Cats – they force you to reshape and reorganize your entire life around them, don’t they? Yup, they sure do! Anyway, so Kay and I have 3 kitties and we don’t allow them to roam, which means that we confine them to our property. That presents a whole string of very interesting little problems…

Regardless of the many good reasons for doing so – especially in a city – it seems many people seem a little overwhelmed by the thought of keeping their cats limited to their house, back garden, or apartment – “HOW do you do it?” they ask, bewildered!

Fret not – for this is how!

Windows:

We have galvanized steel window frames that have three window panes staced vertically. The bottom one doesn’t open, but the top two do, and yes, there are burglar bars on the inside of the frame as well – but this doesn’t help to keep cats in!

What I did was to make an entire window frame made to measure the opening on the inside of the window, which I mounted to the sides of the opening. I then made another frame I designed to fit within that, and attached it at the top using hinges, and improvised clips to secure the bottom edge. The smaller frame is now a screen fitted with cat netting facing the interrior of the house, and mosquito netting on the outside. I did this so that if cats do climb the screen – and ours sometimes do – their claws don’t tear the more delicate mosquito netting!

As you can see in the photos, I also needed to seal the little spaces and gaps around the main frame to stop mozzies from sneaking through – which I used self-adhesive roof-sealing tape for.

We have four side windows like this one, and I’ve made frames like this for three of them (the fourth isn’t in use). I also adapted the design to fit the smaller bathroom window. This way, we can risk opening our windows and have fresh air without worrying about a cat launching a jail-break at 2AM, or a squadron of mosquitoes coming in to torment us!

Next we look at the doors:

Obviously, if you’re in the habit of leaving entry-doors open for airflow, you will need to consider screen-doors for each of these as well. Fortunately in South Africa we’re already used to living in well-appointed jail cells due to the crime level, so virtually every house already has a ‘screen-door’ of a sort on the front and back doors, intended to fend off home invaders.

This provides an easy starting point – it’s usually a frame that covers the door area – the bars are just a bit wide apart to keep cats from passing through the gate between them, right? What you need to do is get some plastic netting to cover it with – and the holes are too small for even the most creative, pliable kitty to squeeze through! You can secure the netting to the gate using cable ties, and trim off the excess around the edges!

Obviously no gate, no matter how secure, is going to keep your cats in if you don’t keep it closed – or if you accidently open it when your kitty is close enough to dash through as soon as they see a chance! What that will take is a change of mindset – be aware of where your cats are before you open the gate!

Enclosing a yard:

Next we come to the back garden. If you don’t have a fence or wall around your back garden, it’s probably best to build a catio. We had room for a catio in our back yard, but since our back garden is modestly small and has high walls anyway, we decided to enclose the top with shade net which spans between the sides. It’s mounted against the walls in places, and attached with hooks in others, to facilitate removal if, say, I need to clean a gutter or attend to a roof leak and need to use a ladder!

It’s also important to do the basic checks before you start setting up the shade net – such as looking for easy gaps and escape routes your cat might use to get out! You also need to measure how much shade net you will need, and what it will cost you. I got the shade net from Builder’s Express.

I also made a ‘collar’ in the shade net from some off-cut shade net, to allow a tree to pass through it. The design is such that the collar moves as the tree reacts to wind, sliding up and down the shaft, with no space for a cat to slip through. It was a far better idea than to cut the tree down!

I have to mention that it took a few escapes from one of our more determined kitties for us to figure out where the weak spots were, and to address them. Gradually however, we seem to have closed them all, and I’m sure you will too!

Good luck!

Pictures below! Enjoy!


This article appeared in the “Weekend Life” section of the Weekend Post on November 22, 2020.


If you’d like to send Christina Engela a question about anything on this site, or her life as a writer or transactivist, please send an email to christinaengela@gmail.com or use the Contact form on her author website.

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