Keeping a domestic cat safe while allowing him to enjoy as natural a life as possible is a tricky business because what is natural behavior for a cat can be inconvenient for a human if it entails going outside. Letting a cat go outside allows a cat to behave naturally but it is often dangerous. The only solution is to construct a totally impregnable barrier around a back garden (yard) and allow your cat into the garden. The trouble is that cats are very good at getting over and around impregnable barriers like high walls.
My initial impression is that very few people have installed cat fences and I wonder why that is. It probably comes down to the obvious: cost compared to benefit. In Britain if people let their cats out they accept the cat takes some risks to his health. In short people don’t think the expense of a specialist cat fence is worth it. There may also be the problem of the way it looks. People like their home to look nice and a functional fence for a cat spoils the appearance they might think. But the picture above indicates they may have misconceptions.
Invisible Electric Cat Fences
One potential solution is the electric fence. This is like the cattle fences that give animals a mild electric shock thereby keeping them in.
The electric fence that I fitted for my mother was one that you bury in the ground or run it above ground but hidden in shrubs and at the back of flower beds etc. This makes it invisible to the naked eye. It can even be run along fences. In fact it is probably sensible to run the cable along the top of an existing fence. Although that might cause injury to the cat.
The cable is plugged into a mains electrical socket in the garage and the voltage or amperage (the amount of amps) is adjusted so that a mild electric shock is applied to the cat as he approaches the wire. This is applied to the cat as the cat wears a collar that receives the electrical charge. An audible warning is also sounded.
There is a lot of merit to such a system. They are invisible first and foremost. They are simple to install. I fitted my mother’s device in about three hours. Installation is very straightforward and they are relatively inexpensive.
Do they work? Well, not really in my experience. The first problem is that on an emotional level it is difficult for a cat lover to accept that her cat is going to receive an electric shock no matter how mild. The device is built around a form of punishment it seems to me. I guess it trains the cat and eventually he stays away from the perimeter of the garden and therefore no longer receives an electric shock. That said the basic concept does not fit in with good cat caretaking.
Secondly, depending on the individual cat, a cat will ignore the shock or get used to it and get out. If that happens even once, the device is a failure because it has to be 100% successful to provide peace of mind for the cat’s caretaker and safety to the cat.
My conclusion is that the electric cat fences are not a great product and reluctantly I would not recommend them.
Easy Install Cat Fence
I prefer the easy to install wire-type cat fence. This is a standard sort of fence but lightweight and designed to be an effective barrier to the athletic cat. They can be integrated into existing fences. Standard human fences are of course not going to stop a cat getting out.
I like this American product: Purr…fect Fence. You can also buy it in the UK. It looks really well thought out and effective.
This fence is more flexible than the usual rigid wooden fence. The flexibility combined with an overhang makes it effective. I would hope that it is effective for all domestic cats, even the most athletic.
Of course this sort of cat fence does not have to go around the entire garden. It could be installed to create an enclosure extension to the house with access via a cat flap.
Attachment to Existing Fence
Another way to stop a cat getting out is to attach an wire fence overhang to an existing wooden fence or brick wall. This seems to be very effective. Although you’ll need to have a fully enclosed yard or garden in the first place. And that means no gaps anywhere. For this reason I would personally prefer a new fully installed specialist cat fence.
Purr..fect fence also do adapters to existing fences.
Trees near fences are a problem! Or indeed any structure near the perimeter of a garden which allows the cat to get over the fence by first climbing the tree. This must be a consideration in making the cat fence 100% successful. You can fit barriers on trees to stop the cat climbing the tree.
If I move to a new home, which might be a house in the country, I would definitely fit a cat fence like the Purr…fect fence. Knowing that my cat was safe while doing what he likes best would be a big improvement to my life and well worth the expense.