Matti FI*RockyHill´s Natchez moved to live with us in February 2021. We had wanted a cat in the family for a long time, and eventually settled on a Norwegian Forest cat. I previously had Hemuli, a landrace cat who passed away at age 22, and after several catless years the cat fever was getting strong. Even before Matti moved it, it was clear that we wanted to go on excursions and travel with him as long as he wouldn't dislike it. And in six months we've seen and done a whole bunch together!
A couple days after Matti moved in, we started getting him used to a harness. First, for a few days, the harness lied on the floor for inspection, and then we practiced wearing it indoors. This went so well we moved outside to explore the world. Nowadays, Matti runs to the door – be it at home, our cabin, or travelling – when he sees the harness. We go outside with Matti almost every day, so he is quite the enthusiastic outdoors cat. In the winter and spring we went to hike on nature trails. Our first proper excursion with Matti was to Leivonmäki National Park in March. They have nice short trails well suited for hiking with a cat. Granted, the open marsh was so windy that Matti got scared and traversed the marsh safely inside a backpack. And a backpack comes in handy when a cat gets tired or frightened; it's a safe place to travel. If you're around Central Finland, it's worth visiting Häähninmäki at the border of Konnevesi and Hankasalmi. The striking scenery from the cabin at the top of the high Häähninmäki is plenty to marvel for both cat and servant. In the summer we didn't hike because of the heat. Matti went out in the evenings at the cabin and at home, mostly lying around the yard and observing.
Matti goes with us almost everywhere. Of course, travelling and transportation has to be at the feline citizen's conditions, and the travel days shouldn't be too densely scheduled. Matti mostly eats raw food, and before trips we start to increase the amount of industrial fodder, so the dietary change isn't so abrupt. Freezers tend to be a rare treat on excursions. When we all head off for a trip and are looking at several hours in the car, we never leave home or continue our journey until Matti has eaten and gone to the bathroom. So far, he has not agreed to go when the loo is in the car boot; he wants privacy! Upon arrival at our destination, we first make sure all the windows are closed before letting Matti explore the room. We also collect and stow away any fragile or edible items.
Our first hotel trip was to Järvisydän in the spring. We went on walks outside with Matti, ate well, and Matti sat on duty on the window sill observing the world. When planning a hotel vacation, it's worth remembering that the hotel might not have a pet sign for the room door. It's a good idea to make one yourself. Matti seemed happy with his vacation, expressing his reluctance to return home by meowing half of the way. We made a longer trip to the Turku archipelago in the summer. We first spent a night in Turku, and headed to the archipelago the next morning. In Nauvo, Matti got to go to a restaurant for the first time, and it wasn't to be the last. Now Matti is an experienced restaurant goer. Don't hesitate to ask if you can take your cat to a restaurant. In one restaurant, the waiter told us cats are welcome in but dogs have to stay on the terrace! Matti's restaurant treats include a vitamin drink, malt paste, and salmon soup, meaning he has packed provisions.
In the car Matti usually travels wearing his own seatbelt, but at nap time he prefers the basket. On the Archipelago Ring Road, Matti had the exceptional privilege to sit on a lap up front, scanning the scenery and marveling at the ferry rides. Matti and we both recommend the Archipelago Ring Road as a travel destination. It's worth spending at least two nights in the archipelago though, so there's time for other things besides sitting in the car. At the end of the trip, we spent one more night in Tampere in the wonderful Lillan hotel, so the ride home wouldn't be so long.
Going to the cabin is pure adventure for Matti! We spend a lot of time at the cabin, and there he gets to be outside much more than at his city apartment. At the cabin, Matti has his own loop which we walk around at least once a day. Besides that, he lies around in the yard and hunts bugs. In the early summer, Matti practised SUP, but the summer was so hot he couldn't be taken along under the scorching sun. Now the weather looks more suited for Matti's SUP.
I myself am surprised by how much attention a travelling cat draws. Matti has gained many new friends out of hotel and restaurant staff and customers. There are plenty of marvelers and scratchers on nature excursions, too. The next adventure is already booked and new ones are in the plans! If you'd like to follow Matti's travels, you can find him on Instagram under matti_ _katti. You can also ask us for tips for your own adventures through the IG account, and if you have good tips for us we'd be glad to hear them!
- transport cage / backpack
- scratch board
- a couple favourite toys
- bathroom and dog poop bags
- pet sign
- comb / brush
- tick tweezers
- lactic acid bacteria
And for nature hikes, water, a cup, and treats.
A little over two years ago, we moved from a terraced house to a detached house. When we moved into our terraced house, it already had a cat pen, which was one of the main reasons why we chose it as our home. And as we were house-hunting, one important criterion was that the house must have - in addition to the front door - another door around which we can build a cat pen. There some otherwise potential houses that we dumped because constructing a pen as part of the house would have been impossible, or at the very least, extremely difficult.
Sure, the cat pen does not absolutely have to be physically connected with the house, but utilising existing structures, such as house walls, means that there is less construction work and accessing the pen is easier for the cats.
Our own pen is built around the side door coming up from the basement. The door has a cat flap that they can use to freely access the pen. I usually close the flap for the night and when we leave the house. Although in the summer I sometimes let the cats spend their nights in the pen too. The pen hardly has many risky areas compared to the indoors, but at times cats moving around freely can bring about some trouble. On a few occasions, a fox has visited our yard and made all the cats dash madly inside.
