Pumpkin does paperwork

Pumpkin does paperwork

Friday, November 21, 2014

REVIEW: Four Commercial Cat Barrier and Fence/Enclosure Products

Updated - 9/2015

You want to keep your cat safe when she is outside. There are many risks; other cats, predators, disease, traffic and other dangers. - and if your cat likes to "roam", you know what I mean. Black cats are especially vulnerable around Halloween.

The purpose of a cat barrier/cat fence is to give your cat access to the outdoors while keeping her safe. Most barriers are also designed to keep neighbor cats and other animals out. A cat barrier can significantly reduce many of the greatest risks to your cat; give you peace of mind, and help keep your vet bills down. An effective cat barrier may also prevent the need for a completely enclosed cat run area which can get expensive and can make your house look like a zoo. Your "inside" cat may even be able to safely enjoy the outdoors. This can do wonders for making her happier and healthier.

There are a number of different types of cat barrier and fence products which let you turn your cat's natural environment - your yard, into a cat-safe outdoor play area without cramping your sense of decor. Each product takes slightly different approaches to the protection of your favorite feline. They are all similar in that they use variations of plastic netting and a series of hardware brackets and/or posts. Some of these cat fence products are reasonably unobtrusive and do not adversely affect the look of your home or yard. You can greatly improve your cat's protection, and still not feel like you're living in Fort Knox.

All of these companies sell their own complete cat barrier products, solutions and accessories. Several companies sell components separately, so you don't have to purchase complete products to get the components you need for an effective protection solution. All of these products can be assembled and set up with basic tools and none use electricity or electronic deterrent methods.

The products and components covered in this article are as follows:
Affordable Cat Fence
This is a "fence-topper" product which uses 36" wide plastic mesh which can be attached to an existing chain-link, masonry, or wooden fence with large washers every 4-6 feet. The mesh is hung from one-piece metal stanchions attached to the fence at regular intervals.

What I like about the Affordable Cat Fence product
  1. Metal brackets or "stanchions" are only one piece, easy to install and they position the top of the plastic netting higher up.
  2. Plastic mesh netting is not very visible
What could be improved-upon with the Affordable Cat Fence product
  1. Plastic netting itself is thin and tears easily.
  2. Plastic netting is attached with large washers at regular intervals. In order to keep a determined and strong cat from getting under the edge of the netting, the netting has to be stretched tight and washers have to be spaced only inches apart which greatly increases the installation time and makes it more time-consuming and harder to make necessary repairs.
  3. Appearance of the completed installation is not as visually attractive as components from other companies.
  4. After several years in the sun, the netting expands, droops, and becomes brittle and weak.
Cat Fence-In
Cat Fence-In "fence topper" installed
This product is also a "fence-topper". It uses 36" wide thin plastic netting with a strong plastic band woven into one edge. The band is secured along an existing masonry or wooden fence, and the non-banded side of the netting is hung from articulated rod-brackets attached to the fence at regular intervals. Cat-Fence-In also offers tree guards, special hardware for using their product with gates and other products for different situations.

What I like about the Cat Fence-In product
  1. Plastic netting attaches to the fence with a thick plastic band which is very effective at keeping cats and other critters from getting under it.
  2. Plastic netting is not very visible
  3. Metal brackes are adjustable and attractive
What could be improved-upon with the Cat-Fence-In product
  1. Netting itself is thin and tears easily.
  2. Plastic band can actually cut the netting if it is "worked" by a determined cat long enough.
  3. After several years in the sun, the netting expands, droops, and becomes brittle and weak.
  4. The two-piece brackets can loosen up over time and cause the vertical part to drop, lowering the edge of the netting and opening a possible escape route. Occasional inspection is important.
Purr...fect Fence
This product is available in two configurations; a free-standing post-based system, and a "fence-topper" for existing wooden or chain-link fences. Posts are driven into the ground and topped with spring-loaded articulated "arches". A tough plastic mesh is attached with zip-ties. In the free-standing product, the mesh hangs down to the ground and a strong metal wire mesh "chew guard" is installed along the bottom to prevent cats and critters from getting under it.

