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DIY Cat Barrier for Under $100 (See-Through, Climb-Proof, and Too-Tall-To-Jump)

ICYMI: I gave up Cotton after deciding that after trying so many things, my two adopted cats Dahlia and Cotton were just never going to get along. Long story short: I missed her. And Cotton's back. And Dahlia's not going anywhere. My heart is big enough to keep trying. And my apartment is big enough that if I need to keep them separated long term (or permanently), it can be done.

I'm going to write-up a separate post about some of the solutions I've tried, how they worked, who they worked on, and what I'll be trying next. But in this post, I wanted to share the main 'piece de resistance' of having both cats in my apartment: an un-climbable, un-jumpable, see-through barrier to separate Cotton and Dahlia.

Cotton stays out of trouble when she can't stalk, chase, or corner Dahlia. Dahlia feels and behaves better when she doesn't have to sneak around in fear of being "gotten by Cotton." So I'm keeping them in separate spaces, alternating their spaces occasionally throughout the week, and eventually moving on to supervised together time... but not for a while.

Step One: Divide
My apartment is actually set up quite well to be divided in half. I close the single door and double pocket doors to my bedroom because it's become a cat-free zone. (I just sleep better cat-free.) Dahlia gets the front room and office most of the time because she enjoys curling up in the cat beds in those rooms. Cotton gets the living room and kitchen most of the time since she prefers those rooms' windows. And it's easy to separate the front room/office and living room/kitchen with a set of double pocket doors.

The problem is closing them. They're old. They're difficult to open and shut. And they're soooo loud. They screech and squeal and rattle. Plus, I hated not being able to see or hear the other half of my apartment. No matter what, one cat was isolated behind closed doors.

Find a Solution
I combed the internet for cat barrier solutions. My cats may be older and lazy, but I'm 100% positive that both of them would jump a baby gate -- maybe not with grace, but with enough ease that a baby gate isn't an option. I found a few cat gates that were supposed to be tall enough, but they weren't wide enough. Or they were just too dang expensive. I needed something renter-friendly, easy to use, quiet, and preferably under $100.

I stumbled upon this blog and DIY tutorial and it seemed like the best option -- with a few tweaks. Instead of a single doorway, I'd need my barrier to span a five-foot double doorway. And I'd need it a bit taller to deter both cats from attempting to jump or climb. But I was confident I could do it, so I hit up Menards for supplies, fueled up on a giant McD's iced coffee, and got to work.

Voila! It may not be pretty, but it's so easy to use and easy to see through. No more closed doors!

What I used:

  • Three 72-inch long by 12-inch deep shelves
  • Two 72-inch long by 16-inch deep shelves
  • A few packs of hook and eye latches
  • A package of clear zip ties
  • One large vanilla iced coffee from McD's
I attached the shelves to each other using the zip ties. With the 12-inchers in the middle and the 16-inchers on the ends, it turned out like a giant, cage-like folding screen that won't stand up on its own. If I had to do it again, I'd buy one more 16-incher and one less 12-incher. I could have used a few extra inches, but it turned out nice and taut so maybe it's better this way.

One end of the screen is attached to the wall with four hook and eye latches. The eyes are screwed into the wall. (I gently tapped in the tips with a hammer, then screwed them into the wall with my fingers. Easy peasy.) That's the end that will stay attached and not be used as a door.

On the other end, I couldn't attach it to the wall because that would make the hooks inaccessible from the other side. It needs to be easy to unhook and open from both sides, so I put a zip tie through the keyhole. Then I used a zip tie to attach a hook to the edge at the same height as the keyhole. The hook slips into the zip tie when it needs to shut, but is easy to access from either side when coming or going.

Lastly, I was a bit concerned about the sharp metal edges dragging on the floor. I couldn't find the little plastic protectors I'd imagined, so I picked up a 5-foot runner from the Family Dollar to put under the barrier. It helps steady it to be on carpet rather than hardwood. I just have to be extra careful with the part that swings open when I enter/exit... which isn't hard, since the shelves are lightweight and easy to move up off the floor when opening.

How's it doing? 
So far, so good. At first I wasn't in love with the look of it. I somewhat wished I'd gone with a pretty patterned lattice, though that would have taken much more time, spent up more of my money, and blocked my view. (And it might have been easier for the cats to scale!) But since the shelves are white and mostly see-through, I've gotten used to it quickly. Now it blends into the background.

Cotton and Dahlia investigate the mysterious barrier that magically separates them.

Both cats were confused at first. It took Cotton two tries to launch at Dahlia before she realized she couldn't get thorugh the strange new wall. And it took Dahlia a few startling moments before she realized the barrier completely protects her from Cotton. I like that I can see through to the next room where the other cat is. 

Cotton now lies next to it. And Dahlia is starting to walk right up to it while Cotton's lying there. She still hisses at Cotton's sudden movements, but settles down when she remembers that the barrier protects her. Cotton has spent hours pawing at the edges and sticking her paws through, but she hasn't figured out how to undo the hook and get through. (Fingers crossed!) Neither have tried to climb or jump over it -- I think it appears so tall from their level that they can't see the open space at the top so it must seem impossible.

