Ruby has been through a difficult time in the past year: her much-loved cat, Eddie, went missing in March. After looking for him for three days, putting posters up in the area and asking local vets to keep an eye out for him, she heard bad news: he had died after being hit by a car. He had been taken to a local vet, but it was too late. They had scanned him, and his microchip meant that they were able to find Ruby’s family and pass on the news. She was devastated.
When she decided to get a new kitten, she decided that she’d keep this one indoors all the time. Studies show that indoor cats have longer, safer lives, although they are more prone to stress-related diseases because they are more cooped-up than outdoor cats. Ruby knew that she’d have to take steps to make her new cat’s life as stress-free as possible.
When Tabitha arrived as a kitten, she was happy to stay in the house: she learned to use a litter tray, and she enjoyed playing with the toys that Ruby bought for her. But as she grew older, Tabitha began to get restless, watching the outdoor world through windows, and trying to get outside whenever a door was opened. Ruby realised that it was going to be difficult to be sure that she’d always stay inside. So she decided that she had to do something extra to make sure that Tabitha didn’t end up suffering the same fate as Eddie.
First, she tried to make the indoor life more entertaining for Tabitha: she bought her a cat tree. This is like a series of cat scratching posts joined together like a miniature castle, reaching up to the ceiling, with small platforms, beds and boxes joined together. It’s designed as a type of playground for cats, and Tabitha loved it. She began to spend much of her time running up and down the cat tree, sometimes hiding inside its boxes, and other times leaping off it to play with Ruby.
Soon, however, Tabitha became bored again, and she started to sit at the back door, longingly looking out at the back garden. Ruby decided that something else was needed.
Ruby lives in a typical modern suburban three bedroomed house: the back garden is surrounded by a six foot high wooden fence, and there’s a side gate leading to the front of the house. In the past, she had allowed Eddie to go wherever he wanted: he had started by going into the back garden, but he had soon learned how to climb up on top of the perimeter fence, and he had gone on from there into other gardens, and beyond. He had also sometimes gone out to the front, either just through the front door of the house when someone came or went, or by going out through the side gate. Ruby and her family had never thought that this would be a big problem: cats all over Ireland come and go as they please, and they seem to manage fine. It was only after poor Eddie was killed that they began to think again about how much freedom a cat should be given.
Ruby and her Mum googled “how to keep your cat in the garden”, and she then contacted a company via their website: www.protectapet.com. The company designs systems designed to make it more difficult for a cat to escape from back gardens, and they asked the family to send them photos of the area that they wanted to enclose safely. They then sent out a special DIY kit, which included a series of special cat fence brackets, designed to be attached to the top of the fence around her garden.
The kit included two-foot wide stretches of mesh-type fencing, along with screws and cable ties. Ruby’s Mum then installed this all around the back garden. By the time she’d finished, the garden was completely cat-proofed: it was now impossible for a cat to escape. The company also offers a professional installation service for people who may not have the DIY skills to put up the cat-proof fencing themselves but this would have been a more expensive option.
Ruby also had to do some simple gardening tasks: some trees to be needed pruned and trimmed to make sure that there was a big enough gap so that Tabitha couldn’t leap over the fence by climbing up the tree and jumping.
Once the job was done, Ruby’s Mum put a cat flap into the back door, and at last, Tabitha was allowed outside. Her initial reaction was remarkable: she had never seen grass before, and she seemed frightened of it, reaching out with a paw and patting it, before backing away from it. But within a few hours, she had learned that the garden was a safe place, and she began to enjoy herself. She dashed up and down, climbing the trees, and rolling on the lawn. She stalked birds, and although could never catch them, she enjoyed the chase.
At last, Tabitha seems like a satisfied cat. She spends her time playing – sometimes indoors on her cat tree, and sometimes outside in the back garden. She doesn’t seem to mind that she can’t go out the front side of the house.
She has stopped sitting at windows and gazing out: finally, she seems like a contented cat. And Ruby is relieved to know that Tabitha is also a very safe cat: there’s no risk of her being hit like a car like her unfortunate predecessor.