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Cat-Proof Fence Options: DIY vs. Commercial

8 min read

Cat fence supplies

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” solutions. With a quick Google search on “how to cat-proof your backyard,” you will find multiple products claiming to offer cat-proof fencing as well as several DIY cat-proof fence 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 containment solution and the capabilities and motivations of the cats being contained. For example, we can safely say that a five-foot chain link fence would contain most humans over 70 years old and children seven 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 five-foot chain link fence would also contain humans of any age and ability who did not feel motivated to climb out. In the same way that a five-foot fence is successful at containing SOME people, many versions of cat-proof fencing will contain SOME cats.

If you’re looking into how to cat-proof your backyard, let’s consider the ways you can create your very own DIY 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 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 DIY cat-proof fence system or build a brand new fence from specialty cat fence components. We will review each below.

Modify an Existing Fence with a Cat-Proof Fence Topper

Cat fence with topper

When looking into how to cat-proof your backyard, remember that there are two general categories of cat-proof fences: ones added to the top of existing fences and ones 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 DIY cat-proof fence ideas are essentially repurposing a shelf bracket or acting 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 and 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. It is likely to work well for cats incapable or inclined to go the extra step of reaching out to the edge of that netting and pulling themselves up and over. Most shelf brackets are not intended for outdoor use and decompose relatively quickly, posing other problems.

Some DIY cat-proof fence tutorials that show you how to cat-proof your backyard get more creative, like this one. These tutorials do 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 remarkable! Yet, in our 15 years of experience keeping 50,000+ cats safe outside, we know this setup will certainly fail to contain a significant portion of cats.

A wooden fence with green netting

If you have cats that already go out, are not super concerned about containing them, 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 cat-proof fence system may a good answer for you.

If you’re wondering how to cat-proof your backyard without utilizing DIY methods, consider using commercially available fence topper systems for cat containment instead. Most of those are at least somewhat better than the DIY cat-proof fence options because they are more purpose-built for adapting to different 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 providing none to putting together complete custom proposals, including trouble-shooting problem areas, so customers know what they need and how to apply it (as Purrfect Fence does).

Learn More about Purrfect Fence Existing Fence Conversion System

Modify an Existing Fence with a Cat-Proof Fence Roller

A cat fence roller

Cat fence top rollers are repurposed “coyote rollers.” Coyote rollers are cylinders (like a length of pipe) that are 1.5-3 inches in diameter. They are placed 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 its claws into or clamber over the top of the fence. Instead of a solid top of the fence, it encounters something it cannot grip that spins. It loses its momentum and falls.

DIY cat-proof fence roller online instructions do exist, but the 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 of 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 are made to work better with cats. If you’re interested in how to cat-proof your backyard, keep in mind that all commercially available roller tops for cats are more expensive than traditional fence topper systems and the specialty ones are exceedingly so.

DIY and commercial cat-proof fence coyote rollers work decently well for coyotes and other canines since they rely entirely 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 its claws. A motivated cat can learn to reach over the spinning bar or even use it to roll itself over.

Its success is determined by the abilities and determination level of the cats being contained. As one of the more costly options, roller bars may not be a financially wise solution for some people. We work with customers often that have previously installed these types of deterrents only to find they did not work well for their cats.

Creating a Cat-Proof Fence from the Ground Up

A cat fence in a yard

This is what you are looking at if you do not have a fence at all or your existing fence is not appropriate to be cat-proof for one reason or another. There are a lot fewer DIY cat-proof fence 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.

When looking into how to cat-proof your backyard, remember that a lot of inexpensive DIY cat-proof fence options 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 mainly designed around ease of installation by a handy homeowner, making the cat-proof fence an easy DIY project. In many ways, the vertical/traditional fence portions of these different offerings are relatively similar.

The distinctions come primarily with the cat-proofing top. That is not to say 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.

Learn More about Purrfect Fence Freestanding Cat Fence System

What to Consider When Deciding How to Cat-Proof Your Backyard

A cat sniffing a flower

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 a DIY cat-proof fence option, including hardware and 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, such as do you want to put up a traditional fence (DIY or contractor installed) or 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) instead of a DIY cat-proof fence, you will need to consider your needs and expectations in making that choice. If your fence topper needs are simple (let us say a six-foot tall wood privacy fence with no trees, sheds, etc. near the fence), 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 when deciding how to cat-proof your backyard.

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 rather than a DIY cat-proof fence. 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).

Let Purrfect Fence Help You Choose the Perfect Containment System for Your Cat

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, the UK, Europe, Australia, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and South Africa for building the world's most effective and durable cat containment solutions.

Not only do we have the most advanced and effective systems, but we also work with our customers at a level that no one else does to determine the best DIY cat-proof fence 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, comfort, and collective enjoyment are the most important aspects of the cat-proofing process.

If you’re trying to figure out how to cat-proof your backyard, please call, email, or chat with us online to find out why we’re the leader in keeping cats safe and happy outdoors! Our planning engineers will be happy to assist you in creating the enclosure of your cat’s dreams!