Everything You Want to Know About Outdoor Cat Tunnels

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

04 September 2019

Giving your cat new ways to play and keep them fit, not to mention giving them some puzzles to figure out, is one part of keeping them healthy.
Cat tunnels is one way of not only keeping them fit mentally and physically, it can also be used to give them access to your backyard cat enclosure whenever they want to go outside.

What is a cat tunnel?

A cat tunnel is actually just what it sounds like — it’s a tunnel made from specific materials that is large enough for a cat to pass through.
These tunnels can be used for playing or simply to get from inside your house to more tunnels set up in the garden or to a backyard cat enclosure.

Why does my cat need an outdoor cat tunnel?

Cat tunnels are a great way to give your cat a larger space to roam in while also keeping them safe. The main reason for keeping your cat as a purely indoor cat, is to keep them safe, after all.
However, by using cat tunnels, you can give your feline freedom of movement between the yard and your home. By pairing a cat tunnel to a cat enclosure, your cat will be able to come and go as they please, all the while being kept safe from:
  • Traffic
  • Other, stray cats and fighting
  • Serious feline illnesses that spread through contact with or bite marks from another cat
  • Predators like snakes, and neighbours’ roaming animals
  • Roaming the streets and neighbourhood on its own and getting injured or killed.
If your cat is safely inside their outdoor tunnel and cat enclosure, they will also not be able to catch small rodents and birds and bring them to you as “gifts”.

The different types of cat tunnels

There are two main kinds of cat tunnels; outdoor cat tunnels and indoor cat tunnels.

Indoor cat tunnels

Indoor cat — as the name suggests — tunnels are designed exclusively for use inside your home. While they may be taken outside for your cat to play with — that is if they don’t have a backyard cat enclosure — they will perish in harsh sunlight and weather and can’t be left outside for long periods of time.
Usually made from soft and bendable fabric, like canvas. Indoor cat tunnels are usually smaller than their outdoor counterparts and are kept from collapsing by some form of plastic or wire supports that keeps the tunnel open (in much the same way that tents keep their shape through the use of tent poles).

Outdoor cat tunnels

Designed specifically for the outdoors, these cat tunnels are made from robust and rugged materials that can withstand harsh weather and sun.
More than simply being for playing in (who doesn’t love a cool maze!), the outdoor cat tunnels usually lead to a backyard cat enclosure where your cat can lounge or play the time away in the fresh air.

    Materials from which the outdoor cat tunnels are made

The materials from which the outdoor cat tunnels are made can differ considerably.
While some manufacturers use only netting that has been shaped around wire or plastic bars, others use wire mesh.
When making use of wire mesh, the supports of the cat tunnel, if needed, may be made from wood or metal. The strong galvanised steel wire mesh that Kittylink Cat Tunnelling uses, however, doesn’t need additional supports.  
Those who build their own cat tunnels and enclosures may use any number of materials — some more suited to the job at hand than others.
Kittylink Cat Tunnelling also has optional snake-proof mesh that can be added to the cat tunnels to ensure that no predator can get inside the cat tunnels or cat enclosure.

The ins and outs of outdoor cat tunnels

It might sound very difficult to decide what type of cat tunnelling you want in your garden, but, by keeping a few things in mind, you can find which of the cat tunnels are best suited to your home.

What to keep in mind when choosing a cat tunnel

  • The main thing to keep in mind when you are choosing a cat tunnel, is space.
  • The space you have available in your garden or on your patio will greatly influence how the end result of your cat tunnelling and cat enclosure looks. Not every garden is big enough for a giant cat enclosure like the Claws Cabin  and Paws Playhouse Combo and a labyrinth of cat tunnels.
  • It’s best to decide beforehand how large a piece of your patio or garden you’re going to use for your cat tunnelling and cat enclosure. In this way you will easily be able to move on to the next thing to keep in mind; the layout of your yard.
  • The layout of your garden or patio will also have a big influence on the look and size of your cat tunnels. For example, if your backyard is very large and you decide to put your enclosure some way from the house instead of right next to it, you will need a longer tunnel to connect the house and enclosure.
  • If your garden is filled with trees or flowerbeds, you will also need to take them into account when designing your cat run. Kittylink Cat Tunnelling has bridge and corner cat tunnel pieces, which means that you can make bespoke cat tunnels that perfectly suit your home.
  • The cat or cats who will use the cat tunnels should also be kept in mind, especially when you decide which floor covering to choose.
  • Because different cats prefer different textures, they should definitely be kept in mind when choosing the flooring. For example, some cats may not like the texture of artificial grass. In that case, you can rather go for a marine carpet when getting your Kittylink Cat Tunnelling.
  • Cats with long or longer coats, like Persians, Maine Coons, Ragdolls, etc. should also rather have the marine carpet or plastic matting as the artificial grass may collect tufts of loose hair over time. The marine carpet or plastic matting is in this case a lot easier to keep clean, as you can imagine! Rather leave the artificial grass for inside the cat enclosure.
  • By keeping the flooring in mind as well as your cat’s habits in the home or in their current backyard enclosure you can be sure that they will want to use the tunnels and won’t be scared of them or the textures they have as flooring.

