I have a question about animal containment, or freedom, or both...
March 23, 2013 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Here's the thing, my dogs need to go into the yard, and I want them to have free access to the yard. The difficulty is the cat.

So, I have this huge, enclosed back yard that I want my dogs to be able to access whenever they like because it would make life easier for everyone. However, I don't want the cat to wander freely about the neighborhood because there are not only other dogs, but feral cats, and the occasional coyote. I'd rather he stick close to home. (Obligatory picture of said pets).

So my solution is one of two choices that I can see. The first solution is to find a way to somehow keep the cat inside and still find a way to let the dogs in and out. Electronic dog doors are out because he will just wait for the dogs to go out and wander out behind them. I know this because he tries this when I let the dogs out. I would love to find a doggy door that works only for dogs, however Mister the cat is the same size as Cocoa the dog, and anything that works for Cocoa the dog would work for Mister the cat.

The less preferable, but more workable solution would be to find a way to let the cat out but keep him in the yard where other animals cannot get to him. Here's the hard part with keeping the cat inside our yard. We have concrete block fences, which are six feet high on one side and four feet high elsewhere. I'm not a handy person. I have no idea how to attach anything to concrete block. I don't even know if I can attach anything to concrete block without destroying it. All of the cat containment contraptions I've found in my internet searches are attached to wooden private fences. That I would be able to do. I can hammer a nail. Concrete block? I know nothing.

We have three trees in the corner of the yard that might give him egress even with a kitty fence attached to our walls. They're angled away from the walls, and he's not that agile, but if he really wanted to get out of the yard, he could I suppose.

My questions are these: Which of these are more the more workable solution? And why? And how? Or is there another solution altogether that I'm missing?
posted by patheral to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think they have RFID collars that open a pet door only for the chipped pet. I am not sure how long the doors stay open for. My fear would be that the cat could sneak out behind the dog, dog comes in, but cat gets locked out.
posted by kellyblah at 2:58 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a cat flap which only works with my cat's microchip and opens to let her in, but the way this type of door works is that it will allow all animals out (unless the door is locked to keep them all in), because the intention is to keep strays/neighbour's pets from getting in, but if one should do so, it will be able to escape.

So although this answer doesn't provide a solution, it explains why a dog door that would only work with your dogs' chips is probably not going to be the answer.
posted by essexjan at 3:29 PM on March 23, 2013

Or is there another solution altogether that I'm missing?

Cat moat? The dogs wouldn't mind walking through a couple of inches of water to get out.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:44 PM on March 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

A Terrible Llama, creative, but that would get messy, I think. Mud, you know.
posted by patheral at 3:53 PM on March 23, 2013

Wouldn't a cat be able to jump any reasonably-sized moat? You'd have to make it >4 feet wide, all the way around the door. And you yourself would have to cross it. I like the way you're thinking, though, ATL!

Maybe you could have a section of the house where the cat stays, alone, when you're gone, which wouldn't give yard access? Then the dogs could stay in the yard-connected house, but the cat wouldn't. Lonely for the cat, though.
posted by amtho at 4:43 PM on March 23, 2013

If you think that the catproofing would work, then by all means look into attaching it to your concrete block. There are specialized fasteners for this sort of thing and you will need a special drill and bit, but it's how decks are built and houses are held down against hurricanes.

It may work better if you actually attach a sort of ledger board to the concrete and attach your fencing to that.

More work up front, to be sure, but it's not impossible and if you think this arrangement will work for you, go for it.
posted by dhartung at 4:52 PM on March 23, 2013

You could put baffles on the trees to keep Mister from climbing them.
posted by Specklet at 5:06 PM on March 23, 2013

Here's a way it could at least theoretically work (if you're a dab hand with the software writing):

From the outside, the pet flap is activated by either dog's microchip. Or the cat's microchip, for that matter.

