Any solutions for cats and second floor balcony?

CassandraApril 21, 2008

My two cats and I moved this winter into a second floor condo in an old, converted Victorian home. One of the selling points for me was the huge open-air (not screened) front balcony/porch off the living room. I'll make lots of use of it now that the weather is getting warm. Because it is a condo with historical restrictions, I am unable to screen in the porch

Here's the dilemma. My two cats are longing to go out on it. We have come from a single family home where I put them on harnesses and leashes and took them out in the back yard every so often, which they just loved. I'm trying to think of a creative solution to allow the cats on the balcony safely. The balcony has waist-high walls all around, without bars or cutouts, so they won't be content in a wire cage on the floor--they won't be able to see anything over the sides. I could just put a cage on a table to raise it up, but there must be a better solution. I would, of course, love it if I could just erect a perch in a corner or just a table they can lay on without caging them but I just don't know whether they will understand the fact that the balcony is on the second floor and not try to jump over the railing. The railing is about 8", so they could perch on it, but it scares me to have them even try. Any thoughts?

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Cats are really more curious than anything, but I totally understand your worrying.

I lived in a second floor apartment with a small balcony, it only had about a 2.5" to 3" thick railing and my one cat (the younger one) routinely scared the heck out of me by jumping up on it. But I would stay calm and just call her to me. She would usually jump down (which she found much more difficult than jumping up) and come. If she didn't I would get out the bag of treats and shake it. She would definitely come to that. But everytime she jumped up there I would have nightmares of her falling.

I recently moved to a 4th floor apartment which has much thicker railings (about 6 - 7" wide) and she has only jumped up there once. I think she got pretty freaked out when she saw how high it was and now I have no problem letting her out there because she doesn't even try to jump up.

You just need to make sure that there is nowhere else they can jump or walk to from your railing, like the roof for example, where they will easily find a way to jump down to the ground, or a tree, or another railing. So if there is nowhere for them to go, I wouldn't be too worried about them falling from an 8" wide railing. They are cats, after all and their balance and reflexes are FAR superior to our own.

But good luck because I certainly do understand your fear!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2008 at 4:21PM
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I wouldn't risk it, personally. I know of two people whose cats jumped/fell off of balconies, and one of them was severely injured. When my own cats start playing with a moth/bug, or see a bird outside the window, they get really, really involved in what they're doing -- I'd be worried that they would be so involved with catching/playing with something that they would fly right off the balcony.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2008 at 7:10PM
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My friend's cat was in the habit of sleeping on top of the cement wall on his second-floor balcony. One day she rolled over in her sleep, fell off the balcony, broke her back and had to be euthanized.

Please think of their safety first, whatever you decide to do.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2008 at 9:24PM
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Thanks for your responses. I will definitely not allow the cats free access to the porch and/or allow them to sit on the railings. The risk is far too great, and like most cat owners I have seen my cats occasionally miscalculate a jump. In this case, it might be fatal.

What I realized I'm looking for is a vertical type cat cage--something taller than wide, perhaps with several levels--so that they can sit up high enough to see over the balcony rail. It has got to be sturdy on the bottom and weatherproof. The idea would be to put the cats in it every so often, always in controlled circumstances (me on the porch with them). Has anyone seen something like that?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 7:43AM
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I have seen those vertical cages like you describe in my vets office. They display adoptable kitties in the waiting room on saturdays. One of those would be be great on the patio.

I think its a modular system that can be reconfigured similar to this one. Not cheap though.

Here is a link that might be useful: cat cages

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 12:05PM
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You could probably find a handyman who would be willing to build you something. Draw something out and call one up to see if they would be willing to do this. Visit a home center and see what kind of materials might work. Ask someone at the home center, they might know someone.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 2:35PM
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Would they allow you to install something that would be temporary? If so, I'd use something like the site below, or even install short panels of plexiglass (if wind isn't a problem).

A carpenter would know how to build a free standing barrier that would be in agreement with the condo's rules.......unless they don't want to see *anything* going across the opening!

Otherwise, the enclosures joe linked to should work great.

Here is a link that might be useful: cat barrier

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 4:02PM
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If the porch is truly huge, you could make a cat enclosure with various perches and allow them to stay in that. You can put perches and everything into it. 2 by 4's and chicken wire works great. I think your cats would love that.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 4:53PM
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Just something to think about...I live in a condominium too, and have 2 cats. When I first moved here I considered putting something out on my deck to allow my cats some outdoor time and smells. We have a homeowner association and the board of directors wouldn't let me put something on my deck other than lawn furniture a barbecue - stuff you would normally find on a deck. Being you're in a condo, you may want to check to see if there are any restrictions against putting something on your deck. It would be a shame if you went to the trouble and expense only to find out it is against your rules & regulations.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 9:57PM
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To keep cats safe on balconies, try Puppy Bumpers, stuffed pillow collars. They were originally made for dogs but they work great for cats too! They keep our cat from squeezing between the balcony rails. You still have to be careful they can't jump over the rail but it helps a lot!

Here is a link that might be useful: Puppy Bumpers

    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 4:57PM
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ap1ce, you just registered today, brought this thread up from over two months ago, and put a link to a website that sells something. Advertising is not allowed here on the GardenWeb forums.

Since the subject has been raised, though, I want to warn people to think twice before letting pets out on upstairs balconies. Is it really worth the risk?

