Secured outdoor access for cats

The topic of secured outdoor access is now appearing more and more frequently in magazines, forums, and conversations with cat lovers. It provides many cat owners with a compromise: their cat can enjoy suitable exercise as well as enrichment and fresh air in a specially secured area, but is also protected from the dangers outside - such as traffic. There are many different ways in which you can provide your cat with fresh air aside from allowing them to roam outdoors. The best option depends on the character of your cat. The most important thing is that you and your cat are comfortable with the situation. Even for secured outdoor access - no matter what form it takes - your feline friend should be vaccinated, neutered and chipped.

Pro & Cons of free access or secured free access

Sneaking, lurking, hunting - letting a cat roam freely through its environment allows it to follow its instincts in a very natural way. In addition, cats have more opportunities to let off steam outdoors than indoors. 

For the owner, too, letting a cat outdoors means less work. Cats can go to the toilet outdoors, and will also be less likely to scratch furniture, wallpaper or carpets in your home. 

Another advantage of outdoor access for cats is the interaction with neighbourhood cats. This strengthens their social behaviour and satisfies their curiosity. More exercise also prevents cats from becoming overweight, as they also move around more outdoors than indoors.

In short: keeping cats in a way that is suitable for the species is easier with outdoor access. But unsecured outdoor access can also be life-threatening for pets, especially if accidents with cars occur. You don't necessarily have to live on a busy main road for this, because cats can also collide with vehicles on quiet streets. Accidents can also happen if your outdoor cat is wearing a collar. This can get stuck, cause serious injury, and, in the worst case scenario, accidentally strangle a cat. When choosing a collar, you should therefore look for one with a safety clasp so that it will open in an emergency, or do without one altogether. 

As they roam about, unneutered cats and tomcats can get into turf wars - and sometimes they can be bloody. Dangers also come from neighbourhood dogs and other wild animals (such as martens or foxes). But even smaller animals can cause problems for your cat. Parasites such as ticks, fleas, and worms or diseases can be picked up outdoors and even transmitted between animals of the same species. In addition, remember that your cat will also pursue its hunting instincts outside in the wild and will occasionally catch mice or songbirds, which it may leave on your doorstop as a gift. Poisonous plants or other toxins can also be consumed accidentally.

If your outdoor cat is particularly curious and does not shy away from dark garages, cellars or sheds, then it may accidentally become locked inside one. It also becomes problematic if your cat prefers your neighbours and looks for a new home there, or runs away due to inexperience and can no longer find their way back.

Unsecured free access should therefore be considered carefully. You can find out more about outdoor access for cats in our advice article.

Respect the needs of your feline friend

When considering whether or not to let your cat outdoors, there are two main things you should think about. Cats are different. Each has an individual personality and preferences. What is better for one cat may not be right for yours. There is no right or wrong answer to the question of whether to keep your cat indoors or let it go outdoors. Regardless of whether your cat is an indoor or outdoor pet, it can lead a contented life.

The right food for secured outdoor access

Is your indoor cat a lazybones or more of a boisterous house cat? Depending on the activity level of your cat, their food intake should also be adjusted. Feeding the right amount ensures that your cat will not become overweight, and also provides them with all the important nutrients.
Compared to outdoor cats, indoor cats do not have the opportunity to move around so much and so far. Cats can cover several kilometres during their forays into the wild. Cats kept inside flats can only reach this number with great difficulty. There are also considerable differences in the level of activity. This is significantly higher for free-range cats. That is why it is important to provide indoor cats with numerous opportunities for activity and climbing, so that they can let off steam. In general, however, if a cat is neutered, older, or less active, its calorie requirement will be lower. In addition, indoor cats cannot supplement their food by catching fresh prey in the same way as outdoor cats.
For all these reasons, food should also be adapted to a cat's circumstances so that it does not become overweight. If your cat prefers a cosy lifestyle, we recommend MeatCrisp Sterilised. If your cat likes to run around the house and never misses an opportunity to play, you can also use MeatCrisp Adult.

Secured outdoor access for cats

Between the certainty of a house cat and the freedom of a true roamer, there is another option: "secured outdoor access". This means securing and enclosing your garden or balcony. This allows your cat to let off steam to its heart's content, listen to birdsong, chase the odd insect or simply enjoy the sun - without leaving your property. 
It also relieves the cat owner of some concerns. There are also some cat breeds (such as higher generations of Bengals or Savannahs) where a secure enclosure is essential. If you offer your cat secure outdoor access - whether in the garden or on a balcony - you should still vaccinate, neuter and chip your cat.

A cat fence for the garden

If there is enough space and you have DIY skills, you can turn your garden into a safe cat paradise. This makes it a good alternative to unsecured outdoor access, allowing your cat to enjoy the fresh air. However, to ensure that a cat-friendly garden is really escape-proof, there are a few things to bear in mind.
The most important thing to consider is the fence. A normal garden fence is not really an obstacle for a cat. They can climb over the top or crawl underneath. A cat fence should therefore extend right down to the ground and be anchored there, and have a height of 1.5-1.8 metres. At the upper end, you can also attach inward-facing angles so that your house cat has no chance of climbing over this barrier. Also make sure that bushes, trees, sheds and other objects are not too close to the fence, as these could also help your cat climb over the top. 
The garden can be secured with a cat fence. A cat fence should therefore extend right down to the ground and have a height of 1.5-1.8 metres.

