By Roslyn McKenna, PetSafe Web Content Specialist
Cats are curious creatures who like to be involved with everything. My cats hang out by the windows and doors to keep an eye on what’s going on in the neighborhood. Lily even protects our house from stray cats. I thought she would enjoy some time outside, so I got her a cat harness and started taking her on walks.
Lots of cats enjoy being outside. My childhood cat Skittles loved being outside, but all she would do on our walks was sunbathe or roll over in the grass. I wanted to give her more time outside to just relax without restricting her with a leash. That’s why we installed an in-ground cat fence in our backyard. We would let Skittles outside for a few hours most days. She would stalk bugs, lie in the warm grass, and investigate the garden at her own pace. It was great to watch her exploring and having fun outside.
It was so beneficial for Skittles to be able to safely enjoy the backyard that I would recommend a cat fence to other cat owners. But before you think about a fence for your cat, you should teach your cat how to use a harness and leash. It helps to find out if your cat likes being outside before you buy a fence and install it in your yard. You’ll also need to be able to control your cat’s movements during fence training, and a harness and leash is the safest way to do this.
After you’ve installed the fence, you’ll need to teach your cat to stay inside the yard using flags to mark where the yard ends. Fence training is pretty easy, even for cats. Once your cat is comfortable exploring your yard with a harness on, you can start teaching your cat where her boundaries are.
First you place boundary flags around the perimeter of your yard to mark your cat’s boundaries. Then you walk your cat towards the flags. When she gets close to the flags, she’ll hear a warning beep from the collar that tells her she’s gotten too close. Lead her back into the yard, away from the flags, to teach her not to go past the flags.
After training like this for a few days, you’ll test your cat to see if she remembers to stay away from the flags with distractions. You can start by throwing some toys past the flags to see if she tries to get them. After a few days of training her to retreat from the flags even with distractions, you can let her off the leash. Stay outside with her at first to make sure she understands where she can go, then you can start to remove the flags from your yard.
My cat Skittles understood her boundaries the first time the collar went off. She was near the edge of the yard, where the buried wires were, when she started hearing the loud warning beep from the collar. She immediately ran back to the house and sat by the door until I let her back inside. She never got too close to the boundaries again, not even to chase a squirrel or bird.
Many pets respond just as well to the warning beep alone. And for cats who do need a stronger reminder, the static correction from the collar is very gentle. It feels like a light tingling that’s just enough to get your cat’s attention.
When your cat’s outside, make sure she wears a safe cat collar with ID tags. It’s also a good idea to supervise your cat when she’s outside. Even if your home is secluded or your yard is fenced-in, it’s important to make sure your cat will be safe outside. If your cat will be left alone, you can give her an escape route back to the house by installing a cat door where she can access it. You can even get a magnetic flap or electronic door that will only allow your indoor/outdoor cat to use the door. The best part about this kind of door is that it also keeps other animals out.
Many cats love the freedom of electronic fences. Have you given your cat an outdoor containment system?