It is not difficult to create a CAT PARADISE in your back yard or balcony.
It is dangerous to allow a cat to roam free in a city. It is often illegal. Most animal rescue groups demand as one of their adoption criteria, that you keep your cat inside. Cats can get lost, get hurt in a fight, stolen, eaten or hit by trafic. They can also get exposed to FIV, if they fight an infected cat. Giving access to your fuzzy friend to a safe enclosed garden will give them years of pleasure, help keep them fit, and will keep them in a better state of mind.
First step is to make sure the area is secure.
Cats unfortunately are escape artists, particularly younger more athletic cats. If they think they can get out they will try. If they know they can't, they will not try (and possibly succeed.) The key to success is to never let them succeed in getting out. A cat is a creature of habit and will mostly stop trying to escape once they have decided that they don't want to get away.You can secure an area using a tall fence if you have a back yard, or by using mesh if you have a balcony. I have often seen people enclose their balcony in pigeon proof plastic mesh. If the mesh is solid enough it will keep cats in and pigeons out.
Very successful cat enclosures can be made under a small mesh trellis supporting plants.
it's important to get neighbours onside. If THEY have a cat then they might want their side to be enclosed too. If they don't have a cat, they might prefer to keep them out.
An enclosure should look as nice as you can make it, for your sake and your neighbours. Some places have restrictions on fence height, in that case I would make a kennel type of enclosure if I had the space.
Cat Proof Fence is 6 feet high with mesh section an extra 2 feet. Overhang is wire mesh and about a cats length in size.
This Cat Proof fence has plastic mesh. Metal is better because the squirrels chew through the plastic and I have to repair the holes. In fact they love to chew it. Maybe it feels good?
Hanging plants love the high fence as do climbers.
Although raccoons can make it in and out, there is not much to attract them because I don't leave any food there.
Garden is only 15 by 15 but often hides 6 happy prowling, sleeping, snacking, playing cats.
What do Cats Like in a Garden.
- A small patch of grass is always welcome
- Some plants to eat.
- Shady spots to sleep in
- Sunny spots to sleep in
- Safe Garden with Mysterious areas to explore
- High spots to watch over the world
- Pigeons/squirrels/mice to watch
- Moving water
- Some sand or soil to roll in.
I have seen a very athletic cat climb to the top of the mesh part and dangling from the overhang, make his way out hand over hand, or rather paw over paw. That is exceptional and few cats are willing or strong enough to get out.
If you think a cat can get out, it can! it's also important to make sure there are no gaps larger than 2 inches anywhere including under the fence, both for safety, and for keeping them in. Once your cats are used to the garden and feel safe in their jungle they will forget about escaping. it's useful to be there at first to gently discourage any escape attempt. Some cats can jump onto refrigerators and on top of high cabinets, keep this in mind if your cat is like that.
I heard of someone who made a "kennel" for their cats, complete with grass and shelves for jumping up on. This was completely enclosed and was connected to the house via a cat door in a window. Have a look at the Cats of Australia for some examples.
Every spring I go to the garden center and get a roll of sod. One year I just planted a handful of bird seed. Since my back yard is paved over I just throw a bit of soil on the ground and put the sod on top. I only use a small part of the roll so I use the rest to sod in the bigger pots. it's too shady to grow very much but the cats still like it. The sod rarely lives to the next year and I just replant it. it's well worth the effort on a paved yard or a balcony.
The Grass patch doesn't need to be very large to make a cat happy. For an apartment balcony a very successful grass patch could be made by filling an old kitty litter pan with soil and growing bird seeds.
Grass in a barrel under a small bush and small lawn bordered by bricks
Larger cat lawn often has 2 cats sleeping.
I don't know why cats like to eat grass. Sometimes they will bring it up shortly after.
Good Stuff to Eat and Smell
Catnip, here seen growing on the edge of a tiny grass patch, is a favourite snack and is easy to grow. Usually you can just throw some commercial catnip in your pots and there are enough seeds to keep your cats happy all summer.
