Meet Canberra’s happy, safe cats

Indoor living

Dannie and Cleo

Materials: Small scratching post, cat tower, cooling mat
Cost: $100
Motivation: To protect the wildlife, to protect pet cat from an aggressive dog in the street and to keep her safe from running away and getting lost

When Dannie recently bought the townhouse that she was renting, she decided it was the right time to get a pet cat. Dannie decided to keep Cleo, a tricolour domestic house cat, indoors, as she didn’t want her wandering around outside and potentially getting lost, wanted to keep her safe from a nearby dog, and do her bit to protect the birds around her home.

To provide for Cleo’s needs, Dannie invested in a cat tower, a small scratching post, a cooling mat and lots of other places to sleep throughout the home.  

Cleo was easily toilet trained when Dannie persisted with a consistent routine for the first week. Now she can move Cleo’s toileting spot around the home, but ensures it is not near where she eats.

With Cleo being an inside cat, Dannie gets to spend a lot of time with her. Cleo has become very affectionate, loves to cuddle up on the lounge, and follows Dannie around at home, even including coming into the shower!  

Dannie appreciates knowing that Cleo will always be home and safe, and is reassured that her vet confirmed that keeping Cleo inside will means fewer visits to the vet.

Indoor living plus an outdoor enclosure


Materials: wire, hammock, pet proof flyscreen

Cost: $600 (second-hand in 2012)

Motivation: to protect pet cats from injury through fighting with other cats and snake bites and preserve local bird life

When living close to the Jerrabomberra Wetlands in Kingston, Victoria provided a secure outdoor area for her two cats, after one was bitten by a brown snake. She purchased an enclosure from a work colleague for $600. Attached to the side and back of her house, the cat run was big and used frequently by her cats.  It included a hammock for relaxing and allowed access to under the house, allowing them extra quiet space and dirt to scratch around in.

Victoria’s cat run even proved to be easy to dismantle and reassemble when she recently moved house. It has continued to evolve, with added spaces to move around under outdoor seating and a tunnel from the back screen door creatively made from a couple of laundry baskets.

Victoria has noticed that her cats are happier, enjoy the security of their own cat run, and appreciate not being hassled by roaming neighbourhood roaming cats. The enclosures have saved her money on vet bills and give her peace of mind.  She can also enjoy the birdlife in her garden without worrying about her cats!

Private balcony with indoor fun

Di and Paul, and Lia, Miss B and Khun Sunti

Materials: wire, mesh, wood, polycarbonate sheeting, hammock, scratching poles
Cost: $500 (thirteen years ago)
Motivation: to protect new pet cats from misadventure through roaming, to preserve native wildlife in yard

When Di and Paul bought three new pet cats thirteen years ago, at the forefront of their mind was the welfare of their new pets.  Their previous cats had died suddenly after consuming something outside the house, and they were determined that nothing similar would happen to their beautiful new Korat cats – a breed originating in Thailand and a symbol of luck and prosperity.

With shimmering grey coats and stunning green eyes, the cats are clearly part of the family, constantly interacting with Di and Paul but allowed the freedom to explore their own spaces within the house and in their own purpose-built structure.  They truly have the best of all worlds.

Being a practical person, Paul built an enclosed cat containment structure on the back balcony out of polycarbonate sheeting. The space is accessed via a cat flap in a window of a back room allowing  visual access to the outdoors to provide sensory stimulation for the cats, and also a sense of security. Paul has added fly mesh to keep out the insects, and other modifications to prevent roaming cats climbing near the enclosure on the outside. With a hammock and plenty of places to climb, the cats have their own space to explore and play, and enjoy relaxing in the sun.

Inside the house, there are plenty of toys, and scratching poles keep the cats away from Di and Paul’s furniture! The cats move freely between the house and deck enclosure. Di and Paul also grow pots of cat grass, giving a handful every few days to the cats to help with digestion and hairballs.

Indoor living with an outdoor space surrounded by an escape-proof fence

Jan and Missy

Materials: specialist cat netting, poles, hooks
Cost: professionally installed
Motivation: to protect cat and herself from injuries through fighting with other roaming cats

When Jan’s hand and arm were badly injured trying to separate her cat Missy from a fight with a neighbour’s cat, she decided something had to change. The injuries were so bad she spent two days in hospital and had fifteen stitches. As she wasn’t confident about how to construct a containment area, she contacted a professional. He installed escape-proof netting over the courtyard so that Missy could still enjoy the outdoors but remain confined to her property and avoid further misadventures. The netting encloses the whole of her townhouse’s back courtyard, and is attached to the building with hooks and to the fence with metal poles. This means Jan can still use her courtyard but that Missy cannot escape.

Jan says that their lives have been transformed. Whereas in the past she’d have to mostly keep Missy indoors, now with a cat flap in her back door, she can allow Missy outside without having to worry about her getting into fights. Missy enjoys lying on the warm pavers, scratching in the soil beneath the hedge, experiencing the smells and sights of the outdoors and sitting in the sunshine. Jan likes to spend time out there as well, enjoying a cup of tea in the warm winter sun, so they get to spend outside time together.

Whilst the installation costs were relatively expensive compared to doing it herself, the quality of the final product is something Jan believes was well worth it. When comparing the investment to how much she was spending on vet visits, including regular purchases of antibiotics, she thinks she will probably end up financially ahead! Another benefit is that her non-cat neighbours are pleased that Missy is no longer roaming through their courtyards. It’s a win for everyone.