“We put up all kinds of different fences and barriers to try to keep them in the yard,” he said. “One neighborhood cat got shot. We were living in Sparks … and we didn’t want that happening with ours.”
Chicken and hardware wire didn’t work. Electric fencing shocked them, only spurring them faster over the fence line. Heath said he quickly learned one important tidbit to outsmarting the smart cats.
“We had to have something that didn’t look solid,” he said.
Heath and his wife, Georgia, finally found the solution: polypropylene. The specially designed netting made from the flexible material is an effective method to help cat owners break their feline’s habit of climbing over fences and keep them at home.
Their system, called Cat Fence-In, has been on the market since 1990. The material can endure up to 50 pounds of pressure per square inch and has ultraviolet ray inhibitors that prevent degradation. It's net-like design “looks like a giant spider web” to a cat, Heath said. It’s enough to deter the animal even to the point where they won’t attempt to climb a fence if they see the product installed. It also has a three-quarter inch mesh so cats won’t get tangled up in it, Heath said.
Customers who order the material are sent do-it-yourself instructions for installation and custom steel brackets and rods, which are rustproof to last in the weather. The netting goes all along the fence’s top perimeter so the cat doesn’t find a gap. The brackets to secure the netting are spaced about 8 feet apart and can screw in to any type of fence whether it’s wood, chain link or wrought iron.
“They leave it alone,” he said. “It’s too flexible — strong, but flexible.”
Heath said the invention process was a game for his own cat as he tinkered with different barriers.
The Heaths charge $2 per foot of netting, which comes in various sizes for different fencing needs, from 24- to 56-foot lengths.
Customers can choose from either a strato or combination barrier. The strato keeps an owner’s cat from going over tall fences but does not keep stray cats from jumping in and it has to be installed 5 feet or higher from the ground. Using a combination barrier keeps both a domestic cat in and a stray cat out with the netting coming between the cat and its landing place. The combination barrier is meant to be installed on any fence 3 feet and taller.
There is also a tree kit that comes in two sizes and attaches around trunks to prevent cats from and escaping the yard via long branches.
Creating the system itself took some research and insight into cats, Heath said. Being an experienced owner himself, he already knew cats could size up their environment as they climbed or jumped.
“Cats are smarter animals than people give them credit for,” he said. “We have competition out there now … (by) people who designed a system and they don’t understand how cats climb a fence. … We credit our cats for developing this. They really went through the testing. One cat, she’d be out there studying it.”
Business has declined in the recession to fewer than 100 customers per month, Heath said. At its peak, he and Georgia would receive more than 100 a month on average.
For more information about Cat Fence-In, visit www.catfencein.com. For questions or to place an order, call (888) 738-9099.