When you have a house cat, you probably are extremely cautious about keeping them indoors. Cats that are not used to being outside can get lost, injured, or find themselves in some sticky situations when they try to explore outdoors.
But this doesn't mean your friendly feline doesn’t like to feel the sunshine, breathe the fresh air, or play outside. You just need to provide them with a way to do it safely, and a catio is an excellent option.
Catios come in many shapes and sizes, from small window perches to large outdoor enclosures that enable cats to roam and climb safely outdoors. A proper catio allows your cat to explore and engage with their outdoor environment without fear of getting lost. It also protects them (and local wildlife) from potentially dangerous encounters with each other. If you plan to build a DIY catio, take your time to do so correctly.
You want to ensure your cat’s outdoor area is safe and secure. But first, is a catio really necessary for your cat?
Does Your Cat Need a Catio?
Any cat can benefit from access to a catio, but it doesn’t mean you need to build some elaborate structure. