( Materials are all general and can be obtained at any home improvement retail store.)
The amount you will need and particular kinds and styles will be based on your preference and the size of your creation.
1) Pressure treated wood ( 2X4's, plywood and your size choice of corner frame posts which should be rounded and larger for a sturdy frame/outline )
2) Nails, screws, horseshoe nails & possibly hog nose rings w/ pliers )
5) Measuring tape and a level
6) Quikrete ( a fast setting concrete )
7) Roofing ( sheet metal and/or asphalt panels )
8) Door hinges and latches/locks
9) Kennel wire and or fencing, preferably galvanized.
10 ) Flooring materials. Wood, and /or rock slabs, concrete.
11) Extras may include : hardware cloth and / or shade cloth
If you have an imagination then you already have the most important tool to create a fun & safe enclosure for your feline friends. Before you begin, take into consideration how many cats will be occupying your masterpiece and in what area will be best suited for your creation. If you plan on adding cats in the future, think about how wide you can go and if you have space to add or extend at a later date. if you cant expand, consider going vertical. Take notice of the ground where you build, like is it hard and too rocky to dig into? Is it prone to flooding ? Is it in an area protected from other various structures or in an area that will ' obstruct ' your view as you look out from your window. There can be many different obstacles to look for before breaking ground, so choosing the purrfect location is crucial !
Let's begin !
Rememeber: the size of your enclosure and materials you choose will all depend on your own needs , availability and creativity. This will go much faster if 2 or more people work together on this.
Measure out the outline for your 4 corner posts.
You will want your corner posts to be at least 18 inches into the ground for stability. ( * NOTE * Consider making two of the holes 4 inches deeper to create a slope. This will benefit you once the roof is applied so the rain can easily drain off one side and not pond on a flat surface. ) Dig the 4 holes and carefully place each corner post in and fill with Quikrete. The bag will have easy directions on how much water to add. We simply used our garden hose and a large metal pole to stir it up around each post base. Let them set over night.
Depending on what type of flooring you want to use, you will want start on that next. Concrete is very expensive, so we used wood, donated tiles and rock slabs in our enclosures.
If you choose to use rock, tile or slabs, this can be done last once the enclosure is built. If you choose to use wood then you must begin that section next. It will require 2x4's and lots of nails. You simply make a frame with support beams going from one side of the enclosure to the opposite side of the enclosure, then place the remaining 2x4's on top of the frame and nailing them into place. Keep in mind that it is a good idea to keep the floor base above ground level if you are in a flood zone. ( see picture )
Once your floor is complete you can begin to fence in the outline of your enclosure. We use a specialty application of galvanized kennel wire for its durability, strength and hole sizes. You don't want to use any fencing with holes larger than 2X2 inches to ensure that your felines can't get their heads through the holes as well as so predators can't squeeze in !
Make sure you have designated where you will place your entry door(s), we have found that making a double door entry is a very safe way to be able to enter and exit safely so none of the cats can accidentally escape. Making a door frame is a simple rectangle of 2X4's in the size you choose with fencing nailed to one side. Use the hinges to attach the door(s) to the main frame, paying attention to if you want them to swing in or out based on your needs.
Fencing the enclosure is as easy as unrolling the wire rolls, stretching them to a fit tight and nailing them into place on your corner support poles and all along the top of the frame. If you end up with a gap of space where the fencing is not as tall as you need it to be, you can always use a pair of wire cutters to snip off the amount you need from another roll to fill in the gaps and easily attach the two with hog nose rings for a secure and safe fit. This is very helpful because many times it is hard to find rolls of kennel wire / fencing over 6 feet tall for a decent price.
After you are fenced in, you can begin the roof section. It is important to know that this part of your enclosure will get the most abuse from wear & tear, and mother nature. We have found that sheet metal and / or asphalt panels work beautifully at keeping the rain out and last a long time. Depending again on your needs or creativity, you can add insulated plywood as a base and the metal or asphalt on top of that , OR just the metal or asphalt roofing will do. It will last forever and you can always make additions or changes at a later time if the need arises.
You will need your ladder and nails or screws and definitely an extra pair of hands for this part of the job. We use galvanized screws with all our roofing to ensure long wear and to be extra strong during storms and possible high wind gusts.
If you chose to use rock or slabs for your flooring you can now begin with this part of the project. You can place them and design them in fun patterns or however you see fit to use them. Keep in mind that whichever style flooring you choose to create that you will need to figure in an area for the cats to ' do their business '. If you chose an all wood floor, then you will need ample litter boxes filled with dirt. Litter will not hold up outside and just become a mess of mush ! Dirt is easy and what feral cats are used too. If you don't have access to to an area that you can regularly dig up fresh dirt then you can buy bags of sand at many local retail chains. If you have chosen the rock or slab floor then simply leave a section of ground uncovered and ' till it ' so to speak ( we used a shovel and garden rake ) to overturn the earth and provide a nice natural bathroom area. ( see picture )
To keep this sort of section clean, just ' muck ' it daily with a rake. We throw the solid waste into a bucket and dispose of it as needed. If you keep it mucked and clean, mother earth will take care of the urine herself. Churning and sifting the dirt daily keeps everything fresh. You do NOT want to leave a bare or grassy floor. This is what most people would think is the ' right ' thing to do for the cats, but all it will do is create a messy situation that will turn stinky and will be very unhealthy for the cats, not to mention attract flies and other insects. Having the rock/slab flooring will force the cats to use the designated poo area to help keep your enclose as sanitary as possible.
If you have decided to add the fun & excitement of cat walks , now is the time ! Cat walks can be connections to other enclosures or simply fun additions for the cats entertainment and added exercise.
One must remember that when enclosing your feral cats, you are taking them out of the wild and out of their element. Cat walks can be not only a necessity or safety feature, but also a way to keep the cats stimulated and mobile as they would be in the wild. They can keep the cats up high off wet grounds and away from roaming predators, and also give them the pleasure of being up high and giving them the feeling of safety. Adding cat walks is as easy as measuring out your planks and being able to mold and shape the kennel wire to fit. You will want to use horseshoe nails for this application for their shape and strength. Cat walks will need support posts just as any platform would need. Simply map out where you want them, dig your holes 18 inches deep just like the main structure frame, quikrete them in and position the planks from support post to support post, measuring carefully to have them connect equally. ( see picture )
Using the kennel wire is best due to its strength yet easy flexibility. Simply measure out the length of the planks you will use and using your wire cutters, snip off the size you will need to surround each plank , enclosing it to make a sort of ' tunnel. ( see picture )
The wire can easily be shaped and molded into position and can be nailed in with the horseshoe nails for a secure attachment. Cat walks can be added everywhere, inside and out. Added shelving and added cubby holes in your enclosures will also provide extra stimulation, excitement and ' purrsonal ' space for your cats. Cats don't often like big wide open spaces, so providing little ' extras ' like storm shelters, cubby holes and lots of shelving can give multiple cats the space they need to keep the peace and keep your cats stress free which is a key factor in feline health.
In time you will no doubt want to add, extend or change things to serve you & your clowder of cats better. Each day will bring a new idea or a new challenge. One of the most beneficial extras we recommend is to add shade cloth around your enclosures to keep it cooler in the summer, warmer on cold nights and to help keep rain out. You can tweak as you see fit, but this basic outline and few suggestions will keep you and your cats safe and happy for many years to come. Good luck and have fun with this project ! Oh... the ' Pawsibilities ' !
Creating a Purrfect Paradise
Story & Photos by
Rusti & Jaq Castano