Thursday 28 July 2011

How to Make an Outdoor Cat Run

Tigerlily and Pixie Kitten
A while ago, we got two feral kittens. We rescued them, when their mother got killed on a busy road, and named them Tigerlily (on the left) and Pixie Kitten (on the right). However, we also live on a busy road so didn't want them to roam free as they would almost certainly get run over too: our previous cat did! At the same time, we didn't want to force them to be "indoor cats"...

So, we were faced with building some sort of cat enclosure, a safe outdoor cat run, where they could go any time they wanted.

We have a conservatory at the back of the house and an 8' x 6' garden shed about 28 feet away, at the other end of the garden.  Our idea was to build a large cat run around the shed... but how to safely get the cats from the conservatory to the secure run?

See also improving the cat run and then building the BIG cat run

Building a Cat Tunnel

Cat tunnel from the cat flap
Cat tunnel from the cat flap
 This was quite simple to make: a wooden framework, covering the new cat flap that we had cut into the conservatory, and running along the bottom of the fence, the full length of the garden down to where the outdoor run would be.

We stapled strong wire netting over the top of the tunnel and for the front we used checker-board style 6' x 6' fence panels cut into 5 sections and secured them to the front of the cat tunnel.  You can get these checker-board panels ready made in small sections but we found it cheaper to get full size fence panels and just saw them down to size.

Cat Run

At the shed end, we wanted a large cage that the cats could play in. This was to be secured to the shed and have the cat tunnel leading into it.  We found the easiest way of doing this was by using a ready made fruit tree cage. These come in tubular aluminium sections, complete with a door, which just slot together. We secured this to the shed and to the tunnel entrance and staked it into the ground - very secure! They only come with flimsy nylon netting which might keep birds of your fruit but certainly wont keep cats in! So we covered the cage with wire netting instead.

Tubular aluminium framework

Cat House

Kitty Shack - Cat House
Kitty Shack - Cat House

At first we didn't want the cats to get into the garden shed so we bought them a "Kitty Shack". These are also sold as hen huts but are brilliant for cats. We took off the main door (the middle 3rd section in the photo) and keep the "bedroom" door closed. There is a little ramp up from the inside of the cat house into the raised bedroom and we just incorporated the cat house into the main enclosed run so that they can climb on top of it as well as get inside it.

In the end, we also cut a cat sized hole in the side of the shed, from the top of Kitty Shack, so they can now step through onto a shelf in the shed and play in there too!

The Cat Run and Tunnel

The Cat Run and Tunnel
The Cat Run and Tunnel

A strip of wood around the base of the cat run and it was ready for covering with the wire netting. We didn't use chicken wire as this easily bends out of shape and can look a bit of a mess so we used 2 inch square wire mesh which is much stronger and better looking. Attaching the wire to the frame was easily done using loads of small cable ties, which were also used to join sections of wire to each other.

We also got a big wooden crate and stood it on its side to make another covered area that cats could play on or in. This also houses their litter tray. Some old branches make brilliant climbing/scratching posts.

First Steps In the Cat Run

When we first opened up the cat flap from the conservatory, our girls were very nervous at first, in fact, they had to be enticed through the tunnel with FOOD. Bit by bit, they ventured along and nervously came out into the open cat run. They took ages exploring their new play area...

In the Cat Run for the first time
In the Cat Run for the first time
 ... but they soon got to love it... especially basking in the sun and climbing the branches.
Cats in their new run

The Finished Cat Run

Shiny New Cat Run
Shiny New Cat Run

The wire was very bright and shiny...

... so we simply painted it black and it is much less noticeable now. This is very easily done using a small paint roller and some paint suitable for metal.

Outdoor Cat Run
Outdoor Cat Run

Our cats love playing out in their run and come running in and out of the house through the tunnel and cat flap.

However, they are bigger now and we feel that they need more room...
Well, first we made some improvements to this existing run.

Then, we had a go at building the BIG cat run.

Tigerlily and Pixie Kitten were also the inspiration for the new CharmBreeds range of Cat Jewellery