Within the cat-safe area, you can let your creativity run wild as you create a real adventure paradise for your feline friend. For example, you can set up viewing platforms or scratching posts (at a safe distance from the fence, of course). In general, you should offer your cat plenty of places to retreat to and observation posts. Cat-friendly plants and bushes provide additional variety and hiding places. Ensure that they are non-toxic. There should be enough shaded areas for hot days. To prevent your cat from injury, make sure that you do not leave any sharp garden tools around.

Be sure to supervise your cat in your secured garden for the first time, so that it can get used to its new territory in your company. Also think about a cat flap. When your cat has had enough of the outside and wants to come back inside, it should be able to get indoors in the easiest way possible.

Aviary for cats

If you do not have the option of fencing in your entire garden to make it cat-proof, then an extension against your house is a good option. This way, you can secure and fence off part of your property, providing your feline friend with a safe area where it can let off steam to its heart's content, explore nature, and enjoy the sun. To ensure that your cat can choose between the house and the garden, you should also install a cat flap here. Consider which cat flap system to use in advance, so that you can also take this into account when constructing your space.
A cat aviary should be large enough for the number of cats you own, and should also be escape-proof. Make sure your plan includes covered zones and shaded areas. You can also incorporate bushes or shrubs that are already growing in your garden, or offer different surfaces. Within the aviary, you should also provide your cat with a variety of play opportunities to meet their needs. You could plant a bed with soft catnip, install a small viewing platform, or integrate a large cat tree for example. A shallow pond or holes where your feline friend can hide also encourage your cat to enjoy various activities and pass the time. It is important that your cat accepts this area and regards it as their own territory. To do this, you should spend a lot of time supervising your cat in the aviary to begin with, so that it knows where there are interesting things to discover outside the four walls of your home.
Depending on the number of cats, the cat aviary should be large enough and of course also escape-proof. With an aviary you can offer your velvet paw a safe area.

Secured balcony for cats

If you don't have a garden but do have a balcony, this can also be made cat-friendly and cat-proof. Here, too, you should focus on safety. A cat protection net or wire is advisable in this case. If, for example, your cat wants to jump after a potential prey animal, a net or wire will prevent this - and might even save your cat's life. When choosing a suitable safety net, it is essential to pay attention to the mesh size. The holes in the mesh should be too small for your cat to poke its head through. Because if your cat's head will fit through, the rest of their body will also usually fit. In addition, there could be a risk of suffocation if your cat accidentally gets entangled and strangles itself. The balcony railing should also be secured, because cats find loopholes relatively quickly. 
You can also make a balcony cat-proof. On the balcony, a cat protection net is advisable.

When designing your balcony, let your imagination and creativity run wild. A balcony can also be used in several dimensions. Cats love high spots that allow them to observe everything. Instead of a conventional scratching post, you can set up real tree trunks that can also be used for climbing. If your cat enjoys water, you can set up a small cat pool and much more. Of course, you could also replace some elements after a certain time. This allows you to introduce variety. You will also quickly discover what your cat needs for a balcony paradise, and what your house cat particularly enjoys.

Before you take action to make your balcony cat-friendly, you should first inform your landlord and ask for permission. It is now possible to purchase cat guards that do not require you to drill into the building structure and are easy to install. It is best to keep permission and agreements with your landlord in writing so that there are no misunderstandings later. If your landlord objects to a cat balcony, then at least secure the balcony door with a sturdy insect protection net to make it cat-proof.

Once the cat-proof balcony is in use, carry out regular safety checks. A storm can loosen netting, for example. Gaps may also develop over time. Also pay attention to what you store on the balcony. Your cat should never come into contact with fertilisers, for example.

Secured window for cats

If you don't have a garden or a balcony, you can still give your pet the opportunity to get a breath of fresh air and soak up the sun. Windows can also be secured so that they can be opened completely, offering your cat a place to enjoy an airy afternoon nap. 
If your windows are secured, this generally makes ventilating your home safer if you have a cat. If a cat's hunting instinct is awakened by leaves, birds, or insects flying in front of the window, and they try to jump outside, window protection can prevent accidents. You can either buy such protection or build it yourself with simple means.
You should also exercise caution when windows are tilted. These can not only cause dangerous injuries to cats, but can even lead to death. If a cat gets stuck in a tilted window while attempting to escape, then it may suffer physical damage due to the slanted position of the window pane in relation to the frame. Pain and helplessness can cause the trapped cat to suffer a panic attack. If the cat thrashes around to try and get free, they can slide even further into the gap.
Among veterinarians, the term used for injuries caused by such situations is 'tilted window syndrome'. If a cat gets stuck in a window gap the aorta can become pinched, preventing blood from flowing to the hind limbs. This can lead to paralysis of the hind legs, damage to the large intestine, bladder and abdominal wall and death of the tissue. The spine, nerves, organs and other bones can also suffer long-term damage. Many cats also go into shock. Cats that suffer from tilted window syndrome need to be treated with medication and animal physiotherapy. However, this is not always successful. It is therefore all the more important to secure all windows in a household where cats are kept, and not to leave them unattended.