The best place to put a cat tunnel

The placement of the cat tunnelling will depend not only on the layout of your yard, but also on access points to your home; for example windows or doors.
In the case of cat tunnels, windows are the perfect access points to the home and enclosure. Try to use a window that your cat already enjoys sitting in. This will make their transition to using the tunnels and enclosure a lot easier.
While most people use designs where the cat tunnel starts from a ground floor window, some designs can be amended to use a first floor window.
Doors can also be used along with a cat flap, if need be. However, most of the time the cat enclosure itself is built right outside the door (often called “catios”), with the house’s door leading into the cat enclosure and another door leading out of the cat enclosure.

How to create the ultimate outdoor cat enclosure using Kittylink Cat Tunnelling

To create the ultimate cat enclosure experience for your furry feline is a lot easier when you use Kittylink Cat Tunnelling and Backyard Cat Enclosures, as these two cat enclosure and safekeeping systems are designed to work together seamlessly.

What makes Kittylink Cat Tunnelling different?

  • Kittylink Cat Tunnelling is manufactured by Backyard Cat Enclosures to the highest standards to keep your favourite feline safe while they’re enjoying the outdoors.
  • Strong, galvanised wire mesh (with 25mm x 25mm mesh) is used for the cat tunnels.  
  • The bottom of the cat tunnel is covered with your choice of covering; artificial grass, marine carpet or plastic matting.
  • To keep any critters or snakes from entering the tunnelling or enclosure, aluminium snake-proof mesh (1mm x 1mm mesh) can be added to the cat tunnel for maximum safety.  
  • Straight, corner, and bridge tunnel pieces are available and pieces can be added as required. The straight pieces of tunnel come in different lengths that range from 1m to 2.4m. Tunnels can also be made to measure.
  • The Kittylinks Cat Tunnelling can be fastened to walls, wood, an existing cat enclosure, windows and around cat flaps.
  • With the linking system devised by the Kittylinks Cat Tunnelling, your imagination is the limit to the feline dream house that you can build.

Draw up the plans for the cat tunnelling

  • First off, however, you need to draw up the plans for your new cat tunnelling or cat enclosure and cat tunnelling project.
  • What you will need to do after deciding where you want the enclosure and cat tunnels to go, is to measure the area using a measuring tape (preferably a metal one).
  • Sketch out a bird’s eye view of your yard with the cat run you’re planning drawn in. If it’s not perfectly drawn to scale at this stage, it’s fine; as long as you measure and note down the measurements carefully.
  • Remember that the Kittylink Cat Tunnelling comes in different lengths and pieces, so your next step will be to work out what lengths of cat tunnelling you will need.
  • At this stage it’s a good idea to draw a clean sketch on which you can not only note the overall measurements of the enclosure, but also which lengths and portions (straight, bridge, corner) of cat tunnelling you will need. This will not help you only when buying the different elements, but also when it comes to putting everything together.
  • You can also decide which one of the cat enclosures that are available will be your cat’s main playhouse and complete your kitty dream home.
  • If you are unsure of your measurements, Backyard Cat Enclosures will help you to make sure that your furry feline gets a perfectly measured, completely safe, and bespoke enclosure.

Buy all the necessary parts

  • Next comes your cat’s favourite part — going to the computer so you can order the enclosure parts while they try to obstruct your view of the screen or sneakily add an extra cat hammock to the order.
  • The Backyard Cat Enclosures website is extremely user-friendly and makes ordering the different tunnel sections and the cat enclosure itself easy as pie.
  • Simply choose the lengths of Kittylink Cat Tunnelling you will need and the flooring your cat will love and add them to your basket. Once payment is done, you will only need to wait a few days before the fun really starts — putting up the cat tunnelling and cat enclosure!

Assemble!

