Being a pet parent is tough! There are so many options out there for everything pet related that the decisions we have to make on behalf of our pets can sometimes feel endless. But the one thing pet owners can all agree on is that safety for their pets is important, and so is access to the outdoors for nearly all animals, including cats. Many cat parents commonly search for ways to cat-proof their yard so their feline family members can spend time safely outdoors - Because why should dogs get to have all the fun!?
The good news is that there are several outdoor containment options available specifically for cats. There are a lot of factors to consider when determining which type of cat-proof solution will work best for your cat, and most cat fence containment systems will fail to work reliably on all cats. The important thing to keep in mind when deciding which option will work best for you is not necessarily, “Does the system work for all cats?” but rather, “Does it work for MY cat?” One option that is commonly considered as a cat-proof fence solution is a roller system.
Fence roller systems were initially designed and used to prevent large predator animals like coyotes and dingos from climbing over a fence, which is why you may often see DIY cat fence rollers also called “coyote rollers.” Coyotes are anatomically similar to dogs, so the way in which they scale fencing is quite similar. They tend to jump up and use their forward momentum to advance up the fence. When they reach the top, they can use their front paws to grab the fence and their back paws to push themselves over. With rollers installed at the top of the fence, the coyote cannot grab a hold of the fence, and therefore, cannot climb over.
Cats, on the other hand, have very different abilities, as they are able to stop their forward momentum and hold on to many surfaces with their claws before continuing their climb. This allows them to pause and search for the “path of least resistance” as they approach the top of the fence, calculating their next move. Many cat-proof fence roller systems have been adapted from the original coyote rollers with this in mind, and now there are several options available exclusively for use with cats.
Cat proof fence rollers, like coyote rollers, feature a long piece of tubing with an inner support that causes the tube to spin when the cat tries to grab a hold of it. Some rollers use smooth outer tubing that is difficult to grip, others have “paddles” that make it difficult for the cat to get a foot-hold. They are installed along the top of a fence, so if your curious cat makes its way up to the top and they try to grab onto the roller, it spins so that they cannot hold onto the top of the fence to climb out. With nothing to grab onto to steady themselves and nowhere to go, they are forced to drop back to the ground below.
When compared to other types of outdoor cat containment systems, cat-proof fence rollers tend to be more expensive, especially for options made with high quality materials. For example, if you have 100 linear feet of existing fence, you can expect to spend approximately $1,000 on a commercially available roller system. Less of course if you choose a DIY solution, but there are often issues with durability and even more issues with effectiveness. However, if you have a smaller space like a fenced patio or porch, it can be a more non-intrusive and budget-friendly option.
Because rollers have been around forat least 20 years for use with wild animals like coyotes, there are several DIY plans and tutorials that use materials that can be found at most hardware stores. Building your own DIY cat fence rollers may be a more cost-effective option, however, it also relies on the use of materials that were not necessarily intended for this type of application. While some have success with a DIY roller system, the use of these types of materials may result in unexpected results and ultimately reduce the effectiveness or durability of homemade rollers.
Image Credit: City of Ipswich
When installed properly on most fence types, reports suggest that commercially available cat-proof fence roller systems tend to have a 80-90% rate of effectiveness for most cats. Cats all have unique personalities and abilities, and while some cats may try to climb over the fence and give up after a few attempts, others might try over and over again until they find a way over and out. Rollers tend to be best suited for cats who are less athletic or persistent. Additional modifications can be made to your existing fence to increase effectiveness for more persistent cats, such as installing spans of polycarbonate material along the top of the fence in addition to the rollers or increasing the overall height of your existing fence. Polycarbonate is a type of clear plastic sheeting that cats are not able to get their claws into, making it even more difficult to scale the fence.
And as with any cat-proof containment system, things like trees, outdoor furniture, and garbage bins should always be moved away from the fence. These types of items are often used as escape aids by persistent cats who are determined to get out of the yard. Moving them a safe distance away from the fence can greatly increase the effectiveness of most cat-proof fence solutions, including rollers. It is also important to keep in mind that the areas most commonly exploited for escape over roller systems are gates, corners, and where existing fencing meets a structure. These areas may require special care when preparing and outfitting your fence with rollers.
Most cat-proof fence rollers have a relatively easy installation process that allows you to get the entire system installed quickly as long as no sections need to be cut to length. For most commercial systems, it’s as simple as securing brackets to your fence and inserting the rollers as you go. Tubing lengths can be cut as needed, but may require additional tools that are not commonly found in garages and home tool boxes. Once installed, rollers made with high quality materials will require very little maintenance to keep them in working condition.
Proponents of cat fence roller systems champion the aesthetic appeal and minimal intrusiveness in comparison to other containment options. They can be installed along the top of your fence without significantly compromising the look of the fence. Some commercially available rollers can even be purchased in a variety of colors to better blend in with your existing fence.
Although cat proof fence rollers have these advantages, it is important to take a look at the potential drawbacks as well. For example, they can only be installed in yards that have an existing fence and are not recommended for fences less than 6 feet tall. Cats have impressive leaping abilities. In fact, research suggests that the average domestic cat canleap vertically up to about 5 feet! This means that when fence height falls below 6 feet, there is an increased chance of escape for cats to simply jump over the fence - even with a cat-proof roller system installed! Installation heights of at least 6 feet generally force cats to climb in order to attempt escape. Unfortunately, there are no ready-made roller solutions for other common fence heights that fall below 6 feet.
Additionally, cat fence rollers are not always appropriate for all fence types and configurations. There are many areas where a seamless perimeter cannot be achieved. Most commonly, these areas are around gates, corners, and where existing fencing meets a structure. In these particular areas, brackets are required to accommodate splits, turns, and endpoints, respectively. This can leave gaps between the rollers which are left vulnerable to escapes. Particularly for Houdini cats! These intelligent and persistent cats locate and exploit these gaps in order to climb over the fence and out of the yard. In some instances, they may even find that when they reach the top of the fence, they can reach right over the roller and jump out.
It is because of drawbacks like these that Purrfect Fence has not elected to develop a roller system. Our extensive multi-decade long testing and research shows that a physical barrier solution paired with the collapsible arm extension proves to be far more effective and infinitely more flexible in its application. What the uniquecat fence topper lacks in aesthetics, it more than makes up for in ease of installation and the safety of your beloved pets. Consider exploring our approach more to keep your cat safe, happy, and healthy outdoors!