It kinda felt like a cage in my apartment for a while... but now it blends into the background.

So let's break down my requirements:

Renter-Friendly? Yep! I put just four small holes in the wall that can be easily filled and painted over when I move out someday. And a rug protects the hardwood floor from scratches until I can find a way to make the tips of the shelves less sharp.

Easy to Use? Sure is. It's much more convenient than pushing and pulling on 100+ year old pocket doors everytime I need through.

Quiet? Yesss! It's so much quieter than those screachy, rattling pocket doors.

Under $100? Total, the project cost me around $60.

The barrier is much less than fancy pet barriers, and probably much more resistent to cats squeezing through, climbing up, or jumping over. Plus, if I ever don't need it some day (that'd be a miracle!), I can take it apart and put the closet shelves to good use. The best part is that it opens up my apartment again, lets the sun shine through, and allows me to see and hear what's going on in the other half of my living space.

I didn't take any "in-progress" pictures since I was hurrying to get this done before going to pick up Cotton -- and the project definitely requires both of my hands at the same time.

Complete Instructions
If you're interested in creating this, I highly recommend checking out the original do-it-yourself tutorial and blog post here. (Of course, hers is smaller and can stand on its own, so there are a few differences.) 

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Kristin said…
So glad that you have found a solution - and that Cotton is back :)
priligy said…
"transparent" wall for cats! smart decision (:
Barbara said…
Smashing idea and one we may try to copy. Thank you.
amber438 said…
Perfect solution to my issue also. Will definitely copy!!
Unknown said…
do your cats have claws? It looks like it would be really simple for the cat to climb? I love this idea but I need something that isn't "climb-able"....
My cats were already declawed before I adopted them. They showed no desire to try to climb it, but I have no idea how a clawed cat would react... a clawed cat might just see it as a great, big, fun obstacle! ;)
Anonymous said…
Thank you for being kind enough to link back to my original post. I appreciate that, and I'm glad it worked for you. :0) I managed to make my latest one with just 2 16" gates for my new home's bedroom door. I hope it continues to keep the peace at your house!
Jenna Myers said…
Smashing idea and one we may try to copy. Thank you.
Anon said…
You just described my life!! My big boy loves to ambush my little girl.
:-( I am essentially living with my apartment divided in half! This (and the original post) seem like an answered prayer! Although my boy is annoyingly good at figuring out how to get past all the barriers I've tried so far...grrrr LOL
Smiling Jenny said…
I like the site and wish you luck and success in future...;-)
Adal said…
Neat idea. But it will not work for an active cat. They'll climb right up the horizontals and right down the other side - easily. Hard to beat a determined cat. Probably will work for an older inactive cat.
You're right. :) I imagine a determined, spry cat would figure out a way to climb over. My cats are older and quite a bit lazy. (Nowadays, a simple baby gate keeps them out. Haha.) I have heard success stories from others who have tried this cat barrier, but I'm sure it all depends on the cat!
Soraia said…
Perfect solution to my issue also. Will definitely copy!!
Selma Wozniak said…
Is that also available in other colors? We have several cats that fight every now and then and we have to break them apart, then such a device would be really practical.
Versand24 said…
Cool idea! I really like your interior - awesome! everything looks very harmonious, especially cats
Cam Rutherford said…
there is something like that in different heights. We have canaries birds so we can keep them in a specific room. Otherwise, the little beasts are traveling a lot. ;-)
Anonymous said…
This is genious. I have an older cat who decided the kitchen floor was her new litter box. I wanted to be able to block off a six foot opening in a way that would keep her out but be easy for us to move. I tried cardtables; she jumped them. I tried a large cardboard box flattened; she learned to push it. I started looking, found this, bought supplies and had it up and operating in a few hours. She's too old to climb it, can't push it because the corners are hooked to the wall, and we can move it easily. One addition: I slit a pool noodle and placed it on the bottom to make it slide easily and save the floor from scratches. Perfect!
Anonymous said…
I just gone done building mine yesterday, works great!
Anonymous said…
This partition is ideal. The instructions were seamless, the store had the materials readily available, and we put in doors for two open areas in less than two hours. It's aethestically pleasing and functional. Thank you. It saved so much in expenses from the custom doors we were planning. Great job.
Anonymous said…
Can’t thank you enough !! This works perfectly. We have a cat requiring surgery and we need to keep him confined. Difficult with rooms that have no doors. We can also use this technique to wrap around a staircase.
Kevin Nelson said…
As the years go on, the world is becoming more and more pet friendly. We picked the best soft mesh barriers and the best heavy duty installs for your bigger or more enthusiastic cats. Best Pet Barrier in 2019
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Tino Best said…
While you can get ones that do have the beds three high in a single stack, you can also get L-shaped triple bunk beds that put two kids on the top in the 'L' and a second one down below. l shaped triple bunk bed


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