How can I prevent cats from falling off a balcony?
June 9, 2011 6:16 AM   Subscribe

For a Friend: I just moved into a high-rise building with cats. Is there anything I can put up in between my screen door and the balcony to prevent the cats from falling off the balcony if the screen door is open? I've thought about a baby gate but I'm worried about them jumping.
posted by melodykramer to Home & Garden (19 answers total)
Interesting ... Haven't had this problem but here are some thoughts:

Maybe you can use 'area denial tactics' such as citrus smells. Citrus smell is completely disgusting to cats, and the fruits are indeed poisonous to them. Make the balcony area smell totally rank to your cats and they won't be there playing. Then install as high an unclimbable-on barrier as you trust your cats not to jump over, e.g. glass or plastic.
posted by krilli at 6:21 AM on June 9, 2011

Can you fasten something to the balcony railing? I've attached white plastic fencing to my 2nd floor deck railing to keep my cats from tumbling off. We fastened it with staples and zip ties. It isn't attractive but it works, and can be removed later.
posted by dywypi at 6:34 AM on June 9, 2011

I found this previous thread helpful.
posted by neushoorn at 6:39 AM on June 9, 2011

Maybe I'm being an idiot, but doesn't it depend on how the balcony is bordered? Are we talking widely spaced railings, etc.? You also should say whether you care about aesthetics or not, and whether your building has rules about visible installations on balconies.

P.S. Hint: do NOT let them view any videos about bungee jumping cats.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:42 AM on June 9, 2011

This might not really be answering the question, but - I have a similar setup and I keep the screen door closed (with the glass sliding door open for fresh air) unless I'm actually going in or out. I did have to put a piece of lucite across the bottom of the screen so that Evil Cat can't eat his way through.

The cats are allowed balcony time, though at first I supervised them closely until I was confident they weren't going to try to fly.
posted by shiny blue object at 6:54 AM on June 9, 2011

We use this stuff - I assume something similar will be available in the States.

(Your friend is wise to be thinking about this; cats fall off balconies and out of windows all the time and can be seriously injured even from relatively low heights.)
posted by rubbish bin night at 6:56 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

(Sorry, link is in Dutch, but you get the idea.)
posted by rubbish bin night at 6:57 AM on June 9, 2011

Why not let them out onto the balcony (with supervision) and see what happens?

My kitty had lived in a ground floor apartment all his life. When we moved to a new place, I took him out onto the balcony, stood near the edge, and carefully held him so he could see that we were now a couple of stories up. Then I put him down and hung out with him for a while to make sure nothing dramatic happened.

My kitty now likes to jump up onto the edge of the balcony, but he does so very carefully. He seems to understand that the other side is a long way down.
posted by Georgina at 7:16 AM on June 9, 2011

This... this is interesting to me. Is this a concern? I've lived in high rises with my kitty for years and on nice days I leave the balcony door open all day. She goes in and out as she pleases. There's even a little pot of catgrass out there for her to munch on.

She's never jumped or fallen, or even tried to climb on the railing. She likes to stand and the edge and stare at birdies, but she's never done anything risky.

Now you've got me worried.
posted by AmandaA at 8:03 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might be interested in this New York Times article, which shows someone's do-it-yourself "catio", among other things. Here's an example of a balcony "catio" someone did that is pretty nice.
posted by gudrun at 8:27 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know that cats (and dogs) aren't idiots. They can tell it is a long way down and the chances of them even trying to jump off are INCREDIBLY slim. That said, I have trellis up on my balcony because it gives me peace of mind. I bought it in the lumber section of Lowe's and they cut it down to size for me.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:44 AM on June 9, 2011

I am going to anecdotally differ with magnetsphere. I accidentally let two cats die in my care. Both of them plunged to their death out of windows spaces I had no idea they could access (two different apartments, 12th floor and 6th floor of the same building, respectively). I became known as the cat killer in my building, which was absolutely mortifying (still is, I can't believe I am admitting this), but only serves to reinforce the point that cats CAN AND WILL jump from great heights.
I love cats, negligence on my part was not involved. I had another cat that wouldn't go anywhere near the windows. Both cats that died were Persians named Mel.
posted by msali at 9:35 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yes, cats can tell they're high up; they're not going to fall off a balcony. However, it seems that SOME cats forget where they are and lunge for birds flying by, which is why high-rise balconies can be dangerous for them.
posted by Rash at 9:51 AM on June 9, 2011

Reminds me of a Radiolab story. If you're up high enough the cat will probably be fine if it falls.
posted by no bueno at 10:26 AM on June 9, 2011

Thanks all! I have no idea about the specifics of this building, but passed your information along to my coworker -- who now has some great ideas about cat-safety.
posted by melodykramer at 11:11 AM on June 9, 2011

More anecdata: My own cat has jumped through a screen window (knocking it from its frame) to fall 3 stories, and both my dad's cat and my neighbor's cat have jumped/fallen from their respective balconies more than once. Fortunately there were no fatalities, but I personally would not trust my cat not to do something stupid on a balcony. That said, my cat's favorite treat is chewing plastic grocery bags, so I'm not sure where that places him on the Cat IQ scale.
posted by shaun at 11:55 AM on June 9, 2011

I live on the 25th floor and my cats are idiots. I would love to have the deck door open during the summer, but I just can't be sure that they won't leap at a pigeon or try and climb something they shouldn't or lose their step and plummet. I've tried to come up with solutions over the years, but I'm sorry to say nothing really seemed to be both suitable for a tenant/strata agreement and cat-proof.
posted by jess at 12:21 PM on June 9, 2011

I know that cats (and dogs) aren't idiots. They can tell it is a long way down and the chances of them even trying to jump off are INCREDIBLY slim.

This is completely untrue. Talk to any vet in a city and they - who are in the best position to know - will tell you a radically different story. Cats especially fall from balconies all the time. All the time.
posted by smoke at 3:56 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sadly, smoke is correct. In the past six years, in my circle of friends, the following events have happened:
* cat fell off balcony and broke its leg
* cat fell off roof of house and broke just about everything, fortunately made a full recovery
* my own cat fell out of the window after managing to get the screen open. Luckily he was fine.
* the day before this question was asked, another friend's cat fell off a balcony. His back leg was broken so badly that it unfortunately has had to be amputated.

I'm not trying to win a silly argument with these points, I'm just saying that unfortunately cats do fall off things and sustain very painful (and sometimes expensive) injuries.
posted by rubbish bin night at 3:04 AM on June 11, 2011

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