My friend Marva inspired me to build an outdoor habitat for my own cats after sending me photos and description of her enclosure that she constructed last year. This spring, I took the plunge, but decided on a more complicated design than the simple box design. I preferred to have my cats enter and exit their outdoor run via my bedroom window, rather than needing to be carried outside to the habitat. My backyard isn't as protected and private as Marva's, and I could forsee problems with a patio location. Therefore, I designed more of a "lean-to" structure, without the fourth or back wall, so that the habitat would rest against the back of the house over top of the window.
Key to success -- PLANNING! I had the standard sizes from Marva's instructions, and I worked and worked, to get the size habitat I wanted using the standard shelving sizes, rather than needing lots of cutting. Once I settled on my design, I went by the store where I was going to purchase them to check that they had the sizes and numbers I needed. They didn't. Back to the drawing board with an alternate design. On the day I went back to buy, however, it turned out some of the 8' x 16" pieces I had counted were damaged, so I was short the number I needed. I modified my design, again, right there in the store (luckily, I'd brought my tape measure and calculator along with me).
Day 1 -- Habitat Construction
Building a three sided (+ top) box proved a bit more complex, given the interior shelves are supposed to help brace the whole thing, and mine wouldn't be sitting on a level patio. Its a bit crowded from also housing the a/c unit. However, given a lot of planning and revising to accommodate available materials, this almost completed shell went up in about half a day of work.
Day 2 -- Completed Outdoor Habitat
I finished the roof and added the rest of the interior shelves, braces, indoor/outdoor carpeting, etc. The enclosure is 8' tall, 5' out from the house and 8' across the front. Only the 5' interior shelves had to be cut from longer lengths, all else are standard sizes. The cats nagged me to hurry, as they watched the progress through my windows. As you can see, they were very anxious to be out in the great outdoors. They love their new Habitat!
Completed Outdoor Habitat
The cat tree is the tallest, heaviest I had in the house, but was just the perfect height to the window. Because of the 3-sided, lean-to design, I used the pre-formed, braced shelves on the front wall with the doors, but the other shelves on the side walls are held in place with braces and the plastic cable ties. The whole enclosure is very stable with the door the weakest part -- held closed with a couple of spring hooks, but also braced with a stone. They open inward, given the shelf lip across the front to prevent a cat pushing the door outward to escape. I plan to cover the lower portion with clear plastic sheeting to offer some protection from maurading ferals in the neighborhood, and once the tree leafs out, there will be plenty of shade. Of course, what my cats really loved was sitting on the carpeted shelves in the sun, watching the birds on the bird feeders!
Interior View -- From Inside the Bedroom
The view is of bird feeders and boulder dripper, so plenty of birds and squirrels to watch. Cinndy was the first cat out to check out the new digs, and the last one in for dinner. She still is last in for dinner in the evening, a true outdoor devotee.
I feed the songbirds and woodpeckers year-round in my yard, so there are lots of bird feeders on the two trees. This, plus the water features I also provide for the birds, will provide hours of entertainment for the cats, but will also protect the birds. To protect the cats from unwelcome hitchhikers, I have had to start them on a flea preventive and have also installed a mosquito repellant (ultrasonic) to protect from a potential increased heartworm risk.
By Cleora Scott & the Lokikats
See also: Build a SAFE Outdoor Enclosure for Your Cat! for detailed description of materials and "how-to" of construction.