When your cat tunnels are delivered and you’re ready to assemble your masterpiece, it’s best to have a friend or two on hand to help hold things or pass things on to you.
  • In the case of the Kittylink Cat Tunnelling, the different tunnel sections are attached to one another with Aviary J-clips. (They can also be ordered from Backyard Cat Enclosures.) The tunnels themselves are then fastened to a wall, for example, using metal brackets.
  • When you are ready to attach it to the cat enclosure, you can simply attach it over the cat flap (for example if you’ve chosen the Paws Playhouse Cat Run). If the enclosure doesn’t have a built-in cat flap, simply cut a 30cm x 30cm square in the galvanised wire mesh and attach it using some more J-links.
  • If you are not very DIY-inclined or is simply pressed for time, you can always speak to Backyard Cat Enclosures, who can arrange for handymen to come and assist you. Not only would they be able to assemble the cat enclosure and cat tunnels, but would also be able to paint and seal them. All that is left to do then, is to make it a bit more homely for your feline.

Time to decorate your masterpiece!

  • Decorating your cat tunnels and cat enclosure can be as simple or as complicated as you like.
  • Planting some cat-friendly plants around the tunnels and around (or even a few in) the cat enclosure, can immediately bring the garden closer for your cat.
  • Here is an article about the safe and unsafe plants to use in and around the enclosure.
  • Suspend some catnip mice or fish from the top of the cat tunnels for even more playtime fun.
  • You can also add a tray or pot of wheat and oat grass for your kitty to nibble on if they need to.
  • Next comes some toys, bouncy bridges, and hammocks. Giving your cat stimulation when they are outside through toys, puzzle balls and platforms to jump and walk on can do wonders for your cat’s health and fitness. Add a hammock or two for your kitty to rest in after chasing some catnip balls and mice.
  • (If you decide on one of the large cat runs, you will also be able to create a little corner for yourself where you can have a sit down and spend some time outside with your cat. Although, it may be a good idea to get two chairs in case your cat has decided that they aren’t moving from the chair that day!)

How to get your cat used to their cat tunnels and cat enclosure

  • It may take a bit of time for your cat to get used to the idea that they’re now allowed to go outside, not to mention that the strange tunnel suddenly connected to the window leads to a wonderful playground just for them.
Playtime in the home
  • To help them to get used to using the tunnels, you can start by giving them a play tunnel inside the home. In this way, they will get used to creeping into a tunnel and will see that they are actually fun to play in and not something to be scared of.
  • Try to do this at least a few weeks before you put up the cat tunnelling in your yard. This will give them ample time to get used to the new toy.
  • If your cat still seems wary of using the play tunnel, you can either place some small toys, like a catnip ball, inside the play tunnel, or simply sprinkle some catnip inside the tunnel to lure them closer.
  • Whatever you do, though, don’t force them inside the tunnel, as this can scare them and start to equate tunnels with fear. Rather give your cat time to figure the tunnel out on its own.
  • Let them play with some of the tunnel pieces beforehand
  • If you’re using the Kittylink Cat Tunnelling, you can put the piece that will be put in the window or around the cat flap inside the home for your cat to explore and play in before putting it up outside.
  • Not only will they get used to its size and see that it is fun to play in, they will also transfer their scent to it. This will help them to feel safer when they first venture into their tunnel.
  • If your cat enclosure is also new, you can first take your cat to the enclosure and get them used to it before you show them the tunnels that connects it with your home.

Walk by their side

  • If your cat still seems unsure about using the tunnels, you can go outside and talk to them to tempt them to follow you outside. Once they’re in the tunnel, praise them and even give them a treat (or have one waiting in the enclosure if you’ve decided to get the snake-proof mesh).
  • Then keep on walking next to them while they explore the new tunnel and its new smells.

Give them all the time they need

    The most important thing with these tunnels — as with the play tunnel — is not to force your cat into doing anything they don’t want to. Don’t force them into the tunnel, but talk to them in a friendly and relaxed tone of voice. As soon as you become stressed and irritated, your cat will feel it and they will become wary of the whole situation.
    Give them all the time they need to acclimatise to their new cat tunnel and enclosure system. You’ll see that they fall in love with it — and being able to go outside — much quicker than you might think!

    Photo by Rotiv Artic on Unsplash


    Ebook Download

    Download Your Ebook Now

    We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will never be shared. By downloading you agree to join our subscriber list and agree to our Terms and Conditions. Thank you.

    Download our FREE EBook about Cats

    Get all of the info you'll need to raise healthy, happy kitties!

    Download Now

    Leave a comment

    Comments will be approved before showing up.