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Build a Cat Enclosure

Updated on June 1, 2018
Virginia Allain profile image

Birds and wildlife fascinate me. I enjoy observing them and photographing them wherever I go. I share what I learn here.


A Safe Place for Cats to Exercise

You might call it a cat enclosure, a cat exercise area, even a cat run, but my aunt calls hers the Kitty Pen. Whatever the name, it provides a safe outdoor area for your cat.

This isn't something you can buy in a box, you need to build one. The size and cost depends on how many cats you have and how elaborate you want it to be. It's cheap to do if you're good at scavenging lumber and have some skill with a hammer and saw.

When she saw a picture of an outdoor cat pen last September, my aunt knew she had to have one. She planned and saved up to have one built by a local carpenter. Now she finds it fun, not just for the cats, but also a place for her to sit out with her coffee in the morning or reading later in the day. She keeps the cats company, they get to climb and frolic and there are no worries about them dashing into the street where a car might hit them.

(All the photos on this page are by my aunt, CJ Garriott)


Benefits of Having a Kitty Pen

As you see in this photo, your cat likes to sharpen its claws. Isn't it much better to have this happen on a piece of wood rather than on your sofa!

The cats get fresh air and moves around stretching. This gets their energy level up after long cat naps.

Since they access the cat enclosure through a cat door, it's available to them at all times of the day. They don't have to wait for you to come home from work or from shopping to let them outside.

Stray cats and wild animals can't get into the house via the cat door since the kitty pen encloses it.

You don't have to worry about dogs attacking your cats while they are outside as the enclosure protects the.

You don't have to worry about them being killed by a passing car in the street.

Cats possess strong hunting instincts and when allowed to roam, they catch small animals like chipmunks and birds.

I like that it makes me and my cats good neighbors. No digging in the neighbor's flower beds.

Install a Cat Door - for the cats to go from the house into the pen


In her previous home, my aunt had a cat door but no outside cat enclosure. A stray cat kept coming into the house to eat the cat food. Her cats did not like this intruder who kept returning and upsetting them.

It turned out the stray cat was pregnant and ended up giving birth to the kittens in the house. My aunt had quite a job finding homes for mamma cat and the kittens. She fell in love with two of them and kept them.

You Can Order a Cat Door from Amazon - There are many choices. Here's an example.

Perfect Pet Tubby Kat Cat Pet Door with 4 Way Lock, 7.5" x 10.5" Unbreakable LEXAN Flap
Perfect Pet Tubby Kat Cat Pet Door with 4 Way Lock, 7.5" x 10.5" Unbreakable LEXAN Flap
This one is particularly for a large cat. If you have a Maine Coon Cat, you need to select a large door. As you can see, this is the kind of door my aunt had installed at her house. She has been pleased with it.

Framing up the Cat Pen

frame of cat enclosure
frame of cat enclosure | Source

You'll want a sturdy framework. For this one, the slanting part attaches to the line of the roof by the back door.

This photo shows the frame of the cat enclosure before the wire fencing is added.

For a future improvement, she wants to add some roofing over the part closest to the house.

Add a Door from the Cat Enclosure into the Yard

door into cat enclosure
door into cat enclosure

One of the cats inspects the screen door that was added to the kitty pen.

A person can enter the screened area from the house (note step on the right), then go through the screen door out to the yard.

The cats quickly learned they could push open the screen door, so keep it latched with a hook. They also pushed through the light screening on the door, so the heavier mesh used for the enclosure was added on the screen door as well.

Cat Tentatively Inspects the New Outdoor Space

My aunt's cat exploring its new pen.
My aunt's cat exploring its new pen. | Source

When cats have been kept indoors, they may be fearful at first in the yard. Let them explore in short, tentative outings this new space. Before long they have no hesitation in entering their private playground.

Note that the wire is attached to the outside of the boards so sharp ends won't harm the cats.

Be Resourceful - And Save Money

My aunt wanted something for the cat to climb on, such as driftwood or a tree branch. It's hard to find driftwood in Kansas, but there was a fallen branch in my sister's yard that looked just right.

Unfortunately it was too big to go into the car. They solved that problem by transporting it outside the car.

The cats love their new climbing post.

Cover the Top - for safety

Don't leave the top open as cats are remarkable climbers and jumpers. The first time Graycie went up there, she was following a bug that was crawling on top of the door frame. Now she just goes up there now and then to look around.


lounge in cat enclosure
lounge in cat enclosure

Add Enticing Toys: My aunt's neighbor, Lola, helped install cat toys. These are strings tied to the top here and there, with balls or toys tied to the bottom hanging down. They blow in the wind, and the kittens play endlessly with them.

Add a comfortable place for humans: The lounge gives a person space to be with the cats in the enclosure and to enjoy their antics. Of course the lounge is enticing place for a cat nap too.

Let some plants grow inside: I recommend a low ground cover so you needn't bother trimming. Cats will nibble on some grass and plants. They can relax on the grass to cool off too.

Cats Having Fun in the New Kitty Pen - Photos by CJ Garriott

Click thumbnail to view full-size

For Limited Space Such as a Balcony - Small Cat Enclosure

It is possible to buy a ready to use outdoor cat enclosure. As you can see this is pretty small but might work for someone having only a tiny patio or a balcony. You don't want to risk your cat falling or trying to leap from a balcony.

