balconies petsIf you live in a small studio apartment, condo, or townhouse, you may be lucky enough to have access to a balcony or porch. This tiny little “urban retreat” may well be the only bit of outdoor space you can truly call your own.

Indoor cats should only be let out on the balcony if protective netting is first wrapped around all open areas the cat has access to.

Indoor cats should only be let out on the balcony if protective netting is first wrapped around all open areas the cat has access to. [CC License via to.wo]

This post explores how to make a balcony or patio a relaxed, safe, and beautiful space that both pets and pet owners can enjoy, but anyone with a little bit of outdoor access will benefit from these suggestions

Safety concerns for pets

Unless you are completely confident your pet will not try to escape the confines of the porch or railing, your biggest concern should be to ensure your pets will remain in a safe area.

Protective balcony fence

First, find a way to fill in any gaps or open areas a curious pet could squeeze through. Most dogs are not a concern for jumping from a balcony, but cats and bunnies can squeeze through the railing and step off if you don’t take preventative measures.

At my old apartment, I used garden wire mesh like the one on the right to create a fence all the way around the inside perimeter of my balcony, held up against the posts of the balcony with cable ties. The squares were much too small for my cats to press their faces through, so I felt comfortable letting them out (with supervision). Keep an eye on your pets while they’re outside and you’re not, though! Cats especially can be reckless when they’re exploring or see a bird on the railing.

Preventing plant poisoning

As with any other room in your house, you should check every plant you bring into home for whether it will be toxic to your animals. Plants affect different species differently, so make sure you check that what you’re growing is safe for all your pets. The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has an extensive list of dangerous foods and plants for pets.

Pet-friendly small balcony decorations

Once your balcony is designed to prevent your pet from hurting itself, you can also squeeze in some decorative items that may benefit you, your pet, or both of you.

Pet-friendly plants

Dog owners might consider using either artificial turf or growing live grass in a basin on their balcony if there is enough square footage for the dog to reasonably use it as a bathroom spot. This can be a lifesaver if the weather is bad or when you don’t have time to take them on a walk. You can set up a basin or low planter yourself or use a commercial product, which has the advantage of being designed without soil and holding a second level to the basin that collects urine underneath so that the smell does not linger.

For cats, you can provide edible, cat-friendly grasses through either buying seed mixes or sprouts specifically labeled “cat grass,” which is a catch-all term for various types of oats, barley, and wheat, or you can choose your specific variant yourself. Many cats also enjoy nibbling on catnip. Just be aware that your cat may vomit some of the grass back up – this is normal, and most cat experts believe that the process helps cats’ digestive systems, even if they do not know exactly why.

Keeping other plants out of reach

Many pets enjoy eating the fruits of your gardening. If you’re growing a container or herb garden and want your pets to stay out of them, try using hanging planters from the roof of your balcony or railing boxes attached to the outside of your fencing to enjoy all the plants you love outdoors while keeping them for human consumption.

Water fountains

Finally, if your balcony is covered, a pet-friendly, filtered water fountain can serve the dual purposes of providing fresh, running water to your pet, and also adding the natural sound and sight of running water your balcony. Pet owners should ensure that the fountain they purchase is filtered to ensure the water remain safe for their pets.

Some suggestions for other pet-friendly balcony products are below:

Do you have any other questions or suggestions about how to make a balcony both beautiful and safe for your pets? Let me know!

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Photo credits: CC License via Eleftheria G

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