Wildlife Research, Monitoring & Mentoring

Cats Outdoors – Catios and fencing to create safe spaces for your pet and wildlife


How can we promote the well-being and safety of pets and wildlife?

Moral and philosophical debate surrounds the issue of outdoor cats because they are known to hunt wildlife. A common justification of cat owners is that hunting is a natural instinct or behavior for cats. Wildlife advocates note that cats are not a native species and therefore their hunting is not natural. A 2013 study found that 44% of outdoor pet cats actively engaged in hunting behavior during a 7-day observation period. During those seven days, most cats captured two prey but some caught up to five different prey. Birds were not the only animals targeted; reptiles, mammals and invertebrates were also victims of predation. In this particular study, only 23% of kills were presented as tribute to the cat owner. Wildlife biologists can tell you that free-roaming cats are responsible for the extinction of 33 species and collectively kill a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year.

Bird predation is a concern for both the birds and the integrity of our ecosystems.  We depend on the pollination, seed dispersal, and insect control provided by our feathered friends. As Pete Marra states, “they are the glue that binds healthy ecosystems together” .

If you ask most veterinarians, they will tell you that free roaming cats live shorter lives because they contract diseases, parasites, are struck and killed by vehicles, and experience physical harm from fights with other cats, dogs, or wild carnivores. A report that followed 55 suburban cats found that 20 of them consumed liquids and solids not provided by their owner. This highlights the potential for accidental poisoning and ingestion of water from puddles containing runoff with pesticides or toxins such as antifreeze. Cats can also experience secondary poisoning from hunting rodents that consumed rodenticide.

In support of biodiversity, and a healthier life for feline pets, here are some suggestions from the American Bird Conservancy.

Outdoor Enclosures

These structures can be simple or expansive and can be modified to suit your needs.

Cat-safe Fencing

Cat fencing is easy to customize.  You can convert existing fencing by adding metal brackets to keep the cats from climbing out, or install free-standing fencing around your property to create an escape-proof space for your cats. Fencing can be multi-purpose and cost effective, protecting your plants from deer browse and keeping your cat within a designated area.

Here are some sources to find different types of fencing or get ideas for a DIY project:


Catios offer a permanent or portable enclosure for cats to enjoy the outdoors. You can incorporate perches and other features to make the space more interactive for your feline friend. You can purchase pre-made kits or design your own catio to fit a specific location.

Sources for catios:

Comfortable Restraints

Having your cat tethered while outside is another option. Cats can be leash trained, just like dogs. Harnesses allow your cat to explore the greater outdoors, or the backyard, without harming the surrounding wildlife.

Enrichment and Exercise

  • Boost your cats mental and physical health by engaging in playful activities with them. Each cat has its own preference for toys; some just prefer a wad of paper to bat around. Feather wands or toy mice filled with catnip can also stimulate your cat and brighten its day.  Owners may go as far as installing furniture that allows the cat to explore uncharted territory within the home and lounge in a bother-free space.

For the benefit of your cat and wildlife, consider these protection strategies.  Enjoy the cat’s company while listening to the cheerful sounds of bird calls and observing the abundance of biodiversity within your backyard habitat.

<a href="https://biodiversityworksmv.org/author/angela/" target="_self">Angela Luckey</a>

Angela Luckey


Angela was the Natural Neighbors program director from May 2021 to November 2022. She grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and lives in West Tisbury. Angela has a B.S. from UMass in Plant, Soil, and Insect Sciences and an M.S. from American Public University in Environmental Management and Policy.

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