Cat-Proof fencing has become a popular concept in recent years. Ironically, it is often applied to things that are in no way “cat-proof”. A quick Google search and you will find multiple products claiming to offer cat-proof fencing as well as several DIY tutorials on how to make your own from materials you can purchase from your local home improvement store. Regardless of the implementation, it ALL works SOMETIMES. The level of success you will have is directly related to the capabilities and motivations of the cats being contained. For example, we can safely say that a 5ft chain link fence would contain most humans over 70 years old and also children 7 years and younger. Yet there are certainly some of both age groups that could get over if they really wanted or needed to but most would not be capable nor interested. A 5ft chain link fence would also contain humans of any age and ability that did not feel all that motivated to climb out. In the same way that a 5ft fence is successful at containing SOME people, many versions of what is called cat-proof fencing will contain SOME cats.
Let's consider the ways you can create your very own cat proof fence. If you happen to have an existing fence made from wood, chain link, vinyl, block, metal, or brick you may choose to modify it to make it cat-proof. If you do not have any fencing currently or you choose not to use it for reasons such as it is in disrepair, it is a shared fence with a neighbor, or it is in close proximity to yard items that make it hard to cat proof (such as AC units, bushes, grills, furniture, etc.) you might choose to build a new traditional fence then modify it with a cat fence system or just build a brand new fence from specialty cat fence components. We will review each below.
There are two general categories of cat-proof fence; ones that are added to the top of existing fences and ones that are built from the ground up. The option of outfitting a fence that already exists in your yard is the more crowded category with many commercially available products as well as several “home remedy” DIY ideas presented online. Many of the DIY ideas are essentially repurposing a shelf bracket or similar to act as a short horizontal extension to the top of a fence post. Some use small flag pole holders and dowels. Others, such as Purrfect Fence use a patented & custom engineered spring loaded arm purpose-built to offset the abilities and weight of a cat. A series of these are placed on fence posts of an existing fence and chicken wire or plastic netting gets stretched between these brackets. As mentioned earlier, these can work for some cats. For cats that are not capable or inclined to go the extra step of reaching out to the edge of that netting and pulling themselves up and over it is likely to work well. Most shelf brackets were not intended for outdoor use and will decompose relatively quickly which poses other problems.
Some DIY tutorials get more creative like this one. These tutorials tend to not address possible problem areas, trees, gates etc. In fact, the main picture (edited below) shows a raised planter right next to the fence a cat could easily use to jump over the cat topper. This is not to say it won't work for some cats. Actually, we find the work this Do-it-yourselfer did to be quite wonderful! Yet, in our 15 years of experience keeping 50,000+ cats safe outside we know with certainty this setup will fail to contain a significant portion of cats.
Photo Credit: Jabberwocky246
If you have cats that are already going out, are not super concerned about containing them, you are somewhat handy, have a lot of time for experimentation (trial and error) and understand that you may end up redoing your efforts more than once to get it to work, a DIY system may a good answer for you.
There are also commercially available fence topper systems for cat containment. Most of those are at least somewhat better than the DIY in that they are more purpose-built for adapting to different types of fences and meant for outdoor exposure. These products also offer varying degrees of installation instructions. That said, this market runs the gambit on things such as strength, adaptability, and effectiveness. The companies that sell the products also offer varying degrees of product support from none at all to putting together complete custom proposals including trouble-shooting problem areas so a customer knows what they need and how to apply it (as Purrfect Fence does.)
Cat fence top rollers are repurposed “coyote rollers”. Coyote rollers are cylinders (like a length of pipe) 1.5-3” in diameter that is set just above the fence and spin. For comparison, think of running on a log in the water. An animal jumps up and tries to dig their claws into or clamber over the top of the fence. Instead of a solid top of the fence, they encounter something they cannot grip that spins. They lose their momentum and fall. DIY online instructions do exist but ones using them are subject to the experimentation/ trial and error process as well as the most basic of instructions. The commercially available rollers are less visible than standard cat fence topper systems. There are even a couple commercially produced variations including a type that is offset to the inside of the fence and one made with a bigger diameter having fins instead of a solid cylinder both made for the purpose of working better with cats. All commercially available roller tops for cats are more expensive than traditional fence topper systems and the specialty ones are exceedingly so.
