Have you ever wondered how your cat can do all the things it does? Have you found it on top of your fridge or high cabinets and wondered how and why? House (domestic) cats are felines related to leopards, bobcats, cougars, tigers, etc., and the cat family contains some of the most formidable predators on land.
Unlike canines (wolves, coyotes, dogs, etc.) that hunt in packs, cats, with few exceptions, do it on their own. Pound for pound, cats are superior predators to canines, and that is due to their physical abilities, which, in turn, are due to their physical attributes. Cats can maneuver and conform their bodies much differently than dogs. Their limbs' ability to articulate makes them superior climbers, making it difficult to stop your cat from jumping over your fence.
Other feline attributes, such as very flexible spines, strong muscles, and flexible joints, give them excellent balance and jumping abilities, as well as an impressive range of motion. Further to that, they have a peculiar trait known as righting reflex, which is a reflex that corrects the orientation of the body when it is taken out of its normal upright position. This trait allows them to take risks other animals would not attempt. It could even help your cat become a pro at jumping your fence. Cats always land on their feet, and now we know why – the righting reflex.
It’s no wonder that it’s difficult to stop a cat from jumping over a fence. Your kitty, a domestic cat, known as Felis catus, evolved from the Near East wildcat, Felis silvestris lybica. The Near East wildcat, a subspecies of the African wildcat, is primarily nocturnal and solitary, and it hunts small game, including rodents, lizards, birds, and insects.
Its hunting technique is to stalk and pounce. Although some live in areas with few trees, they are adept at climbing and do so to hunt and escape predators. A domestic cat’s physical attributes and capabilities do not vary much from those of its wild ancestors. The physical characteristics of their wild cousins are alive and well in the house cat (but you already know that if you can’t stop your cat from jumping over your fence).
The stalk and pounce is something everyone with a domestic cat is very familiar with (that’s super cute when playing), which is an obvious carryover from their wild origins. But the jumping and climbing attributes make containing domestic cats such a challenge, as most traditional fences can be scaled pretty easily by a cat jumping or climbing the fence.
The only fence types that challenge most cats are vinyl privacy fences since a cat's claws do not sink into them for climbing. Also, tall estate-type fences with metal pickets spaced only two inches apart tend to deter some climbing.
Securing an existing fence a cat cannot easily beat will always take adding something to the top (and not just any something) that the cat cannot climb around. The addition added to the top must also be high enough to stop your cat from jumping over the fence.
Although cats will go right over easy-to-scale fences, going under or right through gaps is a natural second option. Cats can manipulate their bodies to fit under and into the tightest of spaces. Essentially, if there is enough clearance to fit their skulls, a cat will likely fit. A serious analysis of gaps or spaces within or under your fence and gates needs to be made.
Although not the best diggers, they will work the ground under a fence to make a bit more room to squeeze out, so any space between the bottom of a fence and the ground needs to be analyzed. In addition to trying to stop your cat from jumping over a fence, you need to make sure the cat can’t squeeze or dig under gates and other breaks in the fence line where the fence ends at the house or where two different fences come together.
In a perfect world, the only focus would be on the cat-proof fence and how to stop your cat from jumping the fence. However, there are many other considerations than just a cat-proof fence. Cat-proofing is a dynamic science. To do it thoroughly and properly, you must do your best to think like a cat. Consider the items in your yard that can be used for escape and systematically work to mitigate their use for escape. Doing so can help you stop your cat from jumping the fence.
The configuration of your yard, the proximity of your home, garage, or buildings to the fence, and items near the fence, such as grills, AC units, benches, trees, or bushes, all create possible ways for a cat to escape. We could go on for days with all the things we have seen in the past 20 years. But below, we will review the most common things to look out for.
Trees are a very common issue that needs to be considered because cats can climb trees. Although much less common (at least inside fenced backyards), utility poles are also something cats can climb. If your feline can climb a tree that’s near the fence, it will be difficult to stop your cat from jumping the fence. Many trees and cat-proofing solutions depend on the tree type and proximity to the fence or building. Thinking like a cat looking to get out is key in determining if your trees are a possible route for escape.
The question you are looking to answer is: if the cat climbs this tree, do you have to worry about the cat climbing or jumping onto the fence topper, a roof, or anything else that could then allow the cat to make its way towards an exit point that circumvents the cat-proof fence? Trees away from a building or the fence, with branches that do not reach near the fence or buildings, are usually not of much concern. This means that all other trees are likely worth looking closer at to ensure you can stop your cat from jumping the fence.
Anything that can boost a cat up to jump to higher things (think roofs or the top of the fence topper) can lead to escape. Thinking like a cat is always key to evaluating your backyard structures.
If a cat can get onto some existing structure in your backyard, where can it go from there? Cats can jump up to five feet (some a bit more) and climb things they can dig their claws into, hook their claws into, or paws around. As long as your cat can use a structure as a stepping stone, it may be difficult to stop your cat from jumping the fence. Any structure in your backyard needs to be thoroughly evaluated.
These are things necessary to the functions/systems of your house that were placed where they were put with no thought to a future cat enclosure. AC units are big and obvious and can assist a cat in jumping a fence. If a cat can get itself past the fact that they blow air out the top and make noise (at least when operating), it can jump onto them and then jump onto other nearby things. Those things could be the top of the fence topper, a nearby shed roof, a low house roof, etc.
Although low profile, small and inconspicuous to us, a utility box, gas meter, etc., mounted to your house are things a cat can easily jump on. If your cat can make its way onto one of these outdoor items, you may not be able to stop your cat from jumping the fence.
Cats can jump onto window sills. If the window sill is near something a cat can jump to, that will aid in its escape. Windows like this will usually need to be addressed.
Cats can also climb screens. Screens on a window, even those without a space to jump from (window sill), may have a screen the cat can jump to and climb, thus aiding a cat in jumping a fence. If it can reach something else from that screen, especially the top of your fence topper, it could use it to escape.
Another screen issue is when fences end against a screened-in room. This is not an ideal situation because cats can climb screens. If a screen room is the only place a fence can end, there may be options to stop your cat from jumping the fence, depending on the exact circumstances.
Some buildings themselves are something a cat can climb. A determined cat can climb wood sidings, such as that from cedar and log homes. A very determined cat can climb very textured stucco and brick, especially light cats.
Depending on your cat and the outside surface of the building, more may need to be done to where a topper system ends against a house or the building surface itself to make sure your cat does not use the building to make an escape attempt, such as jumping the fence, easier.
We are not suggesting you have to do any of these things or all of these things. The goal of this article is to help better inform you of the many preventable ways cats can escape a yard. We want to assist you with more than just fencing. We want to help you make sure YOUR cat or cats are safe by informing you how to stop your cat from jumping your fence.
At Purrfect Fence, we offer much more than just the world’s most effective cat containment systems. If you are interested, we work with you individually to assess your enclosure space, identify potential problems, and holistically offer advice on how to best handle the challenge of keeping your cats from going over your fence.
We take whatever time and effort are necessary to identify every possible problem and its solutions. Reach out to us by phone, email, or chat to start a conversation about creating a safe outdoor space for your cats that you can truly feel confident about!