How to Build a Cat Run & Enclosure – What Best Materials to Use?

Before I get into other points of interest regarding cat runs and enclosures, we'll first detail our own build so that those who are visiting this article after watching my How to build a cat run video on YouTube can read the relevant information they are after. If you haven't seen the video you can scroll down the page and view it or you can read the article in full first and then watch it if you like as there's no prerequisite to see the video before reading the post – it's totally up to you… 

Our cat run/enclosure build details

The following paragraphs are the specific details of our own cat run/enclosure build. 

What is our cat run made from and why did we select this material? 

Our cat run and enclosure are made from a good quality galvanised steel mesh and frame. We paid extra to have the run/enclosure powder coated a colonial cream colour to match our home and powder coating also helps to preserve or protect the steel better from rust.

We decided to get a galvanised steel product because it would last longer than other products (such as nylon netting) and be stronger able to withstand any unforeseen rough treatment such as a dog tearing at it. Also, galvanised steel is easier to fix to walls, holds its shape, came in a range of colours, and wasn't a potential tangle threat to wild animals like nylon can be sometimes.   

What are the parts of our cat run/enclosure and what did it cost?

Our cat run is made up of the following parts/segments and cost $2245 AU:

  • 1 x Tower enclosure package including – tower enclosure (2400mm x 1200mm x 1200mm), corner hammock, 4 x steps @ $1070 AU;
  • 1 x Riser tower (2000mm x 550mm) including 4 x steps @ $295 AU;
  • 16 metres of cat run 310mm squared including floor matting @ $880 AU;
  • 1 x cat door (fitted to security screen) @ $19 AU;
  • Qty of zip ties;
  • Qty of screws/bolts (wood, masonry, steel);
  • Qty of recycled wood (for cat enclosure flooring); and
  • Postage cost @ $245 AU. 

Where did we purchase our cat run?

Betta Pet Systems  – is where I purchased our cat enclosure and run (with accessories). They are an online company based in Melbourne and from my experience with them, they fully deserve their excellent reputation and reviews.  

I like the fact that Betta Pet Systems have a large range of products made to order offering durability and practicality providing a set of designs to suit any scenario. The runs and enclosures were mostly preassembled requiring only to pop them open from the flat-pack state, join it all together, and it was ready to go!

Yes, I would recommend doing business with these guys they're helpful, prompt, and their products are top quality.      

For the record, I never received any discount, money, affiliate ship, or sponsoring for mentioning this retailer – I simply recommend their cat run/enclosure because I believe it's good quality and a practical product.

How did we decide where to position our overall cat run?

We have a two story home so essentially we had to decide where to begin our cut run and downstairs out the back under the deck was deemed the most suitable. There were three main reasons for positioning our cat run/enclosure where we did and they were: 

  • Accessibility – We needed a place whereby the cat could access the run at liberty without imposing on our own lifestyle. In other words, we didn't want a cat run to get in the way of our normal thoroughfares and that's why we didn't use the existing pet door in our security screen upstairs (installed by previous owners) because this is a door we use frequently and to attach a run to that entry/exit would have meant changing our behaviour dramatically by not using that door or by employing some other type of measure to manually let the cat in and out when required. We had several other options for positioning where the entry/exit cat door would be such as through a wall, a window, or another door and we decided that a sliding security screen door downstairs was the best because it wasn't used and installing a pet door into a security screen was easier and cheaper than a wall or window.        
  • Optics – Positioning the entry/exit where we did also made it less obvious and the attached run could back on to the immediate outside wall obscuring the beginning of the run and wall unit from standard view when looking from the inside out. Naturally, we wanted the run and enclosure to blend into our house as much as possible because if optics didn't bother us at all we'd have positioned the cut run out the front but from the street view a cage running around the front of our home would look awful and I think most people would agree.    
  • Comfort for the cat – Having the cat run downstairs under the back deck as opposed to upstairs didn't just hide it from view it also helps shield the enclosure and run from most of the harsh sun and heat we get here in the subtropics particularly through summer. Not only that, our cat is very social and we spend a lot of time out in the backyard so by positioning the cat run and enclosure where we did he is able to watch us in the garden etc and thus spend more time with us. 

How did we know what size enclosure and run to get?

Once I drew up a rough pencil plan on paper of where the cat run and enclosure would go, I basically, got a tape measure and measured out the whole area to see how much actual run mesh we required and also the maximum size enclosure and wall climber that could fit it the positions we wanted them. The last thing anyone wants to do is buy a large mesh enclosure that doesn't fit in place so I made sure I measured twice and allowed for the extra height due to the wooden base!    

Why should you use a cat run or enclosure?

Cat runs and enclosures are becoming increasingly popular and there are many reasons why this is happening. Cats are wonderful pets but the days of allowing them to freely roam the neighbourhood day and night are over. Community expectations with respect to keeping domestic felines are becoming less forgiving than any other time in history. Not that cats have ever really been completely tolerated but people are more educated now about how destructive cats are on the environment. And because this is a big issue for green groups, it gets a lot of support from the mainstream media taking every opportunity to remind the public of how bad their moggy is for the world unless its behaviour is strictly controlled.

