How to keep your cat in the yard is likely a question you’ve found yourself pondering if you’ve decided you’d like to give your feline friend access to the great outdoors. While popping your kitty into one of the best cat harnesses is one way to get the job done, it’s worth exploring all the options at your disposal when it comes to keeping your furkid safe and secure.
There’s no denying that indoor cat breeds have an easier life than their outdoor brothers and sisters. For starters, they tend to live a lot longer because, unless they somehow manage to escape, the risk of being injured by a car or another cat is close to zero. They’re also less likely to pick up a parasite or disease or to ingest something toxic.
That being said, giving your kitty some access to nature’s backyard can be hugely beneficial, allowing them to maintain an active lifestyle that will benefit both their physical and mental health. If you decide to opt for this approach, we’ve put together some handy tips and tricks that make caring for outdoor cats and keeping them in a kitty-proofed yard a piece of cake.
Should cats be allowed to free roam?
As with so many aspects of pet ownership, there isn’t a simple answer to this one and it’s a problem for a lot of people. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, almost 32 million US households count at least one cat as part of the family.
In fact, the average is 1.8 cats per household, making a grand total of over 58 million. That’s an awful lot of pet cats! In some states there might actually be local government laws prohibiting your cat from free roaming. This is more usual in built up areas, but it’s worth checking what the law is in your area.
Most experts agree that allowing your cat to be a completely free spirit might pose problems. Cats who roam freely outside tend to have shorter lives than their indoor counterparts. This is because the ‘great outdoors’ is full of dangers, the most obvious being the risk of traffic. Even for rural cats, potential risks lurk round every corner. Outdoor cats are more likely to pick up parasites and diseases, be exposed to weed killers and pesticides or be attacked by predators.
However, allowing your cat access to the outdoors does come with some pretty major benefits. These include the freedom to practise natural behaviors, such as hunting and climbing. Outdoor cats potentially also take a lot more exercise, so they’re less prone to weight problems and are less easily bored.
A great compromise is to let your cat out, but keep her in a safe, enclosed area such as a specially made ‘catio’ or fenced yard. If you do decide to create an enclosed space for your feline friend, check out our guide to charming catio ideas for lots of inspiration and easy to follow instructions.
Before you let your cat out, even if it’s only into your own yard, make sure she’s microchipped with your up-to-date details and is wearing a collar tag. Investing in one of the best pet trackers can also be well worth it. You should also think about getting your kitty neutered if she's a female – otherwise if she does get out by accident, you might end up with more than you bargained for!
Can you train a cat to stay in your yard?
If you don’t have the inclination or budget to fence your yard completely, then you might be wondering if it’s possible to train your cat to stay within certain boundaries. Have you ever heard the saying ‘you can train a dog, but you can’t train a cat’? Well, it’s not entirely true. Cats tend to be fiercely independent but they’re also generally intelligent and quick to pick up new challenges.
You could try an in-ground fence, which consists of a wire running underground around the boundary of your property. Your cat wears a special collar with a receiver, and receives a warning tingle when she’s too close to the line. Most cats will quickly learn where the ‘edges’ are and avoid them. However, if your cat is very motivated the fence may not keep her in.
For example, if she’s chasing a squirrel or has been frightened by something, she may charge over the fence line despite the risk of getting a mild shock. The downside to this is that she may then be reluctant to return to the garden and get another shock, leaving her trapped outside! This type of fence also won’t stop neighboring cats paying a visit to your garden.
What can I do to keep my cat in the yard?
The only real surefire way of keeping your cat in the yard is to put up a fence. Even that isn’t enough on its own, as cats can jump surprisingly high! You’ll need to erect a barrier specifically for the purpose.
Available from various manufacturers, these fences have inward-sloping sections at the top. Cats generally climb over fences by gripping the top with their claws and rolling over, but younger and more athletic felines simply spring into the air!
Pet safe fences have a section at the top which slopes in at a 45-degree angle so that kitty can’t get a grip. You can either buy these fences as ready-made complete panels, or you can buy just the top section to fit onto an existing fence.
Rollertop fences are a similar idea, but instead of an inwards-facing panel at the top they have a special roller mechanism which is ungrippable and will deposit your adventuring feline safely back into the yard.
If you don’t want to change your existing fencing, then you could consider fitting an overhead net to stop kitty scaling the walls. This is relatively cheap, but doesn’t look great and is subject to damage from the weather.
Outdoor cat enclosures
If you’ve got a large yard, it might be too expensive to cat proof it all the way round. In that case you might like to think about putting up a cat enclosure to allow safe exercise. If you can, it’s ideal to have this built against the house in some way such as around the back door.
This makes it easy to let kitty in and out, or even let her decide for herself where to be in warm weather. There are lots of options on the market, so take a look at our guide to the best outdoor cat enclosures for inspiration.
Don’t have too much yard space available? No problem – even an area a few feet square can be transformed into a feline adventure park. Check out our ideas for creating the perfect cat playground.
Hopefully our advice has been useful if you’re trying to work out how to keep your cat in the yard. Another option for helping your kitty get fresh air and exercise is to walk her on a harness – it’s a low cost item which doesn’t involve putting fences up, and it can be useful bonding time as well.
It’s always a balanced act making sure your pet is happy and interested while keeping her safe, but with a little thought you can choose the option that’s right for you.
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Sara is a freelance journalist and copywriter of many years’ experience with a lifelong love of animals. She’s written for a range of magazines and websites on subjects varying from pet care to travel. A horse rider since the age of five, she’s currently a full time pet slave to horse Blue and gorgeous, goofy English Springer Spaniel Olly. Adorable Olly has a huge sense of adventure and no sense of direction, keeping Sara on her toes.