I will never forget the neighbor's sweet cat, who fell off their second-floor balcony resulting in major injuries - she had to be put to sleep.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2009 at 1:10AM
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I once had a cat fall off a balcony (4th floor) and die from it, too. I was inexperienced with such things and thought he was all right because he seemed careful and surefooted. But one day when he was up on the railing, which was fairly wide, the child in the next-door condo made a scary noise at him and he lost his balance and fell. Later I was told that cats don't have great depth perception, so they can't tell how dangerous a particular window or balcony is. And you never know when something will distract them.

I would never take a chance on letting a cat out on a balcony. Your idea of a large vertical cage and some of the other suggestions sound good. We once made use of something like that although we lived on the first floor, because the traffic was bad near our house and we didn't want the cats to roam free. With several perches at different levels and a good view of the outside, the cats seemed quite happy. The way the house was built, we were able to have a small but tall screened-in (and roofed) area built attached to the house in such way that we could leave the sliding doors there partly open when we were home, and the cats could go in and out at will.

The person who mentioned Puppy Bumpers can't know much about cats. They can jump up on the railing in two tenths of a second and then having something bulky like that around their necks will just make their position more precarious. I hope the condo people will let you have a tall cage or some such arrangement out there. Good for you for wanting to give your cats that pleasure and for taking good care of them. If you build a cage or have one built, be sure it is strong wire, not just screendoor netting, because I have had a cat get excited by something outside and climb all around on the (in this case, plastic-coated fencing wire in a diamond pattern) wire just like a monkey.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2009 at 4:04PM
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I'm the OP and I just saw someone resurrected this post. I did buy a vertical cage for my cats. I found it online. It is very sturdy with three perches. My boy cat Basil loves to sit on the upper perch and look out. It has worked out just fine!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2009 at 6:14PM
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I honestly wouldn't risk it. I don't have cats per se, but the thought of having anything that might jump off is too much for me. I'd just have a cage, but then again I don't know how willing cats are to being in cages.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 4:18PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I'm glad it worked out and thanks for letting us know. I love happy endings!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 8:28PM
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my cat always wears a harness and leash outside even if we are on a ground level patio. so certainly do that on the balcony. Abi loves being outside and once she learned that the harness was the only way to have that freedom she purrs when she sees the harness.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 3:31PM
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Marita, thanks for telling us what you did. Sometimes people post and never go back to tell "the rest of the story."

We have an indoor cat, and I've seen her fall any number of times. She's very daring and doesn't know her limitations. I'm glad you didn't let your kitties loose out there.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 4:02PM
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I just moved to a second floor apartment last week. Installed a slding glass cat door so that my cats can go out to the balcony whenever they want. I want to keep their litter there as well. I have waist hight metal railing in the balcony and its is no more than two inches wide. Last night I saw one of my cats walking on the railing and I was able calmly to call him down from it. I thought of something that none one in in this post nor any other post thought about. How about installing pigeon spikes on the railing. (the clear plastic kind that does not have sharp tips) They are inexpensive and easy to install. After installing it on the top of the railing there is no way a cat can walk on top of it. I haven't done this yet so iam open to suggestions and recommendations. I don't think the cats would want to jump over the railing would they? here is a link to what I am talking about:

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 5:06PM
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redkit, I see you just registered today and have put the address of a commercial site in your first comment here. I have never heard of an apartment renter installing their own sliding glass door. This makes me suspicious.

Advertising is not allowed on the GardenWeb forums.

If I'm wrong, I apologize.

At any rate, I don't know if the pigeon spikes would work, and if it were my cats I would not take the chance.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 12:37AM
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I have a house and indoor cats so I don't have this problem but I would never let my cats on a balcony even as surefooted as they are. Last night one of my cats was sleeping on the back of a wing chair and fell off on to the dog. While it was funny to me, it wouldn't have been if she fell two stories. I feel sorry sometimes for my cats but then I get over it. They can sit on window sills and look out and I don't have to worry about all the hazards out there to get them.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 1:38AM
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redkit's message raised a red flag for me, too.

I thought pictures of the guy in his cage on a beautiful summer day might help! I am very happy with the arrangement, and I think he is too. He can watch birds and squirrels in the trees, and people walking their dogs below on the sidewalk. What more can a cat want?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 11:36AM
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That's very nice, Marita, and I notice that, cat-like, he chooses to lie at the highest level possible! An elegant-looking fellow he is, too! I love tuxedo cats and had one once who was great at fetching yarn toys, just like a dog.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 11:33PM
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We have 2 Bengals and we can't let them out because we live on the hillside (some wild animals). My husband built a large cage in the back yard that they can get to from our masterbedroom. They don't use it as much as I thought they would. My husband walks them 2-3 times a day in the back on a leash. In the front we have a nice balcony off the family room and they use that a lot. Right below the balcony is our 5th wheel and they walk out of the roof of that and so far it has worked out well. But my husband parked his car in the drive way and one of the cats jumped on the roof of the car (from the 5th wheel) and then down to the ground. As I was working in the kitchen I saw this animal in the back and then realized it was one of the cats!
Soon we will be getting rid of the 5th wheel and then I don't know what will happen. But right now it works great. We keep a cat box out there and the slider open 10" and they go in and out. Here is a picture...

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 3:03PM
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