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.
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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.
This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something which helped
me. Thanks a lot!
Ruth, you and I agree that humans are bad, but I cannot picture any future, however distant, in which they get any better. If anything we’re constantly devolving, not evolving, at least in a moral sense. Even if humans stop abusing animals, they will just abuse other humans more. All the education in the world can only make a few people do a little better in certain areas for a little while, but it can’t change the system of things in this world ruined by man’s rebellion. My only explanation that we are still here at all and have not destroyed ourselves yet is that we have a merciful God who for some inexplicable reason loves us. A lot of people who visit this site would say that doesn’t make sense, but humanity doesn’t make sense to me. Nowhere is the true condition of the human heart brought to light better than in the way man treats animals. There’s something just wrong there, wrong with us. And the truth is, the more I try to live in a better way, the more I find I just can’t do it. I’ve known nuns who felt they were not truly good people. But if you made of list of all their good works, the things they had done to help make this world a better place and all they had denied themselves in order to better serve others, you’d think if anyone deserved God’s love it was them. But they were quick to point out that it’s not until you really start to try to do better that you realize how messed up you really are. When I start to feel pretty good about myself, I realize I’m probably not trying very hard to do the right things and just living as if my god is my belly, like so much of humanity. There’s a lot more I could be doing to help animals and other people, but I just get lazy and it’s easier to turn on the tv and grab a snack. Monty makes me do a little bit better because I love him so I get off my butt and take him outside even when I don’t feel like it. I guess he’s in my life so that my heart doesn’t grow too cold, so that I continue to learn about love. Sure, we learn through human relationships, but in reality, all those other humans are as screwed up as we are. Monty isn’t messed up because he’s not human. He’s naturally good and just as he was intended to be, completely natural in all his actions. There’s a great deal to be learned from our animal companions. God uses animals to provide object lessons for us. The animals can be our teachers, and I think that’s a good way to look at it, rather than the usual perspective of always trying to put humans on top as superior to the animals. I don’t think it’s non-Christian to see it that way, I think it’s actually very Christ like, because it imitates His humility. He told so many stories of the shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. Yes, he ultimately meant Himself, but why use that analogy unless He was also teaching us something about what it means to care for others? It is significant that He used animals as the “others” in His example. To me that also says that anyone who loses his pet and grieves, that grief is known to God and it’s as real to Him as any other grief and He sympathizes with it. He’s there with us when we love our pets enough to be willing to die before we’d let them be hurt, because he used exactly that example of a human/animal relationship when teaching His disciples.
In talking about fences the good shepherd stories are also great examples because the sheep pens back then didn’t have a gate or door. The shepherd would sleep in the doorway to the pen, so that he was forming the barrier keeping the sheep in and the wild animals out. He became like a human fence, and in the end, that is the best. There is so no substitute, if you truly love your furry friend, for being out there with him protecting him yourself.
It puzzles me what sort of mentality the people who invent these things have. It seems they think it’s acceptable to cause animals fear and pain to force them to do what humans want them to do.
I don’t think this earth was supposed to be that way with humans having so much power and getting away with abusing animals, birds and fish.
If humans are still around in the long distant future they will be horrified at how what some people see now as ‘lesser beings’ are abused in every way you can ever imagine.
Electric fences have been used to contain cattle for years. My grandma didn’t have them, but another farm I spent a lot of time at as a kid did have them. Ever touch one? That really hurts. It has to or it wouldn’t work. It couldn’t be a gentle shock to the cat. It would have to hurt to be effective.
If you grab your friend’s hand and then touch the electric fence your friend will get the shock, but he will probably not be your friend anymore. Some kids I know would do that to the dog, but I never did it to anyone, human or animal.
My blood runs cold to read of electric fences,how very cruel that is.
To knowingly set up a device and then put a collar on a cat that will give them a shock is in my opinion abuse.I cant imagine anyone letting their cat out knowing he or she is sure to approach that cruel fence at some point and that they will be scared and shocked every time they do until they learn to stay within bounds.
How does anyone know what a shock does to a cats body and brain? They dont know and the cat cant tell them.
My God if I had my way Id be banning all cruel things and punishing the people who used them with a few electric shocks themselves to let them see how it feels.
Well said Rose. I think you are correct. It is interesting that when I set up my mother’s electric fence it was about 20 years ago and at that time I was unaware and insensitive to the cruelty in an electric fence. Now I feel I am cat educated big time. This serves to show that good cat caretaking is, as Ruth often says, about education. Thanks for the comment.