The pen’s supporting poles are painted gluelam, 90 x 90 mm, and the netting is small-mesh, solid rodent net that will stop, for instance, birds from entering the pen - at least in principle. The pen roof is also made of netting. The pen area has a ladder that the chimney sweeper needs to access the roof, which is why we have a hatch you can open in the pen’s roof. The sides of the hatch provide a small chink through which an occasional curious great tit may find its way to the pen. Oh, the joy this causes among our felines! So far, we have managed to get every bird out alive, sometimes minus a tail feather or two.
The roof made of netting has its pros and cons. Part of the pen has a soil base, and the net roof allows rain to water the ground for us. If you ask the cats, the rain is totally unnecessary, but then again, they probably do not realise that the grass they love so much needs water to grow. In winter, snow sliding down from the roof onto the pen can sometimes cause problems, but until now we have been spared any major damage.
The other half of the pen was already a terrace, so we left it as it was. The terrace has a cabin made for the cats that we cover with a cushion when the weather is nice, and a chair where I sit when it is free. Well, mostly a cat is found in the chair.
We have used wooden logs and large branches from apple trees to decorate the soil side of the pen. Circling the whole pen, at the height of about one metre, we have a “windowsill” where the cats can sit and walk around the pen above the others. We also plan to create some sort of a climbing block and sitting levels even higher in the pen at some point.
The article was originally published in the magazine for members of Somakiss (somalian and abyssinian cats) in Finland
In principle, a cat does not belong to Finnish nature. A free-moving cat is a danger to the rest of nature, and to itself. However, most cats like to sniff the outdoors. Outdoors exercise can be well organized with a cat with the help of a harness, most cats get used to them well and the person walking at the end of the lead does not restrain the cat’s enthusiasm to explore and sniff their surroundings. It is easier for the servant if it is possible to build an outdoor pen for the cat or to net/glaze the balcony for outdoors use. How can a pen be implemented in the yard? Here are Nina Sillanpää’s implementations.
I originally had two cats for which I built the first pen in the bay window of my house. As the cat herd grew, pen space was increased. The yard can be accessed from the ventilation window. I replaced the outer window with a plexiglass window, to which I managed to attach a hatch for passage. With the inner window, the yard can be completely closed. For the foundations of the pen, I partially dug a brick plinth underground, on top of which I piled the wood that had been used on the railroad tracks I found on the plot. Pressure-impregnated wood of approx. 10x10 cm is also well suited for this. I used angle irons for the corners. For construction, I utilized the wood left over from building the house and, in addition, I bought pressure-impregnated wood for structures coming close to the ground, mainly to cover and secure the bottom of the net. I painted the wooden parts with exterior paint. Pressure-impregnated wood can well be used for the entire yard, saving on painting work.
The size of the construction boards depends a lot on how high the pen becomes and how sturdy it needs to be. I have a new part of the pen the height of the entire house, through which I can then access the netted balcony. The height felt pretty staggering, I made a partition/board floor on the balcony level of the yard, where I left an opening for passage. I used terrace screws for the fastening of the pen and it is also fastened to the outer walls with screws, so it is relatively easy to disassemble. The pen has a subsoil, some of which is crushed stone next to the plinth, and some lawn. You can put a so-called grass mat on top of crushed stone, it feels nicer under the paws. The pens are connected by a lower “siphon tube”, both parts of the pen can also be accessed from the outside and the doors have padlocks. Being in the pen is sometimes, especially on summer nights, so nice that a few times the cat has had to be fetched in from the outside.
For the net I used a rodent net, mesh size 1.5x1.5 centimetres. I wanted a small-mesh net so that there would be no birds or bigger butterflies, etc. in the pen. Unfortunately, wasps sometimes enter the pen, usually not by flying in directly, but if they sit on that net, they may also come inside. And yes, cats are entertained, but not me! A few paws have been swollen because of these visits. Worms, lizards and frog babies and some moths have been carried in from there as a great prey. The pen also has enough diagonal rain for the grass to grow. The net is sold in meter widths and in rolls of at least 10 and 20 meters. It is a good idea to place uprights in this width of the net to suit the fastening. The net was fastened to the wood with a stapler and a vertical rib attached to it with screws.
The roof is light cover. Between the uprights I have placed slightly wider boards for passage and rest. Otherwise, the pen can then be decorated to your liking. During the summer, cats like to sleep outside in the sun or in the shade in the summer heat; nests, baskets and hammocks can be placed in different places. I have a trunk of apple tree felled from the plot for climbing in the pen. Apple tree is nicely curled for that purpose.
The yard is in active use from early spring to late autumn. Especially the warm summer nights are very attractive, although I do not let the cats stay there at night when I sleep. And also not when I am not home myself. Unfortunately, there may be free cats or other animals moving in the yard, which will then cause confusion and quarrel between your own gang. Even when it is cold, they quickly visit the pen to wonder the snow. Pen alone is not always enough, our Kalevi and Siiri definitely want to go out in harnesses daily as well.
A pen has also been set up for the cats to stay at grandma’s. The pen has been made on the end wall of the house, access from the ventilation window of the living room. In it, the outer window has been replaced with a metal mosquito net and a cat hatch. Even in this pen, handsome apple tree trunks were obtained for climbing. The bird feeding point is conveniently located on a pine next to it, you can get close to lurk for prey. For the summer, the terrace still needs to be netted, it also makes it easier to hang out on the terrace.
The article was originally published in the magazine for members of Somakiss (somalian and abyssinian cats) in Finland