How to Build the Perfect Outdoor Enclosure (And Why Your Indoor-Only FIV Cat Needs You To)
Does My FIV Cat Really Need An Outdoor Enclosure?
If there’s one thing that FIV cat owners hear all the time, it’s that it’s best if they keep their FIV cat indoors—and it’s true. Not only does it prevent the spread of FIV, but it also keeps immunocompromised FIV cats from becoming exposed to diseases and infections found outdoors. ‘
However, once you’ve decided to officially make your FIV cat an indoor-only feline, you’ll need to do a little bit of redecorating, or what Jackson Galaxy (from My Cat from Hell) likes to call “catification”. This process involves providing your FIV cat with enough enrichment (cat trees, cat shelves, scratchers, toys) to allow them to have a quality life indoors.
While indoor enrichment does make it easier for cats to accept that their outdoor privileges have simply been revoked, it may not be enough to keep them happy (and healthy) long-term. So how do we resolve this issue? Well, after reading the title of this article, you probably already know the answer to that question: an outdoor enclosure!
Why Does My Indoor-Only FIV Cat Need an Outdoor Enclosure?
By nature, cats are curious little adventurers that love to explore and seek out new sights, scents, tastes, textures, and objects. Outdoors, they often spend the day climbing trees, lounging on rooftops, sunbathing, chasing squirrels, or finding new hiding spots. These activities keep them mentally sharp, physically fit, and emotionally stable.
However, since it’s not safe for FIV cats to go outside, the best and safest way to allow them to continue enjoying their usual routine is to build them an outdoor enclosure. Inside, there needs to be enough enrichment to keep the area interesting and stimulating. Preferably, your FIV cat should be able to access the outdoor enclosure directly from the inside of your home.
How Do I Make the Perfect Outdoor Enclosure?
When building an outdoor enclosure for your FIV cat, there are several things you need to consider. First, you need to make sure that the space is completely “cat-proof”. Cats are expert escape artists and if you’re not thorough, you may walk end up handing out MISSING CAT posters around your neighborhood, and we definitely don’t want that!
- Secure the entire area using a combination of wooden or concrete fencing and welded mesh wire or any sort of metal netting. The barrier needs to be at least 7 feet high.
- If you don’t have wooden or concrete fencing, the metal netting needs to be buried at least 4 inches below the ground, or else your cat may bend the netting and crawl right under it.
- Always leave a wire overhang that’s at least 18 inches to prevent your cat from climbing over the metal netting.
- If there are trees within the enclosure that may serve as a way for your cat to go over the barrier, you can either trim it down or cover the trunk with a metal netting, as well (sort of like an Elizabethan collar).
What Do I Need to Put Inside the Enclosure?
Before anything else, make sure that the enclosure is spacious enough for your FIV cat to run, climb, play, explore, and bask in the sunlight. It should be able to fit a wide variety of enrichment items to make sure they don’t get bored.
The best things to include in your FIV cat’s outdoor enclosure are cat trees, ledges/rope bridges, dens/hidey holes, an exercise wheel, plants/vegetation, a water bowl/cat fountain, and of course, a covered litter box (so you don’t have to deal with scattered cat poop). In addition, there should be areas or items in the enclosure that could protect your FIV cat from extreme heat or rain if necessary.