Kritter Kondo Deluxe Outdoor Pet Enclosure, Green/Green, 2' x 2.5' x 6
Kritter Kondo Deluxe Outdoor Pet Enclosure, Green/Green, 2' x 2.5' x 6
I have a friend who has an open patio where she likes to sit each afternoon while reading and having her tea. Her cats would sit inside with their faces pressed against the screen wishing that they could be outside with her. Once she got this enclosure, it worked great. She would pick up the cat and place it inside it. They have the feeling of being outdoors and near their owner without the risk of them wandering into the street or getting stuck in a tree.

Plans, Inspiration, Tips for Building Outdoor Spaces for Cats

I found some great examples of cat pens that other people created. Flickr Search: cat enclosure is a good place to get inspiration. Look through the photos and decide what feature you would like for your own enclosure.

I found a good step-by-step instruction for constructing a cat run on the eHow site. It is called: How to Build an Easy Cat Enclosure | eHow

Since cats love the outdoors, some people allow their pet to roam freely in the yard. That's just not a good idea--for safety of your cat. It also endangers birds and other small wildlife in the neighborhood. You don't want your cat to be a pest for neighbors who might be allergic or annoyed if the cat uses their flowerbed for a litter box or makes cute cat paw prints across the hood of their car.

A Cat Pen in an RV Park

The owners wanted their cat to enjoy the outdoors when they were camping. Inside the cat pen is a cat-sized camping trailer.
The owners wanted their cat to enjoy the outdoors when they were camping. Inside the cat pen is a cat-sized camping trailer. | Source

© 2013 Virginia Allain

Tell Me about Your Cats and How You Would Use a Cat Enclosure

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    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      @Northerntrials: Please, do! I was hoping it would inspire others to make one.

    • Northerntrials profile image


      6 years ago

      I always planed on making one of these. I guess this is the best chance I have this summer. can I copy yours?

    • Raymond Eagar profile image

      Raymond Eagar 

      7 years ago

      Good idea prevents the kitty eating the neighbours tweety .

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      7 years ago

      This truly is a good idea for keeping cats safe from country critters. Having cats in a rural area is always risky because of all the predators out there. Likewise, letting a city cat outside means they are at risk from traffic. Either way, this pen idea can keep them safe and provide for a lot of outdoor fun and exercise.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm so tickled everyone is enjoying the tale of my Kitty Pen! My 2 kittens (16 mo. old) and the old boy (17-1/2 yrs) like it very much. Since we moved into an urban setting, on busy street, only 1-1/2 block from the highway, with close neighbors, it was the only way for them to have some outside time. Folks frequently stop and ask to see it, and get referred to my carpenter! He says I've opened up a whole new side of his business.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      @Dressage Husband: Didn't make it to LOTD (Lens of the Day), but I'm quite happy that it was awarded a purple star and featured with the weekly Imminent lenses.

      I think I'll add your information about cats' hunting instincts to the page. Thank you.

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 

      7 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      We are lucky enough to have a 34 acre farm and our kitty can roam free, however I can see many advantages to an area such as this. Apparently cats will stay within an area of about 1/4 mile of their home, and in our case there is little chance of him roaming onto the road. When we first moved in we did have Coyotes but now there are houses all around the farm and they appear to have moved out farther from the town.

      If we were in an urban area I would definitely want an area like this if I were to keep a cat. People in general do not realise that even domestic species are so close to wild that all cats will take mice and smalll birds snakes etc. to eat and they are all natural hunters so if you wish to protect the wild animals in your area a cage will do the trick. Fortunately we do not have a problem with Robin (our cat) as he can and does catch sufficient field mice to keep his appetite for hunting satiated so we do not have mice in the house anymore. He does not appear to be interested in birds as the mice are plentiful and keep him busy all day and many nights! Well done on the Lotd this was a very well written and laid out lens!

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      @ecogranny: That's an excellent idea as my aunt lives in Kansas and it can be dreadfully hot there.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      @jlshernandez: Some cats can be real escape artists.

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 

      7 years ago from Connecticut

      What a great idea! We have lots of coyotes in our area, and a Cat Pen allows the cats get to roam outside safely. The pen also protects the song birds in the yard from the cats.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Nice idea. I can imagine growing vines or even grapes over the fencing and top to provide cool shade in summer while letting in light in winter. The neighbors might enjoy the view as well. Congrats on being featured in the HQ article on stellar lenses today. Well deserved.

    • jlshernandez profile image


      7 years ago

      What a great idea. Unfortunately, my late kitty was too adventurous to be penned in.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      @RinchenChodron: I can see that would be worrying. My sister lost her little dog to coyotes.

    • katiecolette profile image


      7 years ago

      What a great idea! I am sure your aunt's kitty is loving the kitty pen. And it's great that your Aunt found a way to enjoy it with her cat :)

    • delia-delia profile image


      7 years ago

      Awesome! wish our Kitty would have this instead of traveling into the woods....nice lens!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I live in a condo and have a small patio that is fenced in. My cat stays inside that. The only worry is there is no top, so a coyote could jump over the fence and have a meal. This one is pretty cool.

    • Rosanna Grace profile image

      Rosanna Grace 

      7 years ago

      I don't have cats but my sister does and she built an enclosure similar to yours as hers are outdoor felines and in her neighbourhood cat owners are fined if their pets roam at night! I love how strong yours is.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      7 years ago from USA

      I found some good ideas for play areas for our pets. They will appreciate this I'm sure.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love this! I would really like to have one of these for my kitties one day. I don't have a big enough back yard to build a big one but I added the Critter Cat Condo Enclosure to my Amazon wishlist. Love your photos!


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