What I like about the Purr...fect Fence product
  1. Very secure
  2. Can be adapted to just about any yard or outdoor space
  3. The company provides an instructional video to help you set up and install the product
What could be improved-upon with the Purr...fect Fence product
  1. Expensive (as compared to other solutions)
  2. Time consuming and tedious to set up.
  3. Requires ground soft enough to drive in 18" x 1-1/2" pole stakes and 12" wire stakes.
  4. Not very attractive and is very visible
Portable dog kennels
10' x 15' Options Plus dog kennel installed
There is a great variety of products like these which can be purchased from several retailers, including Home Depot, and online through Amazon.com and others.

Modular metal kennel components are a great option when space or permanence is at a premium. Pieces can be fitted together in a wide variety configurations. You might not think of using dog kennel components for a cat enclosure, but I've noticed many kennel products specifically marketed as "cat enclosures" are too small and not modular enough for different sizes and configurations. Products like these offer several kennel sizes, styles and finishes, roofs, panels and accessories. The kennels are constructed from 5' x 6' panels connected with simple metal brackets.

What I like about the dog kennel products.
  1. Very secure and sturdy
  2. Sets up fairly easily
What could be improved-upon with the dog kennel products
  1. Components are large and cumbersome
  2. Panels shorter than 5' wide would be nice for more flexible configurations
Recommendations
All these companies have great customer service. They are also good at helping you determine what you need for your particular situation. If I had to pick one, the most practical seems to be the Cat-Fence-In product, however, my experience has shown the best solution seems to be combining components of several products for a customized solution that fits your needs.

There are many other enclosure products available in many shapes, sizes and configurations for both indoor and outdoor applications. This review only covers the four products I have actually used in the process of providing safe, outdoor space for our 3 cats.

Update...

I am adding the following website resource as a very promising option for cat containment. Although I have no personal experience with their products, the modular "Cat's Den" system looks very durable and practical.

http://habitathaven.com/

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Outdoor cat protection as part of a naturalistic garden paradise

Julia Konya over at Cuckoo 4 Design has transformed her backyard garden into a cat-safe outdoor environment for her three cats. Julia's design background and passion for her cats has inspired these wonderful structures that allow her cats to spend time outside while they are protected from a neighborhood threats.

Her cat-safe enclosures are constructed in various places that compliment the terrain and environment and they are connected by access tunnels that begin at one window of her home.

These kinds of structures are inexpensive to purchase, and fun to build. You can be as creative as you like by using different-colored wire mesh, and staining or painting the wood, etc. In her blog, Julia explains every detail of construction. As always you can find additional information right here as well, at catcluez.org.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

$10 kitchen gadget makes treat chopping neat and easy

We feed our cats only pure meat treats - usually freeze-dried salmon, duck or turkey. We use treats for a "garnish" on our cats' regular food, to make it more interesting to them. This usually means crumbling the small crispy treats by hand which can get messy.

I thought there must be some kind of kitchen gadget that could chop the freeze-dried treats into granular bits, or even to a powder that could be sprinkled on the cats' food directly where I wouldn't need to use my fingers to crumble the treats. Doing it by hand sometimes results in some of the bits getting on the counter as well, and some treat pieces are less than completely dry, which can be a bit objectionable.

GarlicZoom to the rescue

I found this product in a local kitchen store. It's a rolling garlic chopper. Garlic cloves are put inside the receptacle which has tiny rotating blades. The receptacle is closed and the device is rolled along a hard surface. Little wheels turn gears which spin the blades and chop the garlic inside.

I tried this product with several treat products we have. One is freeze-dried salmon, the other is freeze-dried duck liver. The salmon pieces are roughly 1/4" cubes, the duck pieces vary quite a bit in size. I dropped a couple pieces into the receptacle, closed it and rolled it back and forth a couple times. The more you roll it the finer the "grind." The receptacle is colored transparent plastic so you can guage your preferred texture. When I had the consitency I wanted, I opened the receptacle and just dumped it on the cat food. Knock it against the bowl to dislodge any reluctant granules. The garlic chopper worked like a charm with both treat types.

"GarlicZoom" is made by Chef'n. It is BPA-free and top-shelf dishwasher-safe.