death from cars on nearby roads
  • Contracting illness from neighborhood cats
  • Injury due to cat fights
  • Infection with parasites due to hunting or exposure to other animals


Benefits to being an Outdoor  Cat

Gus in tree

  • Fewer behavior problems (urine marking, scratching furniture, aggression toward housemates)
  • Opportunities for exercise – reduced risk of obesity 
  • Opportunities for hunting and exploration – mental stimulation
  • Stimulation from a varied environment – e.g. changing weather


The Cat Friendly Home: Safe Places Outdoors

If you have a yard with a high fence, you may already have a purrfect safe outdoor place.  If you need to, you can “cat proof” your fence if it is 6 feet high or more.  You can install rollers on top of the fence ( or use a system with overhangs on the fence (Purrfect Fence).  Both systems keep your cat from jumping out and can keep neighborhood cats and coyotes out.  A fenced-in yard may still need safe places for your cat such as low shrubs or dense foliage to hide in.

Larger screened-in patios called catios give both people and cats a place to relax – once again, cat trees and plantings my be needed to provide safe places for your cat to nap or just get away from things. Don’t forget – you can play with your cat outdoors!

Other options for smaller yards or apartment balconies include cat enclosures, oversized metal dog crates, portable enclosures that can be set up and collapsed when not in use (kittywalk) and cat “window boxes”. Plants, scratchers, and places to hide may be added to these to provide stimulation and safe places.

A commercial cat enclosure kit has inside access from a pet door in the sliding glass door.
This backyard has a high fence to keep kitty in. Some supervison may be needed for the fish ponds.

How do Cats Feel about Cat Enclosures?

Cat enclosures may frustrate some cats, particularly those who were previously free-roaming. We are all familiar with becoming annoyed or angry when we are unable to get what we want – from struggling with leveling up in a video game to having difficulty finishing that project at work. If your cat seems frustrated – pacing and trying to break out – encourage some other behaviors to help him cope with frustration.

Providing your cat with ways of coping with the frustration of being restricted to a yard or enclosure.


  • posts/logs to scratch on
  • puzzle feeders with snacks
  • places to hide and play in
  • cat grass to nibble on


  • place bird feeders close to enclosures or window boxes – this could increase frustration as your cat can’t capture the birds. It is like putting ice cream in front of a person on a diet

Jail Break and What Keeps Gus Safe

Gus is a 3 year old neutered male cat who was previously free-roaming. The second floor porch is enclosed with a railing with mesh and wire on it.  Neighbor cats have not gotten in; the other 3 cats in the house do not get out. Gus can pull himself up through the wire.

THE PROBLEM: Gus squirming through the wire at the top of the fence.
THE SOLUTION: repurposed chicken coop is placed next to the screen door leading to the porch. A pet door in the screen gives cats access from inside.

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The Cat Friendly Home: A safe place for your cat

Cats are not small dogs nor are they humans in little fur suits. What kind of environment do they need to stay healthy and happy?


  • a safe place
  • access to multiple, separate resources
  • opportunities for predatory play
  • positive and predictable interactions with humans
  • a habitat that respects the cat’s sense of smell

The cat friendly home: a safe place

The domestic cat’s close relative, the African wildcat, takes shelter in hollow trees, rock crevices or dense thickets when not out hunting for food (African Wildcat Field Guide).  The female wildcat often chooses burrows abandoned by other animals such as the Fennec fox to raise her kittens and she moves them frequently to other dens.

What’s so great about a burrow or den?

  • easy to defend against predators
  • usually out of the way
  • protects the inhabitants from the extremes of temperature and exposure to weather.

Our indoor cats will choose a safe place in the same way as their wild relatives – a place that is secure, secluded, a hiding place to retreat to, warm in the winter, cool in the summer.

Hide box for safe place on a commercial cat tree

Many cats prefer high places.

  • it is easy to see if another cat, pet or human is coming
  • it is harder for humans especially children to reach up and disturb kitty
  • Cons: kitty does have to come down to eat, drink, etc



A  cat can have more than one “safe place”

  • one may be high
  • another may be low
  • shared with a cat of the same socialgroup
  • time-shared with a cat not a member of the group
  • chosen for temperature
  • day- or night-time use

    Safe place for a winter afternoon: a curtain in a sunny window hides a surprise – a cat napping inside!










safe places can change

Gus chose the dresser in the bedroom as a place to spend the night shortly after he moved in. We placed a fleece blanket on top of the dresser to keep him comfy. After 6 months or so, he decided to sleep on the desk chair in in the office at night. His latest choice is a pillow at the head of the bed – a small fleece square is on top of the pillow to manage the fur!



the cat friendly home: A safe place for your cat – tips for cat guardians

A safe place can take many forms from a commercial cat tree to a cardboard box in a closet.  There is even a gadget called a “Door Buddy” to the closet door ajar enough for only the cat to pass through.  Watch your cat and see where she chooses to have a safe place.

Your cat’s carrier can be a safe place.

  1. Leave the carrier out in an out of the way place.
  2. Put some of your cat’s favorite treats or a meal close to or inside the carrier.
  3. A cover out of light weight fleece  is easy to make (hemming is not needed).  It will make the carrier dark and inviting and can be coordinated with your decor!

If we’re lucky, the carrier will become a portable safe place for your kitty to travel in – perhaps to the veterinary clinic!