Ask the 8-Ball: Should You Build a Catio for the Happiest Cat on the Block?
Does contentment equal kitty containment? Keeping your cat inside the home definitely keeps him or her safer, but the safety and security therein may not necessarily hit the “happiness button.” To be sure, many cats long to go outside (if only to breathe the fresh air, listen to the birds, and possibly climb a tree), but the risks are often too great.
However, you might not need to endure constant escape attempts or longing gazes out the window. When you build a catio (an enclosed patio designed just for cats), nature comes to your pet while ensuring a safe place to rest, perch, and observe.
From Simple to the Complex
There are many types of designs to choose from, and they don’t necessarily require advanced architecture or carpentry skills. Before you design and build a catio, think about space, structure, visibility, and, of course, safety.
- Add an extension off your cat’s favorite window for him or her to pass through and watch the world outside.
- If you have an apartment with a balcony, consider enclosing part of it with special screening to offer the best of both worlds to your cat (without creating an opportunity to climb to the roof or fall below).
- A yard can often accommodate a catio with a grass bottom. Build a catio that’s strong enough for your cat to climb and jump around in and one that’s fully protected from predators. Provide a cat tree, bridges, hammocks, litter box, and even a chair or two. If it’s not directly off the house, you’ll need to carry your cat to the catio or walk him or her on leash.
- Other flooring options include wood flooring, pavers, AstroTurf, or outdoor carpeting.
Build a Catio to Write Home About
A frame is a critical component. You’ll need two-by-fours to build a catio, plus brackets or braces. Attach chicken wire, special kitty screening, wire mesh, or other materials with a heavy-duty stapler. If it’s attached to your house, you’ll have control regarding when your cat enters and exits the catio. You could also install a cat door flap for easy access throughout the day.
Once you’re sure your catio is safe and secure, add a few things over time to keep your cat’s interest. Ramps, tunnels, hiding spots, scratching posts, and multi-story cat towers all contribute something special for an adventurous cat.
Plants are also known to add a great deal of interest. Deck out your catio with catnip, spider plants, ferns, rubber plants, and pet-safe palms. Lastly, hanging birdfeeders and placing birdbaths nearby can be fun for cats to watch.
Speaking of Birds…
Cats are known predators of small animals and birds, but when you build a catio, your cat isn’t the only one protected from injury or death.
Finally, now that your cat will be spending more time outside the house, it’s even more critical to adhere to regular parasite prevention and vaccinations.