Ever since I have lived at my current address I have had to put up with the most horrible, mangy shaggy strays who want to make my backyard their own and even have the cheek to quarrel with each other over it. My own cats might just as well not exist. My late Siamese, Silas, was long a victim and even the aggressive Oriental, Kongo, had his share of scars and the odd trip to the vet. My cats have not been the only victims as some of these strays have killed some valuable rabbits, not only in terms of the show table but in for their own sakes as loveable pets.

For that reason I decided that the Aureate cats (Hathor, the Somali, and Hatshepsut, the Abyssinian) would be indoor cats. Well, that was the theory. They hadn't read the book and soon followed me out, leaving via the old cat door. They liked to help feed the rabbits and guinea pigs (and also saw off some mice that had been infesting one of the sheds). They got bolder and less inclined to come back inside as the weather got warmer. So I decided to have an enclosure built. This was in October 2001.

There are two basic types: the clear-net mesh type (Catmax)  and the system of rigid towers and tunnels (Catnip and, in Canberra, Balcony Court Yard Living There was also Cats On the Run, which no longer seems to exist). As I didn't want to enclose part of the garden (not really appropriate) I decided to go with the second type. I chose Cats On the Run because they were local and came out and designed to suit your needs, and assembled it for you, rather than you having to order in a kit which either you assemble yourself or have the local agent do for you. I have two big towers joined by two tunnels one on high the other lower down. Within each tower is a climbing tree/scratch post and two hammocks made with shade-cloth which also casts shade.

General view showing Hathor on hammock and Hatshepsut in the upper tunnel washing herself.

Another view from the opposite side showing two towers and furnishings. One of the rabbit sheds is in the background.

The two tunnels connecting the towers with Hathor in the right hand tower and Hatshepsut in the upper tunnel.

Detail of a tower showing climbing tree (plus Hatshepsut demonstrating a hammock)

Even rabbits can enjoy the cat enclosure, safe from strays. Here Laelius, a Cashmere Lop shows Hatshepsut how to use the lower tunnel.

A friend was feeding Laelius some blades of grass through the mesh and Hatshepsut, seeing food was on hand, climbed in the tunnel with him and smarmed up to him, rubbing up against him, trying to get the blade of grass out of his mouth. She and her sister also try to take food from the guinea pigs. They have tried, unsuccessfully, to acquire a taste for Vitality Plus or Peter's and lucerne chaff but really do enjoy sliced, fresh corn on the cob, which they steal out of the box if my back is turned. Strangely, the cavies don't seem to show much interest when I open a tin of Whiskas.