If you have a cat, you know how felines love to stalk around the yard – especially at night – feeling the wind in their fur and sniffing out friends, foe, and prey. Working cats like mousers have great responsibilities that require them to be outside. But what if you live in the city with a feline of leisure? Cars, dogs, raccoons and your neighbor’s big bully of a tomcat all pose hazards to Fluffy. And Fluffy herself threatens those birds you’re trying to lure to a feeder or birdbath. How does your kitty get quality outdoor time without injuring herself or others?
Catios are the answer. Short for “cat patio,” a catio is a mesh-enclosed space that lets cats spend time outside without getting into trouble.
Types of catios
Cats access their catios through doors or windows. The main types of catios are window boxes, three-sided catios attached to a house, or a freestanding backyard catio, usually attached to the house by a mesh tunnel, kind of like a hamster’s Habitrail. The smallest window box catio could be as petite as 30 by 50 inches, just enough room for a cat to stretch out in the sun for a nap. Three-sided or freestanding catios might be large enough to include a seating area for humans to enjoy the space along with their cats.
One of the easiest ways to build a catio is to add framing and mesh to a preexisting structure. Porches and decks are good bets for this plan.
Skeptics will say, “You’re building a cage for your cat.” And it could feel that way to a cat who’s used to prowling the neighborhood. But for indoor cats, a catio vastly expands their horizons. And the best catios have enrichment opportunities, like structures to climb, posts to scratch and high shelves from which to watch the neighborhood. Incorporating toys, such as hanging them from the mesh ceiling above a perch, gives Fluffy something to attack. As natural born hunters, kitties need to practice pouncing and biting to express their inner predator.
You might want to spruce up your catio with some plants. This is a great idea, but be careful: Many plants are toxic for Fluffy. And she’s liable to taste test anything you put out there. Wheatgrass, cat grass, and catnip are obvious choices. Creeping zinnias and marigolds are safe and add color. Rosemary and thyme will safely scent the catio. Do not plant daffodils, iris, tulips, hyacinth or any type of lily in your catio. Consult the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants for cats.
DIY versus pro
If you’re handy, you might enjoy building a catio yourself. Not up to designing it? You can buy plans online from Catio Spaces or get a free plan from My Outdoor Plans. If you’re not a builder, hire some professional help locally. At Buzz, we’re animal lovers and would be happy to help you design and build your dream catio.