Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Kittytown, or Do it Yourself Cat Fencing
A few months ago, my friend Jennifer sent me a link to a story about a guy in Florida who has built a tall fence around several acres of land and runs a cat sanctuary called Caboodle Ranch, where the cats can roam freely about the property. Starting a dog and cat sanctuary is my ultimate dream, and this guy is my hero.
Since my home is built on a tiny 7,000-square-foot lot, for now I'll have to settle for (much) less. Jen's email got me thinking, though...what if I could fence the yard in so the cats could go outside? It has been difficult for me to keep the cats inside for their entire lives; it's just not natural. Yes, I realize it's safer for them but it would be safer for humans as well to never step foot outside the house. Doesn't quality of life count for anything?
So I dug in--literally. I began by Googling "cat fencing." You'd be amazed at how many companies there are that will provide you with an entire system. Some of them even launch the cats back into the yard when they try to escape--the video is quite amusing, I must say. The one thing that was consistent about each of these companies was their prohibitive cost. So being the resourceful type, I decided this was not rocket science, and I would do it myself.
Objectives: To keep the cats from escaping under, over, and through.
First step: a trip to Home Depot--hooray!--for chicken wire or any type of strong mesh with small holes (under and through) and something called garden fencing (over) that's apparently used to keep rabbits out of your yard. You'll also need lots of garden ties and possibly some smooth metal sheeting if you have trees that your cats can use to climb and escape.
Under: Try not to tackle this step on the hottest day of the year, like we did. Dig a trench under your fence that's about 8 inches deep. Bury a foot-high strip of chicken wire partially underground, bending it toward you when you lay it in the trench so the cats won't be able to dig under it. Make sure the top part of the chicken wire sticks out of the trench by at least a few inches.
Through: For any areas of fencing that are not solid wood, get your mesh or chicken wire, and zip-tie it to the entire length of the fence. Use more zip ties to attach the pieces of chicken wire that are sticking up from the trenches underneath the fence.
Over: If your fence is solid and nearly touches the ground, you may not need either the under or the through steps, but you'll definitely need the over. Fold your garden fencing over where the smaller rectangles meet the larger squares. I could manage about 8-foot sections at a time. Lay them so that the large squares are against the fence and the rectangles angle back in to the yard, creating a ceiling that your cats won't be able to jump over. I found u-shaped nails that worked great to attach these pieces to the fence.
Over (gate): If you have a gate, attach a length just to the gate, so it can swing out still, and put the garden wire at a slightly lower height on either side of the gate so the wire sections won't knock into each other when you open it.
Over (trees): If your cat can climb a tree and use a branch as a launching point, they will do it. George has mastered the trick of building up speed and then launching herself to heights I did not think possible. Bad kitty. I cut open the plastic zip tie canister (though when I get back to Home Depot I'll probably use a piece of metal sheeting) and wrapped it around the trunk of the tree so she could only go so high. Every time she races across the yard and then hits that plastic, I can almost hear the Flintstone brake squealing sound effect and see her legs spinning with smoke coming out. I yell "ha ha" at her every time this happens.
Your fence will probably look nicer than mine; I'm definitely a "let's get it done, right now and quickly" sort of person, rather than a perfectionist. (Imagine how happy that makes my engineer husband!) You will have to be vigilant about watching the cats for the first week or so; you'll be surprised at how they will find a way to escape through a tiny opening you left, or a piece of fencing bent down a little too much at the top that they can scale.