Here is a link to my page on Plants that Attract Butterflies, catnip is a favourite of butterflies too.
I have a cat who loves bean seedlings. I always plant a few for her. Birdseed seedlings seem to go over well with my herd as well. The grass patch also gets regularly eaten.
Not all cats like catnip. It seems that cats that evolved in areas that did not have any catnip are less lily to react.
Be careful not to plant any poisonous plants in your cat garden. See at the bottom of the page for a list of some plants that are toxic to cats. I've not had much trouble with cats eating bad stuff but some cats will try and nibble anything.
Spider plant is like a cat salad bar.
Many plants have similar effects for cats as catnip. Silver Vine, valerian and Honeysuckle are a few.
Tilley licking rain off leaves.My page on PLANTS THAT CATS LIKE
The cats delight in having green things to smell, roll in, and nibble on. In a small area a couple of pots can provide great pleasure to your cat. If he can climb in and hide or sleep around them all the better! 2 pots can create a little cave, perfect for watching the world unseen.
Cats love to sleep in the Sun when it's cool, and in the shade when it's warm
Pleasant cool bush to sleep under.
Asleep on a garden bench under the flowers. I space my pots in order to allow cats easy access. This is a small detail but it makes a huge difference to the pleasure of the cats.
Siesta time for Jenny, she would push any plants that I tried to put there and in the end she won the space.
Warm spring day is perfect to roll around in the dust and dirt. First warm sunny day in weeks.
If you have a spot that is out of the rain, a cat basket is nice too!
Mysterious spots to explore.
Prowling under benches and around pots give my cats enormous pleasure. I have a composter that attracts mice. This is a very interesting spot for the kitties. They also ambush each other and have great battles. They keep an eye out for beetles, worms, butterflies and june bugs.
Many of my pots are on small tables and benches, the cats love to explore in the caves this creates.
I leave enough spaces between pots to allow the cats to slip between, or sleep there.
Cats love to explore in the garden under the benches and between the pots. It's not completely idle exploration. I have mice that come and check out the compost and the cats occasionally chase one. They are not experienced hunters so they rarely catch anything but when it happens it is wildly exciting.
High spots to watch over the world
Johan keeps an eye on a dog walking by in the alleyway while Jenny walks along the top of the fence
Just dozing on one of the fence shelves I have put for the cats.
There are a number of little cat platforms on the fences. All the cats like to climb up and either watch the people walking in the lane or keep track of their buddies in the garden. There is also quite a lot of bird, squirrel, and pigeon watching that goes on.
I made a rough cat tree from 2x4 and old ikea shelves my neighbour had put in the garbage. I coverd them with old carpeting. It was an immediate success and it is often the first place the cats go when they go out. I learned to put it away from the fence because the cats figured out that they could jump to the top of the fence and get out.
Watching the garden from up high
Winston as a kitten is up high looking at the laneway and watching the other cats. The little shelf is a great addition to the cat garden. I've covered them with carpeting so that the cats can jump on them and not slip.
Watch the birds, squirrels and mice.
All the cats like to watch the birds and pigeons that come onto the garage for the seeds I throw up there. We see the odd squirrel and if I have old bread the seagulls come and make a great fuss. The cats love it.
Winston is fascinated by the pigeons while the pigeons keep a close watch on the cats.
Jenny and Lulu Birdwatching. Kitty entertainment at its best. During the winter I put a birdfeeder in the cat garden. The cats don't go out but they pile up around the window and on the cat tree that I've brought in and watch for hours on end.
Moving water is always fun in a Cat Garden.
In the past I have had a small fountain and it has been appreciated by some cats and ignored by others. It provided a place to have a drink. I imagine that a goldfish pond would be a favourite with the cats and raccoons!! I try to stay away from things that would hurt birds or fish so no birdfeeder in the yard in summer and no goldfish ponds. In the winter I do have a hanging birdfeeder and it gives everyone something to look at through the window. I have one cat who likes the cold because he has a thick coat. He is absolutely hopeless at catching birds. Luckily!!
