Making An Outside Cat "Run"

I have two indoor cats that like to go outside in nice weather. When we let them out to roam in the fenced backyard, my husband and I supervise them. We have some large gaps in places and last time we were out, one cat jumped the fence. They haven't been out since.


So, I'd like to build some sort of "kitty run" for them. I was thinking of making an enclosure out of chicken wire with the wire going over the top so they can't jump out. Has anyone done anything like that? Can anyone think of different materials to use? Thanks!

Kathy from South Dakota

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I had two indoor cats several years ago. When I wanted to let them outside I took two very long leashes and attached the handle parts together so that the clip ends were at the outside ends. Then, I'd clip a cat to each end of the one very large leash. The leash was long, so they had freedom to roam; however, since cats do not cooperate, they couldn't get very far very fast. I know it sounds kind of funny, but it worked for us and our cats got to be outside for a brief period of time.

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I think you're idea with the chicken wire would work great, just be sure to make it large enough so they can explore and play, maybe some large branches or something they can climb and scratch on, maybe somewhere that you could have a kitty door that leads out to it so they could come and go as they please, they'll love it I'm sure!

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Here's 2 different tips I submitted to the folks at ThriftyFun last week for 2 different ways to build a cat run or outdoor pet pen. Maybe you'll see them in an up & coming post!

QUICK & EZ TEMPORARY KENNEL FOR CATS & CRITTERS: Do you wish there was a safe, easy & thrifty way for your pets to enjoy the fine weather? How about an EZ up & EZ down small kennel? All you need are temporary fence posts, rabbit wire & zip-ties to make your own cat & critter kennel. Temporary fence posts can easily be sunk into ground that has few rocks using only your feet or a mallet. Temporary fence posts are made for construction areas to quickly, easily & cheaply put up fences. They cost around $5 each & have places to hook wire to. You will need 4 - 6 of them depending on the size of your safety kennel. All supplies can be bought in the fencing area of Home Depot. Hardware cloth, rabbit or chicken wire can be cut with simple metal shears (I bought mine at a $1 store) or if you're going to be keeping an eye on your pet, you can use plastic hardware cloth that can be cut with scissors. The hardware cloth costs between $12 & $20 per roll depending on how large of a pet kennel you want to build. Don't forget with cats & other critters to buy enough to make a cover so they won't jump out. Simply place the fence posts in to the ground, then zip-tie the rabbit wire all around them & on top. I bought my nylon zip-ties at the $1store.

You can build this in under an hour & when autumn comes around you can take it down in minutes. Everything rolls up & fits into a small storage space & you'll see no damage to the grass from the temp fence posts. If you want a more durable small-pet kennel, you can instead build it out of wire closet shelves. They come in 12", 15", & 20" widths & Home Depot will cut them to any length you need. I zip-tied two 15" wide shelves together to make the roof of Smokey's outdoor kennel & it hooks to his cat door so he can go outside & bird watch any time he pleases & the cool thing is, if I ever take it apart I can always use the wire shelves out in the garage! Don't forget to add an easy access door. Mine simply ties shut with a piece of nylon rope. Make sure to add a partial roof for shade & provide water & your pet will have hours of fun especially if you provide a bird feeder close by, so your pet can watch the birds!


* The pet-run I built for Smokey was built entirely out of wire closet shelves & zip ties. I used 4, 15 inch closet shelves, so the cage measures 15 inches high by 4 feet long by 23 inches wide. Just make sure your pet has the room to stand up tall & stretch. I used 2 wires shelves for the roof & one for each side. At the end I used 2 wire grid pieces to make swinging doors. My cat gets all kinds of use out of his cat-run! When I let him out into the backyard I simply open the swinging doors that are on the opposite end as the cat door by untying the nylon string. If you have the extra money, I recommend making the one from wire closet shelves. It can be left outside all year long, but can't be rolled up & stored like the one made from rabbit wire can. Mine is super-sturdy because I zip-tied one side to the porch railing. When you build yours, be sure to make sure you have at least one sturdy side, by either using a tree, part of the porch, garage, shed or poles in the ground along one side. You can buy all kinds of attachments for the Closetmaid wire shelves. I bought a package of end caps for the shelves. That way the cut ends will be covered so theys won't rust. Make sure to glue these on so your pet wont be able to chew on the & choke. I also bought a bag of plastic pieces with a hole on each side. These are made to just fit over the thicker wires the shelves are made from so you can sink a screw into each side of the plastic piece, This way you can sink several screws into your porch or the side of your home or garage, so you'll only need one side made of wire shelves instead of 2 because your garage or porch will be the other side of the pet-run. If you need to add a small litterbox, be sure to make sure it's in the shade, or you'll be able to smell it for miles! The bottom of you cat-run can be as simple as grass, or you can add a pad for your pet to lay down on, but you'll have to bring it in with you pet so it won't get rained on. Or you can put a mat or thin board inside the kennel. Only you know what your animal likes. Mine prefers the grass between his fuzzy toes!

