THE STAR – Enticing smells, interesting sounds, the warming rays of the sun: For cats, strolling over to the balcony is often rewarding.
Their owners just need to ensure that the area is safe, watching out for three dangers in particular, said Sabine Ruthenfranz, author of a cat podcast.
“For one thing, cats can fall off,” she said, adding that people often underestimate this. Cats do not always land on their feet, contrary to popular belief – they can actually get hurt, she said.
A further danger is poisonous plants – you don’t want your cat to start chewing on them.
Lastly, watch out for too much hot sun, as light-haired cats in particular can get sunburned.
The way to ensure your cat is safe from falling is to place a net around your balcony. Head to a specialist shop if you’d like one that you can screw on, or fix with clamps, so you don’t have to do any drilling.
Make sure your net is weather-resistant and the mesh width is around three centimetres (cm), said Ruthenfranz. Her advice is to get a black or dark green one as they are less noticeable than nets that are white or transparent.
Secure the net around two metres (m) above the balcony parapet. You only need to close the net at the top as well if your cat has a really fierce desire to climb.
If your balcony has bars, then check how far apart they are as you might need some security there, too. After all, “cats can squirm through even the smallest gaps”, said Ruthenfranz.
Watch your the cat closely the first time it walks on the balcony, she said. “Cats are the best safety inspectors and will find any loophole.”
Now let’s turn to plants – here, it depends on where you’re based. Many plants that are common to Germany, for example, are unfortunately poisonous. But Ruthenfranz said if you have a cat, you are safe with horned violet (Viola cornuta) or catnip (Nepeta cataria).
However, even here, the plants are usually sprayed if they come from traditional retailers, so be sure that your cat doesn’t start nibbling on plants immediately after buying them, even if they’re not poisonous, said Ruthenfranz. Put the pots out of reach for three weeks, to be on the safe side.
Now for the sun and here, it is pretty easy to create an area with shade, even in the form of a garden chair that your cat can shelter under if the sun is too strong. “Cats need a lot of warmth, but they can also get sunstroke,” said Ruthenfranz.
Make sure your cat doesn’t spend too much time in the hot sun, especially if it’s very young, older or has a pre-existing condition. Keep a close eye on your kitty and just move a chair or table to ensure its head is in the shade, if it’s getting too hot.
Meanwhile other ways you can enhance your balcony’s appeal for your cat is to create a viewing area, though of course, make sure you get the height right.
And alongside any toys you set out, just place a bowl of water there, too, with a diameter about the size of a fruit bowl or salad bowl and about 10cm deep, she said.
That lets your cat drink and fish for small toys floating in the water. Don’t put the food bowl out there, though, as the food may spoil in the heat or attract pests.
And, as anywhere else in your home, avoid leaving anything lying around that could hurt your cat if it gets too close.
When night falls, you might let your cat enjoy the balcony, too, as they can listen to lots of fun sounds said Ruthenfranz. Who knows, maybe your cat will get lucky and can also chase a few butterflies out there too.