Coyote rollers work decently well for coyote and other canines since they completely rely on their upward momentum to clear the top of a fence. Cats, however, have different capabilities. A cat can climb up a fence and stop, hanging there by their claws. A motivated cat can learn to reach over the spinning bar or even use it to roll themselves over. Its success is determined by the abilities and determination level of the cats being contained. As one of the more costly options, we work with customers often that have previously installed these types of deterrents only to find they did not work well for their cats.
This is what you are looking at if you do not have a fence at all or your existing fence is not appropriate to cat proof for one reason or another. There are a lot less DIY options for this. All cat containment methods rely on the cat not being able to jump right over it. The “cat-proofing” part must be high enough that the cat cannot clear it with a jump. This requires a vertical component. So cat proof fences from the ground up require a fence system with a cat proofing method added to or incorporated into the top. A lot of inexpensive DIY fences do not offer the needed height or stability to add something to the top that will be stable over time. If they do, they really are just traditional fences that someone put up themselves instead of hiring a contractor in which case you are back to cat-proofing an existing fence (see above). There are a handful of companies that offer “cat proof” ground up fencing kits. These are mostly novel traditional fence bottoms with a cat proofing component at the top. The novel part is that they were mostly designed around ease of installation by a handy homeowner. In many ways, the vertical/traditional fence portions of these different offerings are relatively similar. The distinctions come mostly with the cat-proofing top. That is not to say that they are all the same except for the top. Some have put more thought and better materials into the lower portion of the fences. That said, the tops are the true differentiator when only considering containing cats.
This is a complex question that must take several factors into consideration. Factors include your setting, the capabilities of the cats to be contained, your budget and risk tolerance. If your budget is low and your risk tolerance (the ability to tolerate failure) is high and you have the time for trial and error then DIY with hardware store supplies may be your best option. If your budget is low and risk tolerance is high but you do not have a lot of time then one of the more basic commercially available cat topper systems may be right for you. If you do not have a fence to cat proof, you have additional factors to consider like do you want to put up a traditional fence (DIY or contractor installed) or do I want to use a commercially available ground up cat proof fence system?
If you decide to go the route of purchasing a commercially available cat proof fence product/system (topper only or ground up), you will need to consider your needs and expectations in making that choice. If your fence topper needs are simple (let us say 6ft tall wood privacy fence with no trees, sheds etc. near the fence) and your risk tolerance for failure is high and/or your cats are not very capable or motivated then the most basic topper system may be your best option.
Along those same lines, if you need a ground-up fence and have a very simple layout (rectangle) with no trees and your risk tolerance for failure is high and/or your cats are not very capable or motivated one of the more basic ground-up commercially available systems may be right for you. If your needs are complex, and/or your cats are capable, and/or motivated, and you want a proven system that works in the widest array of scenarios on even the most talented escaping kitties, you really only have one choice (shameless plug shrouded in honesty.)
Purrfect Fence has been the leading innovator and #1 preferred provider of systems for outdoor cat containment since 2004. We hold several patents for our innovations and are regarded in the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and South Africa for building the most effective and durable cat containment solutions in the world. Not only do we have the most advanced and effective systems, we also work with our customers at a level that no one else does to determine the best solution for their situations. We consult with you (and your installer, if hiring one), ask for pictures and diagrams and consider all factors available prior to giving our recommendations. In the process we spell out any special work etc. that falls outside our well-written and detailed instructions. Sometimes that means we say they do not have a viable option for cat-proofing. We may spend hours with a potential customer to reach that conclusion but in the end, the safety of your cats, your comfort, and collective enjoyment are the most important aspect of the cat-proofing process. Please give us a call, send us an email or chat with us online to find out why we are the leader in keeping cats safe and happy outdoors!