How can I make a balcony railing safe for my cats to sit on?

We have a large 2nd story balcony at our new house that our cats like to hang out on. The railing is about 7" wide and 2" thick, so the cats are able to get on top of it and walk around, which makes us very nervous.

I'm trying to construct something that will make it safer for them to walk around up there. The thought isn't to make it escape proof, just to prevent them from accidentally falling off if they fall asleep or there's a strong gust of wind or something.

My thought is to install plexiglass along the outer edge of the railing, about 1' in height.

Should I screw the plexiglass directly into the wood of the railing, or should I use some kind of plate to attach it? The house is a rental, so I would like to minimize any permanent damage/changes. A few screw holes should not be a big deal.

Open to any and all suggestions! Thanks!

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One story I've seen cats jump from that height.

You can do the plexiglass if it makes you feel better but cats will be cats.

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KevinH390 (author) 14 days ago

Thanks for the input, everybody.

It does seem that the cats are pretty safe up on the railing and we feel OK with them up there as long as we are home to watch them. But, sometimes we would like to leave them outside without worrying what they might get up to on the edge.

My new idea is to attach a type of sun shade/blind that can be pulled down when we are not at home. The ceiling of the porch is slatted, with approximately 1/2" gaps between the slats. I think that if I can find a type of retractable blind that mounts with a loop at the top for a nail or screw, I can attach these to the slats in the ceiling via a small loop of wire, thus avoiding any screws.

So far, though, I'm having some trouble finding retractable blinds that hang this way. My ideal is something like the old school roll-up blind that you pull down and then give a little tug to have it retract on its roller.

Anyone have any suggestions?

KevinH390 (author)  KevinH39014 days ago

I should probably add that there are two sides to the balcony, each measuring 25 feet in length.

Vyger14 days ago

Cats are designed to climb, they have the built in gear to do so. Although they do fall sometimes, it's pretty rare. Unlike us, animals who have to balance just to walk, cats have a very low center of balance. They really can't fall over, they more just roll over. What looks dangerous to us is perfectly fine for them. If you put up a barrier you will actually make it more dangerous for them. They will try to get over the barrier and that could be a problem, when they jump on the top edge of 1/4 plexiglass that will be a little difficult to walk on but they will try it. When it comes to heights it,s really best to let the cats decide on what is safe. Seven inches wide to them is 2 to three times the width of their body, maybe even more. You can translate that into people dimensions by imagining how safe you would feel crawling down the middle of a 4 ft wide sheet of plywood. Your not going to fall off.

+1.

I've seen my cat sleep on a 1" wide fence.

iceng16 days ago

Why work on a bizarre Cat safety construction trying to satisfy two opposing build constraints.

Instead you should, every morning tie a buttered bread to each cat's back..

How would this help ?

Well you know a buttered piece of bread must always fall butter side down !

and a cat will always land on its feet !

But the butter bread tied to the cats back must force the cat to land on her back or the butter land face up if the cat lands on her feet..

NEITHER Of These outcomes can occure.... So what will actually happen ?

Well the Cat-Butterology Law comes into effect and if the cat steps off your 2nd floor balcony ( which any cat I know can easily jump to ground )

The Cat and Buttered-Bread will simply float ----~~~~---- defying gravity because of the aforementioned violations which are not allowed !

Behold your Cat is safe from falling !!!! with a simple Buttered Bread attached and you do not need to make a dangerous build that could fall on a street level by-stander who would certainly sue you..

iceng iceng15 days ago

BTW there is a very light weight net used to keep cats from climbing over a wood fence which would work as a safety net works for high wire performers and is very easy to set up (no screws)..

If you do not want tie buttered bread to your cats back ;-)

Apart from the problem that changes of the balcony might cause troubles with the landlord or council:
I have seen people here simply putting a thin shade cloth around the entire balcony.
So instead of hoping the cat will have something to prevent them from going overboard they are literally locked in by the shade cloth.
Downside is that some cheeky cat might decide it is a great climbing toy.

@KevinH390

Very thoughtful project. I commend you for being good to animals.

I don't know about the jumping from that height (chicken wire would be easy to manage, and a LOT cheaper than plexi...), but you can make the railings safer by having any number of carpet fabrics on the railing itself (the part that goes across). You can start low-tech by simply draping some step carpets, or an old remnant over the rail, then "sew" it from the underside while cutting off excess.

This google search should get your idea juices going: https://goo.gl/RwZAhq

Also, the carpeting involves zero holes, and there are chicken wire examples at that link. I like this first approach (get more complex as needed), as it is cheap, virtually non-destructive, and does not prevent breezes. Had cats all my life!

+1