Why Don’t Americans Build Cat Gardens?

This is a simple question. Nothing clever. There are no underhand intentions here. I just want to know why, in a land of space and relatively low house prices for an industrialized country, there are very, very few cat gardens when something approaching half the population keep a cat or cats.

By “cat garden” I mean a cat enclosure. As I said, this is just a question but I’d bet I get very few responses. The reason why I am back onto this well discussed subject is because Sir Patrick Moore had a cat garden. He was smart, kind and he loved cats – a lot. He has a chapter about his cat garden in his book “Miaow!”. The enclosure was built by him for his two cats Jeannie and Ptolemy.

Sir Patrick's book Miaow!
Sir Patrick’s book Miaow! My cat Charlie holds the page open and washes at the same time.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

There are very few cat enclosures in Britain too. There is less space in Britain and smaller gardens or no gardens but there is still the possibility to build a cat enclosure.

If Sir Patrick recommended them I happy take his advice. Not that I have to because I have promoted this topic for years on PoC. I live in an apartment so I can’t build an enclosure. I have a garden but it is a communal garden. I have no right to build an enclosure on it.

I know that in suburban America a lot of homes are detached and a lot of gardens are fairly large. A good sized cat enclosure is a distinct possibility and very workable. But….almost none exist. Why do Americans prefer to keep their cats inside rather than give them some safe space outside?

There are many dangers facing the domestic cat outside. In the UK the dangers include; traffic, dogs, poisons and infectious diseases. Giving cats a large enclosed garden eliminates these dangers. A cat can get some sunlight and some weather on their backs and smell the big outdoors, be stimulated and all in safely. A good enclosure will cure a lot of what I call “grey illnesses” caused by boredom and stress. These are uncategorized or undiagnosed illnesses. What is the big objection to them by Americans when there is oodles of space.

Domestic cats have a natural urge to wander over a space much larger than a home. But if allowed to wander they face health risks because they have lost the skills to survive and in any case it is dangerous out there. Most dangers for cats are human created.

If I had a chance I would jump at the opportunity to build a cat garden. They are relatively cheap and provide peace of mind for the cat owner and safety and stimulation for the cat.

What is the barrier to building one in America? Answers on a postcard…or a comment.

23 thoughts on “Why Don’t Americans Build Cat Gardens?”

  1. I think Ruth’s point about extremes is probably the most valid and true when it comes to those who can build one if they want to. Either they dont because its not enough freedom or they dont because its too much freedom.

    Reply
    • The thing is this. In the background America has this unshakable problem of the mass slaughter of stray cats at shelters; something between 2 and 8 million cats per year. We don’t know the number. No one is counting. I would bet my bottom dollar that if everyone who could build a cat garden built one the figure would drop dramatically. Cat gardens would save lives and stop people like Woodsman shooting cats at will for their amusement. And stop people poisoning cats that stray onto their land. Cat gardens would also improve the image of the cat because people who dislike the cat would no longer equate the domestic cat as a nuisance and cat owners as irresponsible. There are lots of positives to the cat garden in a less than perfect world.

      Reply
      • Michael is correct in assuming cats are not a priority in the USA; neither are dogs, but some states are getting better. Massachusetts recently passed several animal welfare laws: De-vocalization is banned; Restraining orders extend to pets; Animal abuse is now a felony/special circumstances apply if animal fighting is involved. Declawing, although still allowed, is on the decline as people are being educated as to what’s involved (I give a special crash course to potential adopters-pretty graphic too. They thank me afterward for opening their eyes.)

        Quincy (my city) has become pretty pro-adoption over the years, changing the high-kill pound to our no-kill shelter. That being said, we’re still straddled in too much red tape.

        The USA was founded on freedoms, but over the decades, the population has exploded and the landmass has shrunk. Local government has taken over from the federal and in order to make their budget to sustain the population, all kinds of laws are passed and fines assessed. Then there are the insurance liabilities assessed to apartment building owners.

        Michael, the numbers of euthanized/killed animals in pounds/shelters is readily available. By law, all facilities that put animals down are required to keep reports. That’s part of how department budgets are determined. The problem is twofold – one, there is no US database to connect every facility with the data and, two, it won’t include animals killed outside of shelters or puppy/kitty mills or show animals who are killed for not being good enough.

        Unless the Catio is a temporary, knock-down type so it’s not bound by building codes, people won’t invest the money in added taxes. Renters are forbidden by statute and foster parents most likely already have one if they own their home (foster approval process includes home inspection for suitability).

        Reply
        • Thanks for a full comment Gail. A cat enclosure is just wood and chicken wire. It could be 30 x 40 feet. It is not a big deal of a structure. It could be built by a house owner. Do people need planning permission for this sort of thing?

          Massachusetts is one of the enlightened states I feel. I’ll be honest, across the USA and depending on state and local regulations, I don’t think planning or regulations stop people building cat enclosures it is more to do with a lack of motivation. The cat is low priority. People accept cat killing in the millions.

          Reply
          • Unless laws have changed recently, if the enclosure is only chicken wire over a wood/metal frame and is not permanently affixed (changing the structural integrity) to the building, no permit is needed. The building codes I refer to are for some of the more elaborate catios we’ve all seen. If a catio is built like an extra room, it’s subject to restriction. If, however, someone changed an existing sunroom to a catio, no permits are needed providing the actual structure remains. Adding shelving, cat lifts, etc. doesn’t apply.

            Apartment dwellers, if they have the room, can create an indoor garden with shelving and indoor cat lifts providing they are free-standing and don’t alter the interior of the unit. Lots of windows for light (with cat-proof screens) and growing fresh catnip placed strategically can help alleviate stress.

            Reply

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