From the inside, the pet flap remains unlocked, EXCEPT when in the immediate vicinity of the cat's microchip.
posted by feral_goldfish at 7:17 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Addendum: for the dogs' sake, you might want to install TWO pet flaps, far enough apart that the cat cannot be in the immediate vicinity of both at the same time.
posted by feral_goldfish at 7:20 PM on March 23, 2013

My guy writes computer software. That sounds... doable! We actually have two doors the dogs need to go through to get to the yard, a sliding door that goes into the sun room (which I had planned on leaving open, but we can put a pet door in it) and the door from the sun room into the back yard. If my guy can write software that would do what you suggest, that would solve everything!
posted by patheral at 7:43 PM on March 23, 2013

Also, those microchip activated doors can be installed backwards, so that they let only the dogs out, but let any animal IN. That way if the cat does accidentally get out, it can get back. And yeah, then you just need to put one in each door. They are pricey, though, and the one we got would be too small for most dogs (or even for any large cats).
posted by lollusc at 12:36 AM on March 24, 2013

Sorry to have been unclear: I was suggesting you install two doors to provide alternative routes, not make the dogs go through two doors as one sequential route.

The scenario I'm trying to avoid is one in which, if the cat spends all day on pet flap stakeout, the dogs will be unable to use the yard.

Huzzah for your in-house software design capacity!
posted by feral_goldfish at 1:37 PM on March 24, 2013

Hi. We have a combo-fenced yard that sounds similar (6 ft wall on one side, 3.5 ft chainlink on rear, 6 ft. board on other side).

What we did for our cats was to use a combo of Purrfect Fence and Cat Fence-In panels. The Purrfect Fence (full height option) went in along the chainlink and the Cat Fence-In topguards were installed along the wall and existing 6' fence. We also bought extra 24" base wire from the local hardware store, skinned the turf a foot out from the base of the board side, then created a wire "angle iron" type profile out of the base wire (by bending it into an "L" shape, then burying the bottom of the wire under the turf along the fence and securing the top 12" to the solid boards) to create a wire "skirt" along the bottom and close off all the small gaps underneath. This was to discourage any digging under the fence, either by our cats or the next door neighbors' dogs.

We don't have problem trees in our yard, but you can get tree collars to prevent climbing if that's a concern.

It was not cheap, but we would gladly do it over again at twice the cost. The entire installation on our quarter acre lot took less than a day. It is by far the most value-for-cash-outlay pet accessory we have ever gotten. The cats love the yard, we no longer have to worry about them door diving and being neurotic cooped up freaks, and they're safe from predators and cars and the neighbors' aggressive dogs. We don't let the boys out at night or when we're not there, but that's mainly due to the local wildlife (I've seen coyotes on our street).

Major bonus: we no longer have deer or rabbits decimating our garden veggies either. We do still get squirrels in the yard (good luck ever getting rid of those), but the cats have been keeping them extremely wary.

Since we installed the fence our 2 cats have never escaped, and nothing else has gotten in the yard, including the neighbors' extremely pissy territorial female cat, who from what I can tell would love nothing better than to ruin the boys' day, since she frequently sits along the top of the fence and makes horrible noises at them. She has stepped onto the top of the mesh more than a dozen times (that I've seen) and she always backs away as soon as she feels the spring arch give.

I've seen plenty of pet doors designed for RFID chips. IIRC most of them I've read about claim the ability to key or program them to in-only, out-only, animal-specific, and timed access. Also, there are pet door designs that use "bully barriers" to prevent other animals from following on.
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:49 AM on March 25, 2013

oh and as to the wall - what we did was lag bolt a set of carriers (2x4" lumber) along the concrete block wall, then bolted the receivers for the spring arch mesh to it. You will need a hammer drill (which we didn't have) to do this, but those and the accessories are easily rent-able from any hardware store / Home Depot type place.
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:53 AM on March 25, 2013

We went to a home and garden show this past weekend and looked at a brochure for an invisible fence. Maybe that might work for the cat? Otherwise we're stymied. We looked at the other two solutions and they just won't work in our situation.
posted by patheral at 9:48 AM on April 25, 2013

just as a quick thought, we had originally intended to use invisible fencing owing to the cost/difficulty of doing the physical enclosure installation on our mishmash of backyard fencing.

We ultimately nixed it owing to the large raft of review / opinion out there, plus advice from our vet, stating that invisible fence does not work very reliably for cats. Reason being that they are generally more stubborn, more insensitive to pain, and more prey-driven/focused than dogs, and the most common reports of cats "defeating" the invisible fencing system were those saying they simply ran right through the perimeter / ignored the shock altogether.

Another downside is that the cat must of course wear a shock collar at all times for the fence to be useful, which means you have to be able to guarantee the collar wouldn't come off. Our 9 month old kitten is one of those collar Houdini-cats who has figured out how to unlatch / scratch off and / or break every safety collar we've gotten him.

So there's that.
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:37 PM on April 25, 2013

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