My cats have pointedly rejected just about every scratch post I have provided except for a beam in my back room that I wrapped in rope. HOWEVER they have all loved doing their nails on the Slippery Elm. They also enjoyed putting a claw on my fancy Caragana standard. A scratching post is one accessory that every garden should have. Both you and your cats will benefit from it. Your cat will do his nails, you, will save your couch. If you want to protect one tree, you can wrap it with a protective spiral covering. Make sure you offer an alternative tree or post.
I have no magic formula for scratching posts. You just have to try a few things and let your cat decide.
The Cat House is a shelter from rain and in winter a protected cabin. I show it to all the cats and serve a housewarming snack of treats inside so everyone understands that it's OK to go in.
Long haired cats are more comfortable in cold weather and might enjoy using the garden in winter. I have a little cat house that provides some shelter from rain or really bad weather should the cat get temporarily forgotten outside.
In the summer I keep a window open during the day and close it at night. A cat door would do as well as long as it can be closed. This is necessary because raccoons will come in. Sometimes the cats refuse to come in (or rather hide so they don't have to come in) when I go to bed they get to stay out in the garden. I've figured out that a hose with a very weak mist nozzle will make enough "wet" noises to convince the cats to come in. A spray bottle would serve the same purpose. After a while they will come when called. I have never sprayed them with water, just made the water sounds. They understand the sound means water because I water the garden regularly.
Some more information and links about gardens for cats
- A Garden For Cats From University of Vermont
- Creating Garden Spaces for Cats from Master Gardener program of Penn State Cooperative Extension.
- Fencing in the garden from Fab Cats
- Cat Enclosures and outside cat runs. Great photos!
- Enclosures for cats has some good links
Some Toxic Plants.
Link to my Toxic plants for Cats
A much more extensive list with more details.
I don't worry too much since my cats are not really interested in eating the plants. I make sure that the really toxic plants are not in my garden and I make sure there are lots of things the cats like and that are safe around. My kitties seem to avoid the bad stuff. Like anything else, DO YOUR HOMEWORK! The cats seem to go and eat grass when they want help puking up a hairball, that's not poisoning though.
I don't feed the cats in the garden although I will leave water out. I don't want to attract the raccoons. These guys are amazing climbers and sometimes seem to just levitate in! In order to exclude racoons completely I think it would be necessary to completely enclose the garden in mesh. This would not be particularly difficult but I prefer open skies.
- Aloe Vera
- Arrowhead Vine (all parts)
- Asparagus Fern
- Bird of Paradise (fruit, seeds)
- Boston Ivy (all parts)
- Caladium (all parts)
- Calla Lily
- Castor Bean Plant
- Christmas Rose
- Creeping Charlie (all parts)
- Creeping Fig
- Crown of Thorns
- Dumbcane (all parts)
- Easter lily
- Elephant Ears
- Emerald Duke (all parts)
- English Holly
- English and Glacier Ivy (leaves, berries)
- Heartleaf (all parts)
- Ivy (Hedera)
- Jerusalem Cherry
- Lily of the Valley (all parts)
- Majesty (all parts)
- Marble Queen (all parts)
- Nephthytis (all parts)
- Parlor Ivy (all parts)
- Philodendron (all parts)
- Poinsettia (leaves, flowers)
- Pothos (all parts)
- Pot Mum
- Red Princess (all parts)
- Saddleleaf (all parts)
- Spider Mum
- Sprengeri Fern
- Swiss Cheese Plant
- Tulip (bulbs)
- Umbrella Plant (all parts)
- Weeping Fig (Ficus)
This web site reflects my personal ideas and doesn't represent anyone else's point of view.
email me Christine