I was looking for a predator; how was I supposed to know that she'd act all... predatory?
August 26, 2010 11:51 AM   Subscribe

How the heck do I catproof a deck? (Second-story, somewhat sketchy DIY deck made out of wood with picket-fence railings. Kitten wants to commit suicide.)

Based on the answers from this previous question, I picked out this very cute kitten. She was sick for a few days and couldn't be introduced to the other household residents, but now everyone is getting along OK with each other, so she has the run of the house while we're at work.

We have a second-story wooden deck that is attached to our living room. The deck doesn't have any roof or awning or anything like that. There is a sliding door and a window, both of which open directly onto the deck. There are horizontal railings around the whole deck which go up to about 3-4 feet high, and they are augmented by what looks like wooden picket fence stuff to keep things from falling off the sides. Our dog and our other cat have previously been allowed to access the deck in our absence, weather permitting. (The deck is in the background of the dog picture).

The little cat wants to commit cat suicide by jumping off the deck into the backyard where all the interesting little birds and rabbits are. She is little enough to fit in between the picket fence slats, and she also shows a distressing willingness to jump off the top railing (probably at least a 15-20 foot drop). Without getting into the whole indoor-versus-outdoor cat debate, I'd prefer to keep her in the house; my other cat was raised to be an indoor cat and our outdoor environment is filled with cars, dangerous predators (raccoons/foxes/coyotes/hawks/stray dogs), poison, and crazy people.

I'd like to find a way to screen or otherwise enclose this deck so that the kitten can't hurl herself off of it, but the less-intrepid dog and cat can still enjoy going outside for some fresh air. Bonus points for clever strategies that allow for the top of the deck to somehow be covered, but for the covering to be easily removable when I come home, so that I can also use the deck (bird netting, maybe?). Extra-super-bonus points for cheap and easy-to-remove overall methods (we don't have a huge amount of money, and we rent our house).

(If it helps and/or is relevant, My husband and I have decent skills in minor household projects, but we aren't contractors or anything. We have some power tools and we aren't afraid to use them.)
posted by kataclysm to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Without seeing the deck, what I would probably do is get a roll of chicken wire from Menards or Home Depot or some such, and secure it to the railing with some zipties.

It'll look like crap, kinda sorta, but be cheap and easy to put up and to remove once the cat gets bigger and smarter.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:02 PM on August 26, 2010

Little kitten will want to jump off this balcony for many many months. Maybe years.

The good news is your kitten probably wouldn't die if she fell. You don't want to know how I know this, trust me.

Keep the kitten inside for the foreseeable future. Revisit the issue when he/she is older.

(Basically, your kitten really really really wants to test boundaries and follow its instincts as it grows. Nature designed this creature to be a successful hunter, jumper and climber. You can not overcome this obstacle with a DIY home project. Adjust your expectations, decisions and actions accordingly.)
posted by jbenben at 12:05 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Came here to say 'chicken wire!', instead seconding the idea. Or just use plain window screen.

Also, there's a kind of fabric I don't know the 'real' name for -- some apartment complexes use it for shade.
posted by Heretical at 12:06 PM on August 26, 2010

Hmm, I'm in a similar situation with my new kitty (so sorry no photos). Older kitty is very sensible, but I'm wondering if the new guy is going to want to lunge off the second floor deck to attack squirrels and whatnot. My thought for my deck was to line the picket-style railings with chicken wire (pretty cheap at the hardware store). You could fasten it to the rails with twine or zip ties. I'm not sure about the kitty getting over the railing -- maybe have the chicken wire sticking up above the railing that won't support it's weight enough to allow him over? That may make the deck feel kinda cage-like, however.
posted by sk932 at 12:07 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: Previous things I have read on stuff like this (keeping cats in an outdoor-yet-enclosed-space) have most of the time involved some kind of wire-mesh stuff, that usually curls in at the top so even a jumpy cat can't get purchase on there to climb out. Somebody else might have a better suggestion, but I do not have an easy one.

Several suggestions of the sort here at first google hit on catproofing a deck: Stanford Cat Network
posted by bitterkitten at 12:08 PM on August 26, 2010

I have some plastic faux chicken wire on my deck for the same reason (attached, as described above, with zip ties). It is not beautiful but it is cheap, not permanent or damaging, and it does the job. Pointycat says in, squirrels mock from next door.
posted by pointystick at 12:12 PM on August 26, 2010

Honestly though, I don't think the chicken wire will work. What's to stop kitten from climbing the chicken wire? My cat climbs to the top of our screen door all the time. So unless you plan to completely box in the deck with chicken wire I wouldn't trust it.
posted by kthxbi at 12:15 PM on August 26, 2010

Chicken wire is going to be very climbable without the curling-in-on-itself feature at the top that bitterkitten mentioned. (eponysterical?)
posted by lizzicide at 12:19 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: You can not overcome this obstacle with a DIY home project. Adjust your expectations, decisions and actions accordingly.

Could not disagree more. My cats spend part of their days lazing around in a sunny enclosed patio. After a few probing days, they've come to accept the limitations of their world.

