It seems that the term catio has become common language among cat people, but for the uninitiated, it is simply an enclosed outdoor space designed specifically for cats. Catios can range from small window box enclosures to elaborate rooms with all kinds of amenities. Thinking about adding a catio to your home? Consider the following:
Why a catio?
There are numerous reasons to get a catio for your cat. Let’s start with enrichment. A catio provides your cat with access to the outdoors — fresh air, sunshine, a view of wildlife. By expanding cats’ territory, catios provide them with additional space to explore. All of these things promote health and wellness and reduce stress. Additionally, cats are able to enjoy these benefits while remaining safe from outdoor threats. You can protect your cat from all the evils that free-roaming cats encounter, while also protecting wildlife from your cat.
The right catio for you
When considering the type of catio, look at the size and placement of your potential catio. Will it be just big enough for a cat to use, or will your catio be large enough for you to spend time in it with your cat? Are you considering a catio that is connected to your house, or will it be freestanding, away from the house, with cat access through a tunnel or walkway? Also, think about the angle of the sun when choosing a catio location. Depending on the climate in your area, will you want a sunny spot or will shade be better?
Access to the catio
Consider how your cat will access the catio. Will she use a cat door installed in a regular door, in a window or in the wall? Or will she just go through an open window or door? Do you need to build a tunnel or walkway?
Types of catios
The questions above should help you decide which type of catio you need:
Window: Window catios are smaller enclosures that are just big enough for cats to use. They are usually attached to the side of a house, with cats accessing the catio through an open window or a cat door installed in a window. Because these do not allow human access, consider how you can access the inside of the catio for cleaning or reaching your cat in an emergency. Although small, a window catio can still give your cat a taste of the outdoors!
Larger three-sided catios: The next size up would be a larger three-sided catio. These catios are also attached to the side of a house and can accommodate a full-size door for human access, but they may not have quite enough room for human seating. This size catio can include shelves for vertical climbing and other cat features, like scratchers and a litter box.
Enclosed patios, decks & porches: Now we’re into full-size catios that you can enjoy with your cat! These are the most common type of catio because they take an existing architectural feature, like a patio, deck or porch, and simply enclose it, making it completely cat-proof. You can use existing walls, roof overhangs and floors or decking to create a catio that blends seamlessly with the exterior of your home. Quite often, larger catios have human and cat access through a door from the house and include comfy seating for the whole family. And don’t forget to catify! Take advantage of that vertical space by adding lots of climbing shelves, perches, beds and scratchers.
Freestanding four-sided enclosures: Freestanding enclosures are great if you don’t want to attach a structure to the side of your house or if you have a larger yard to take advantage of. Cats can access freestanding enclosures through a tunnel or walkway, which also adds to the fun for them. Freestanding enclosures can be any size and shape, even enclosing whole trees, which make great natural scratching posts.
DIY, Kit or Professional
So, where to start? If you’re handy, you may be able to design and build your own catio, but if you need some help, there are options. For the DIYers out there who need just a little push in the right direction, you can purchase downloadable DIY catio plans from websites like catio spaces.com. These affordable plans will give you a list of materials and supplies along with all the instructions you’ll need to build your own catio.
If that’s a bit more than you want to tackle, then look for a complete catio kit, including all the parts you need and instructions. All you have to do is open the box and assemble. There are several companies offering catio kits that you can customize for your needs.
If you want to leave it up to the professionals, there are dozens of builders across the country who specialize in catios. If you can’t find a catio specialist in your area, look for a local carpenter or handyman who can do the job.
A word about catio litter boxes: First, you’ll need to make sure that any outdoor litter boxes are under a roof and away from mesh walls where wind could blow rain in. You definitely don’t want rain in the litter box! Second, make sure that catio litter boxes don’t become “out of sight, out of mind.” You need to clean catio litter boxes regularly, just as you would indoor litter boxes.
So did we convince you to add a catio? It’s not as hard as it may seem, with so many options now available. Your cat will love you for it.