How to give our cats an outdoor screened porch experience?
September 14, 2013 5:08 PM   Subscribe

We're moving from a place with a screened porch to an apartment with a balcony. Our cats love (love, love, love) sitting out on our screened porch and basking in the sun. They only get to do it supervised during the daytime, but it is their favorite thing, EVER. The new place has no particularly obvious way to screen the balcony and nothing that we can really secure screens. Any suggestions?

deal solution would be something that we could attach to the doorway so we could open the door and the cats would be able to go in and go out that is quite resistant to feline curiosity particularly given that our balcony is 10+ stories up (we currently use a porch screened in metal-core petscreen).

We've thought about the "cat tubes", but our cats are NOT fans of being stuck in one place (e.g., we put them outside for their outdoor time). Additionally they are both quite big so we need something that will accommodate plus-sized cats (yes, my cats ARE bigger than your beagles).

We're not open to anything that would allow our cats free access to the outdoors (immunosuppressed cats, injuries due to falling and potential depredations on native bird populations are among our concerns). Thanks!
posted by arnicae to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Why do you need screens 10+ stories up? Cats have a pretty good understanding of how heights work. I really don't think they would jump.
posted by ryanrs at 5:35 PM on September 14, 2013

Do you want to be able to use the balcony yourselves, or is it okay if the cat-structure overwhelms your ability to put out chairs and so on? Or, a compromise between these would be to build a wood frame, cable-tie it to whatever railing structure currently exists, and attach screens to that.
posted by teremala at 5:35 PM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

How about a cat tent? We have this one and our boys love it. It's plenty big too.
posted by joan_holloway at 5:44 PM on September 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

Why do you need screens 10+ stories up? Cats have a pretty good understanding of how heights work. I really don't think they would jump.

Our cats are idiots, and have fallen on their heads (ok this only happened twice) off of 3' tall tables. Also, see above re: birds.
posted by arnicae at 5:52 PM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you google "child proof balcony" on google images you will see several interesting ideas. Would something like this interest you, or are you looking for something you can remove?
posted by Tarumba at 6:07 PM on September 14, 2013

We're renters - we cannot damage or alter the balcony. Great suggestion though!
posted by arnicae at 6:14 PM on September 14, 2013

What about something like a large dog crate? Or even a cat crate like this one. You could jury-rig a way to connect it to the door, using a pet door like this type of thing to block off the excess height, though you don't mention whether you have a slider or french doors onto the balcony. The advantage of something crate-like is that they can be on wheels--so if they don't take up the whole balcony, you could roll them out of the way to sit out there yourselves. They also often fold for storate/moving.

Another option might be to look at some outdoor parrot enclosures for ideas. This kind of thing can be very attractive, usually wood-framed with something chicken-wire-ish. There are plans on-line for do-it-yourself versions. The obstacle I keep coming up against in my imagining of this is how to usefully connect anything to the door in such a way that the cats can't sneak around it. But one option would be to build a parrot-style enclosure with one missing side where the door and wall are--I guess that would basically turn your balcony into a screen porch, with a freestanding framework for the screening/wire.

That's me brainstorming. Good luck.

Wait--one more alternative. Is the balcony wide enough that any windows also open onto it? That might be a good alternative egress point for the cats that wouldn't tie up the door so people couldn't use it. I had a friend once who had a little screened cat balcony built onto the outside of a kitchen window, and another friend who build a cat ladder from a window for indoor/outdoor cats.
posted by not that girl at 7:34 PM on September 14, 2013

Could you put chicken wire along the railing and then add window boxes all along the railing so the boxes sit on the inside of the rail? Plant some plants that cats hate so they won't be tempted to jump up or dangle from them. If you supervise them out there any way it could work.
posted by MayNicholas at 7:52 PM on September 14, 2013

This is something I think you could probably do in some form on a balcony; the pvc would give you something to attach the chicken wire to without it damaging the structure.

a catio
posted by lemniskate at 8:49 PM on September 14, 2013

I'm not sure if Target still sells the wire shelving referenced in this article, but might be a relatively easy way to build an outdoor box for kitties:

You could situate it on the balcony if you don't mind sharing space with it.
posted by whistle pig at 7:12 AM on September 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do you have a window that will open to accommodate something like an air conditioner? How about a plexiglass or metal mesh box? Like the one at (sorry, cannot do hyperlink right now):
posted by analog at 8:00 AM on September 15, 2013

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