Without seeing the deck, what I would probably do is get a roll of chicken wire from Menards or Home Depot or some such, and secure it to the railing with some zipties.

You don't really want chicken wire, it tends to be pointy and scratchy.
What you need is some "horse fencing" or "goat fence".
Something with enough tensile strength to hold itself up, yet with small enough holes that a kitten can't slip through.

Then, get yourself a staple gun, and some largish staples and attach it to the picket fencing.
You'll want to use more staples than you might think, and pay careful attention to the edges. In my particular application, I've extended the fencing around the corners where it attaches to the house so that no gaps are created.
You'll likely want to get a few pieces of strip lumber to prevent sags in the corners and any long spans.
In the previous incarnation, I arranged gutter shields on the bottoms to prevent crawl-unders, but in the new incarnation this has proved unnecessary.

However, the key to keeping the cats in is to arrange the top of the fencing so it is slightly curved inwards, such that when a cat sits at the bottom of it, it "leans" over them. Don't lean it too far, however, else they will take a running leap at it.

Remove or keep far enough away anything that a cat can use to gain a height advantage (planters, chairs, BBQ), give a test run or two, then keep them supervised the first weeks they use it, modify as needed and you'll have happy cats.
posted by madajb at 12:28 PM on August 26, 2010

You might find some good inspiration from this NY Times article on "catios."
posted by Madamina at 12:35 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: Since the link the Stanford Cat Network above is borked, and goes to this here thread, here is the real link in case anyone wants it, and this is the link to the relevant info.
posted by rtha at 12:37 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: You have two problems to solve: sides and top.

Sides are pretty easy and you'll use some of the same material. Your local big-box home improvement store will have big rolls of patio screen or weed block (without chemicals, of course). Whatever's cheaper, you can simply staple-gun it to the outside or inside of your porch. Fold over the edge to make it a little nicer looking and tougher.

Kitty COULD claw through it but I suspect her determination is lesser than her distraction.

For the top (to prevent her from jumping) I'd personally make a basic frame that can sit down on top of the entire patio. From the picture that patio looks about 4'x8', which you can rough out with just a couple pieces of 1x4. Staple the screen over it and you have a light-enough-to-move lid.

Put a couple of hooks on the outside edge of your patio and you can hang it off the outside like a picture when you want to use it.

That's my grand and cheap engineering vision. Apologies if I've failed to paint an accurate mental picture.
posted by phearlez at 12:44 PM on August 26, 2010

oops. Maybe our mighty mods can fix my recursing link. Thx rtha!
posted by bitterkitten at 12:53 PM on August 26, 2010

The Purr...fect Cat Fence company thinks it has the solution for you. It's a fencing system, that I believe you can attach to your deck, with a spring-loaded wire frame "flap" all along the top, that folds down and sort of dumps the cat back on the ground when it climbs up that high.

This in combination with a mesh barrier around the lower part of the deck wall should work. A very knowledgeable lady in one of our local cat rescue orgs absolutely swears by this product, although she's using the full fence (not on a deck).

They have multiple ways to purchase; it's not cheap, but it's interesting.
posted by amtho at 12:58 PM on August 26, 2010

That's a real thing, jumping off the porch. My parents' cat went missing for several weeks after jumping off the porch. He went off and had all kinds of alarming adventures before turning up half-starved with several fighting injuries. Cats: sigh!

Having recently built some chicken enclosures, I would recommend one of two softer, more flexible solutions than wire:

1. Bird netting. This is sold in garden centers, to be draped over fruit trees. It's like very large-gauge fishnet. It can be draped over the deck easily. You could secure it at the top by using cup/mug hooks, and hooking it onto them. This is what I would use if I wanted a solution that could easily be removed.

2. PVC poultry netting. You can buy this in the fencing section at Home Depot, same place as the big rolls of hardware cloth and chicken wire. It's chicken wire, but dark green, and made of flexible plastic. It will look a bit more formal (less saggy and random) and can be easily secured with staples, plastic cable ties, or even just tied up with string.
posted by ErikaB at 12:59 PM on August 26, 2010

Mandatory Metafilter literary tie-in: there's apparently 60' of this fence in use at the Hemingway House in Key West, Florida, keeping the neighborhood safe from the famous six-toed cats.
posted by amtho at 1:01 PM on August 26, 2010

The Catio website will have good ideas (design and materials). Good luck!
posted by TishSnave at 2:58 PM on August 26, 2010

"Also, there's a kind of fabric I don't know the 'real' name for -- some apartment complexes use it for shade."

It's called "Shade Cloth".

I tried for ages to come up with a reply that didn't sound smarmy. I failed. Please rest assured there is no smarm in this answer.
posted by Quadlex at 5:25 PM on August 26, 2010

When I had the same problem, I used chicken wire along the pickets and lots 'n' lots of pots of geraniums along the top of the railing. I also didn't allow my kitties out without supervision.
posted by deborah at 6:40 PM on September 3, 2010

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