* If you do use the leash method described here, I would recommend a harness instead of a collar. You'll first have to get your cat used to a harness by having them wear it indoors a little at a time or it can drive some cats a bit crazy because it sometimes feels funny to them, but it's safer than a collar & they can't strangle themselves.

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My husband made one of chicken wire, sides and top, and cut a door in the wall just big enough for my cat to go in and out, with a cover that slid up and could be hooked. He also made a little square house, about the size of a litter box, so the cat could either get into the shade, or lie on the top and sun himself. Scrapper used it all the time. We made sure he was in at night, and the door shut as we lived in the country, and didn't want to take any chances with the wild "critters".

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As I was reading this my only thought was the chicken wire. I know there's wire mesh that looks like window screen but is thick like chicken wire with smaller holes. I would look around and see what the price is for both and then pick.

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We have surrounded our back deck which is an 8x10 - making walls with small holed plastic lattice 4'x8' sheets (you have to special order it from Lowes). They are then fastened together with 1x4's which are also set across the top to be closed in for their top of the deck so the cats "must stay" on their cat deck (which is right off our sliding glass doors where we can keep an eye on them also) they love it and so do we.

I probably haven't explained it well BUT I know my husband (an accountant) figured it out and he isn't even handy with tools. SO if he could do it I am sure your honey can do it too, ha!

Email me with any questions you may have...

dpcarr AT

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Good for you for thinking of their safety instead of just letting them roam. Dogs! Cars! Catfights! Wild animals! Any one of those is enough reason to protect your cats. No doubt you've already prevented surprise breedings, both in and by your cats. Good kitties!

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What about incorporating some of those extendable 'cat tunnels' that are sold now? They are a nylon fabric (I think).

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My son and daughter-in-law used chicken wire to make a cat run for their cats. They have sunning platforms and what not in it. They built it quite tall, and it has a door that they can enter through if they should need to make repairs or clean something. The cats love it. They have a kitty door in one of the windows in the dining room, so the cats can go in and out when they like, and if they don't want them to have access -- such as when it is -40 degrees here, they just close the little window. It works very well.

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I used to put one one of my cats on a leash and take him for walks all the time (you must use a harness). One lady in town puts a harness on her cat and has one of those runners that you attach to a clothes line--but you must be out with the cat so no dogs can get to it. We recently put a large dog kennel (6' x 12') on our porch (with a top) for our cat. We plan to fix it up with different levels so he can climb, play, and just watch the birds. During the summer, I put my plants in it. He loves to hide among them while watching the squirrels. It has also kept him totally safe from roaming dogs. We can literally put him out and go to the store or work with no worries. Expensive, but well worth every penny.

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Check this site for ideas and kits.

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My cat goes on a harness that has a retractable cord so he doesn't get tangled. Another idea is to tie a rope from your door area to back fence and have a leash (aka a zippo line for kitty). I cant stress enough they should still be monitored though, as something might startle them and they pull a Houdini.

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All these ideas for tethering your cat outside might be fine but many states and communities are outlawing tethering of pets. So be sure and check on that.

I built an enclosure for my cat once many years ago. I made it about 15' square and about 15' tall. I "created" a fake tree inside it for the cat to climb on. I didn't use a real tree because I didn't want the tree outgrowing the enclosure since it was covered across the top with chicken wire too. I attached it to one side of my house (making sure there were no escape spots where it attached to the house) where there was a small window (I did it where my bathroom window was). Then I installed a small doggy door on the window and she could come and go as she pleased, but I could still close it when it rained or when I wanted her to stay in (I always made her stay in at nite or when I left the house). I used chicken wire and this worked great because altho no birds could get in, lots of butterflies could and the cat had a ball chasing them!

She loved it tho!

Oh and I also installed a narrow wire door so that I could go in and chase her into the house if she was being obstinate about going in when I wanted her to.

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Pets CatsMay 8, 2008
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