Please note: this article was written just prior to our being wiped out by hurricanes Frances and Jeanne. We no longer live here, but a playpen is still a playpen and a great compromise!
I have seen the destruction first hand to wildlife from the dogs and cats of our society who are allowed to run free. It’s what I do – I rescue wildlife. I find a good 30% of my rescues come from our tamed pets.
I am also a cat lover. Currently I own 6 cats. Five were rescues and one amazing creature, an Abyssinian, which my husband had always wanted. My husband is from South Africa so we named our 5-month old Abby Kruger, after the Kruger National Game Park. Little did we know how wild he would prove to be. He is by far the smartest, quickest, most independent cat I have ever had the pleasure, and trauma to know.
We live in a 4,000 square foot 2-story home with an attached garage. We have a cat door in the connecting door between the garage and house. The litter boxes are kept in the garage, which, pleasantly keeps odors and paw litter out of the house. There are 2 huge cat condos, beds, feeders, watering towers and two screened in porches- one downstairs, the other upstairs. It’s as close to cat heaven as one would want.
You can imagine my dismay when after 25-years of always having cats live happy, well spoiled lives, indoors, this beautiful Ruddy male wanted nothing more than to be on his own hunting AND outdoors. At 7-months old he had figured out how long the garage door would be opened as we came and went. He soon began dashing under the car the moment it was put into gear to make his escape for the outside world. It had to be a fluke - a one-time occurrence! But sadly no, he tried every chance he got. We were soon standing guard at the door, which was great if we traveled out together, impossible for a solo driver.
I was desperate for a solution and it finally came – we needed an outside playpen! Working with wild animals I was well aware of how to keep even tigers from escaping. Certainly I could keep an 8-pound Abby in too. However we also live in South Florida, a hurricane zone and I didn’t want anything permanent that could be a projectile in such weather. My husband then pointed out that African villagers protected their villages with a boma. (See below). We then got busy designing and building our version of a boma to keep the cats in.
All our supplies were readily available at our local home center. (See side bar for construction). The important things to cover: 1) it must be 7-feet tall as cats can jump approximately 6’ high, 2) it must angled in 2 feet at the top at either a 45 or 90 degree angle, and 3) it must be secure to the ground and/or house.
Ours is 1250 square feet total. It comes 25-feet off our back bedroom sliding glass doors, which also allows for a cat door and their 24/7/365 convenience. It then squares to the right for another 25-feet before running down the side of our house for 60-feet. It then right turns again for a 15-foot finish to the side of the house. The boma has bushes and trees to nowhere inside it, we let the grass grow taller. Our babies now have grass under their feet, sky above and our little wild man has lived the last 3 years very happily hunting what dares to enter his territory.
A Purrfect compromise! In the 3 years it has been up there has never been an escape. It has withstood winds up to 45 mile per hour and heavy rains. For worse weather it takes us 15-minutes to break it down and store it in our garage. Another 30-minutes to put it back up.
The best part is that Kruger is able to feed his wild nature. The wildlife knows it’s there and they stay clear – or beware! The butterflies dance and tease. The squirrels race along the top posts. Birds will dive bomb to test their boldness. Bats come at night. The cats are never bored and Kruger has never since tried to dash out under the car. He is “KING KRUGER” and never been happier!
Boma – a construction of twigs and trees that surrounds a village. It is mainly constructed from Acacia trees that have very sharp spikes on them. It is thrown/put together much like a birds nest. It is usually 6-10 feet tall. It’s density and height keeps lions and such out of the village at nights. A fire is usually lit in what would be considered the door into the village. Most large cats and other animals will avoid fire. If you are a “Survivor” fan – the Africa show had them construct a boma their first night for safety.
© BY B.L. Bruigom 6/2004