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Twice over the past few years, one of our cats has been locked in neighbors' garages or basements (once Rodney was missing for several days), and they got in many fights, and we were always worried that they would run in front of cars or something. Then Rodcat got cancer and the treatment suppressed his immune system, so we didn't want the other cats going out and bringing home diseases.
So, we decided to keep the cats inside. But then we felt bad, since we know how cats like to go out and smell the air, watch the birds, etc. Juliet suggested an outdoor cat cage ("kitty recreation area"), so I built one.
I originally started out making a wood frame out of scrap two-by-fours. That didn't turn out so well: without diagonal bracing it would have been too flimsy, and I didn't want to add big plywood sheets (heavy and ugly) so I attached the wood using metal hardware. I was just about finished with it before I realized that it was terrible and I should start over.
Made out of wood, it was heavy. The structure sits on our garage roof. Also, we may need to move it sometime to have roof work done or to re-shingle. Plus, it was ugly.
A friend, Mark O'Leary, had suggested looking at PVC pipe as a construction material, and it turned out to be just the ticket. I used 1-1/4-inch PVC, which is strong enough to handle runs of about 8 feet without sagging too much.
The structure needed diagonal braces. Unfortunately, the Y-shaped fittings, called "outlets," to make this possible are pretty rare in 1-1/4-inch size, so I had to get them through mail order.
I glued a few of the joints, but left most of them "dry" so the whole thing can be disassembled if necessary. It's light enough to be moved around easily, though, so probably it won't have to be taken apart unless we decide to have the whole garage roof re-surfaced or something.
The PVC, glue, and PVC cutter (highly recommended) cost under $50 total. For the screen, we used "deer fence" that we had left over from a landscaping project.
Perhaps predictably, the cats like the "catwalk" that connects the front window to the cage just as much as the cage itself...more, really, since they probably spend about twice as much time in the catwalk. The cage is only sunny until about noon, but the catwalk is sunny all day, so they like to lie around there.
I punched out a pane of glass in a window that opens into the catwalk, so the cats can come and go as they please.
Nimitz goes out several times per day (and night), but Graywacke only goes out occasionally.