My friend Lorraine is awesome.  Her nickname is Fabulous Lorraine.  She’s not really a birder, but having been friends with me she knows that they are there, watches some (Red-bellied Woodpeckers are her favorite) and will even drink shade-grown coffee because she knows it’s good for migratory birds.

Photo courtesy Kimm Schroeder

She also has some serious cats.  Not just any type of house cat, she has Bengals.  Lorraine started with one tiny kitten when she moved into her home.  The kitten Venus is an F4 Bengal meaning she’s four generations (F4) removed from the Asian Leopard Cat which is a small wild cat from Asia.  Asian Leopards are about house cat sized and can breed with house cats giving a bit more wild animal to your domestic pet.  After Lorraine learned what a job it is to keep just a fourth generation Bengal, she got involved with Bengal Rescue and now helps foster and find homes for unwanted Bengals.

Since these cats have so much wild predator in them, they need activity.  Lorraine even bought them a running wheel.  They can be trained to be an indoor cat, but some like one of Lorraine’s fosters really, really want to be outside and if they don’t get that enrichment, they take it out on the house…usually in the form of urine.  She has leashes for them to take them outside and she has a screened in porch but that just wasn’t enough for one of her cats.

It’s dangerous for cats to be outdoors: disease, cars, tiny towns with gun happy neighbors and Lorraine has heard me talk about the Cats Indoors Campaign–non native house cats are hard enough on native birds.  According to US Fish and Wildlife domestic rural cats kill roughly 39 million birds annually. Bengals with actual leopard in them are even harder on wild birds.  So, what does a woman with her own home, backyard and friendly neighborhood rollergirls do?  Why turn her backyard into a kitty playground that keeps the birds out:

Photo courtesy Kimm Schroeder

It’s a completely fenced in yard just for cats to climb, play and explore.  It’s even covered at the top so they can’t jump out.

Photo courtesy Kimm Schroeder

The fence will keep most birds out, at least the ones that notice cats in there on a regular basis.  This also keeps the Bengals out of the streets, out of the neighbor’s yards and away from birds. “I have a window from the house that goes onto the screened in porch,” Lorraine said. ” The tunnel goes from the porch to the Leopard Lounge.”

When asked about the winter, Lorraine said that she will probably only let them out when she’s home, she suspects they will not want to play in the Wisconsin snow and cold nearly as much as they do in spring, summer and fall.

Lorraine has asked that I help her come up with a safe bird feeding station so the Bengals can watch the birds from the safety of the cage for a little entertainment.  I’ll see what can do, we don’t want birds perching on the cage waiting for position on the feeder and then get ambushed by a Bengal.

Photo courtesy Kimm Schroeder

On a side note, the local police have already visited her yard because someone called the cops to report that a woman in the neighborhood is keeping leopards caged up in her yard.  The police were really nice and inspected it.  Not sure who they thought was crazier: the person who reported it or the person who loves the well being of her cats and cares for them and the surrounding wildlife enough to turn her yard into a Bengal Lounge.

So, for people who insist that their cats MUST go outside…you now have a choice and it is possible to build a safe structure so cats can enjoy the outdoors without decimating the local bird population.

Lorraine says the Bengals are so happy and loving it. You can read her entries about it here and here.

Written by Birdchick
Sharon Stiteler was given a Peterson Field Guide to Birds when she was seven years old and snapped. She loves birds - it’s just the way she’s wired. Since 1997, she has made it her goal to get paid to go birding. She runs the popular birding blog,, and has been in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and on NBC Nightly News as well as making regular appearances on Twin Cities’ TV and radio stations. She’s a professional speaker and story-teller and her writing can be found in several publications including WildBird Magazine, Outdoor News, and Birding Business. She wrote the books 1001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know, Disapproving Rabbits and City Birds/Country Birds. When she’s not digiscoping, tweeting or banding birds, she’s a part-time park ranger and award-winning beekeeper.