I think the type of American’s that have cats instead of kids, lot’s of free income and love their pets enough to want them to enjoy their back yard would do the fence add-on in a heartbeat. I agree, the other electric fence is cruel.
i didn’t even know they made electric collars for cats! i know they make them for dogs i think electric collars are cruel to the naked eye cats bodies are much smaller than a dog and i believe if you put one on a cat that it can cause harm to the body if people aren’t careful i totally go against electric collars 100% i think its un humane to put a electric collar on an animal
I’ve thought about adding those tops to our fence around the back yard. Trees aren’t a problem if you put chicken wire around them or an inverted wire cone about six feet up. We’ve made a couple trees off limits to Monty. But though he could climb the fence, even the seven foot chain link fence we installed between the garage and the house, he just doesn’t. He climbs trees and looks over the fence. I always wait for him to try jumping into a neighbor’s yard, but he doesn’t do it. Once Monty was upset with me– I think I tried to put his leash in him. It was summer and there is lots of vegetation back there and he was effectively hiding from me in it, to the point that I thought he had climbed the fence. I went in neighbors’s yards on all sides searching for any sign of him, getting quite frantic. I silently approached our yard from outside the chain link fence and there was Monty happily playing in plain view in his own yard. He saw me and darted into the bushes. So I knew then that he had been avoiding me, probably sneaking around behind me while I searched the underbrush, constantly switching locations so that it seemed he was– nowhere. I had to go through the house to access our yard (one thing I like about Monty’s fence– the added security) and I surprised him again and caught him. He really was hiding on me. He won’t run away. But he’ll make me think he did.
I always think it’s funny that for such a vocal little cat, he’ll go completely silent if I lose sight of him. He will come out but be silent, standing right behind me while I’m calling him. I always think he likes making me look like the fool, calling a cat who’s sitting right behind me. All this could be avoided if I went back to leash and harness, but I like to give him a little more freedom than that, and this way I can do other things while I’m out there with him. There’s a risk, but not as much as if he were totally unsupervised out there. He does have a very good track record of staying in the yard. Even a better fence would not make him more safe without supervision. There was the bee eating incident where he nearly died. I wasn’t quick enough to prevent it, but at least I knew about it. I have prevented him from eating multiple beetles which could have caused him problems. And there are crows that give him a hard time out there also. No fence is a total substitute for supervision, so long as there are insects and other wildlife that can get into the cat’s enclosure. This may be why people more often go with a more enclosed catio, leash and harness or just keep the cat in. Supervising the cat outside is a lot of work.
I think you have a nice balance. It is a sensible system. Monty is 95% safe it seems to me – a very good level. It seems that some cats are more inclined to wander far afield. I like 100% certainties if I can get them. Also you have been at your home for a good time. You know neighbors I would have thought. If I moved I would fit this fence because it would not only give Charlie safety but prevent potential neighbor disputes. There are quite a few people in Britain who hate cats just like in America. Poison is probably the most common way of killing a neighbors cat in England.
We have a vacant house on one side, an apartment building beyond that. Three beautiful, big dogs live there. Their human takes them outside frequently, like I do with Monty. They are obviously well cared for. Behind our yard live the people with the super immaculate yard. They are constantly gardening and planting. Monty watches them through the fence. They remind me of my parents, always working around the house or the yard. They don’t seem the type to cause any harm to someone else’s pet. Oscar, the little dog, moved away, but the new neighbors seem nice. They have kids. Beyond them are Dick and Kitty. They love cats, but won’t get another one, since their cat recently passed away. There isn’t anyone close by that I would suspect of trying to harm Monty, but I still watch him out there, because you just never know. At least his yard is well back from the road. A bunch of yards come together back there, so even if he got out he wouldn’t be coming out right into a busy street, but into more grass, trees and bushes, which I would think would keep him interested and sniffing long enough for me to find him before he got near the road. Car traffic is probably the biggest danger to cats. Their claws are no defense against the wheels of a car barreling down on them. Dick and Kitty let their cat roam freely and she lived to be 18 despite the fact that she crossed roads– but that can’t be the norm. I would never let Monty roam like that.
I think elecrtic fences, like electric collars, are very cruel, they punish the animal for doing what comes naturally. A cat naturally wants his freedom just as a dog naturally wants to bark.
I feel sad for cats being given a shock no matter how mild, through a collar, collars on cats are un-natural to begin with, cats are free spirits and ask any cat if he’d rather take the chance of living a full life with its risks or be ‘broken’ by shocks into staying safe….. I think we know the answer to that. Yes cats have to be confined in dangerous places because of this cruel world and anyone living in those places who says they can’t afford a cat proof fence or who can’t be bothered to accompany the cat outside like Monty’s mom does, obviously shouldn’t have a cat. I despair that many cats are punished for wanting to be a cat and doing the things cats enjoy, because of fate decreeing who they live with.
ALL electric punishments should be BANNED, as should scat mats and anything else which frightens and punishes a bewildered cat.
How much more can cats have taken from them? Freedom! Claws!