Environmentally, the extinction of numerous native species of wildlife has been attributed to wild "domestic" cats so there's no doubt this is a huge problem and also a problem you probably have heard mentioned many times before… Personally, although I do care about the environment, it's the other behavioural traits of cats in my own local environment that annoy/affect me more, things like:

  • Fighting with other cats at night – Who hasn't been woken up in the middle of the night by the awful sounds of cats fighting outside your bedroom window? The clashing of neighbourhood cats in the darkness is a preventable scenario that only happens because lazy people don't care about their fellow citizens or their own pets enough to simply secure them at night.
  • They get hit by vehicles – I can understand how the sight of a cat lying motionless in the centre of the street would come as a relief for some people, particularly if they were kept awake the night before by the animal's throaty howling, but it's not a very nice thing to happen. Firstly, it's dangerous for the cat and humans to have domestic animals running around the streets and secondly it's a sad tragedy for the owners of the cat (often kids) and other people who witness it. Cats are not very good at judging road crossings when confused by vehicle headlights or trying to judge the speed of the threat moving past and that's the reason why they get run over so often. 
  • They do their business in unwanted places – Children's sand pits, vegetable gardens, and tomcats spraying over cars or up house walls are some of the places cats love to pee and poo. Cats kill flower beds with their potent urine, they ruin paintwork, and it's a disgusting experience to dig up fresh cat do-do when planting seedlings in your newly tilled vegetable patch. Not only does cat waste stink and kill vegetation it's also unhealthy due to the potential spread of diseases especially if done in a garden meant for food production.  
  • They run away and turn wild – Yes this is bad environmentally when a pet cat never comes back to its original home and thus turns into a wild animal, however, it's also annoying because they tend to become scavengers around urban areas wreaking havoc as they try to find food. When I was overseas with the Army in East Timor besides our security work we also had to trap cats as a preventative measure in order to stop these filthy starving creatures from continually raiding our camp! 

I'm sure many of you can come up with plenty of other reasons why cats should be controlled but the above are just the main ones I came up with off the top of my head – feel free to mention yours in the comments section. I do understand the importance of the environmentalist argument, nevertheless, I believe the best way to change human behaviour is by explaining how a certain behaviour is seen as socially unacceptable by your peers in a way that affects them directly rather than trying to guilt people about how mismanaging your pet cat affects an endangered marsupial, for instance.

So for the reasons I outlined above I urge all cat owners to have a cat run or enclosure – at least lock their cat inside the house at nightfall. From experience though, keeping your cat inside from dusk to dawn is really not good enough. I mean, I have always kept our cats locked up after dark by either keeping them inside or putting them to bed in a purpose built cat enclosure in the backyard for the night and although I felt this was adequate I was never truly happy leaving them loose to go and come as they please throughout the day.

It's really difficult to contain a cat or teach it to stay in your own yard because unlike a dog cats can climb. Sure, we've had neighbours that have loved our cats like they were their own and even fed them! But, we've also had neighbours that weren't too thrilled about an unannounced visit from our tomcat. This is a seriously good point if you do love your cat you can no longer assume that your neighbours will likely be "good" people and tolerant enough to shoo-off your cat from unwanted visits to their property.  Unfortunately, due to the erosion of values in our society, it's possible more now than ever before that your cat could come to harm at the hands of people around you if it ventures away from your home.

Therefore, if you are at all concerned about your cat/s welfare you should definitely get/build a cat run, or even better, a cat enclosure with a cat run attached and that way your pet can get the best of both worlds in having more freedom without annoying others or endangering itself.     

What are the different types of cat runs or enclosures?

Due to this growing popularity in containing pet cats, there has been an explosion in ways and materials used to create a purpose built cat enclosure/run. We chose a galvanised steel mesh powder coated product in a colour that matched our home decor, in other words, we got a premium product at a premium price. However, you don't have to spend as much money as we did so here are some other options for a cat run/enclosure.

Buy the run and enclosure separately

Instead of buying the whole run and cat enclosure package from the one specialised retailer you could just mix and match or not have an enclosure at all or buy the cat enclosure separately or make your own. There are plenty of reasonably priced products sold separately online such as those here on eBay AU and here on eBay USA or on eBay UK so depending on where you are it's possible to mix'n match to create not only a suitable but also an affordable environment for your pet that meets your budget.     

Runs and cat enclosures made from netting

At the beginning of this article, I did briefly detail my own reservations I have about using nylon netting for runs and cat enclosures, however, there are plenty of people around the world who use them for their cats. Netting is easy to handle, it's lightweight, pretty straightforward to install, and does the job in containing your pet cat but the bottom line is it's cheaper to buy than most other materials used for this purpose.   

I've seen some cat netting designs that enclose large areas such as the whole backyard! Obviously, fully netting a big area like a backyard can only be done under certain circumstances where the property is suitable for such a bold enclosure but if it can be done it does have its advantages allowing a cat total freedom to go anywhere in the yard without requiring a run network.    

Image above from Australian eBay product item called CatNets 

Video on how to build a good solid cat run and enclosure


There's no doubt that by most people's standards cats should be controlled and contained to one's own property for a range of reasons. However, not every cat is totally adaptable to living indoors and that's why a cat run preferably connected to a nice sized outdoor enclosure is a great compromise. 

Feel free to comment below and I have also started a discussion on our forum if you would like to go there and participate or ask questions just follow this link here. 


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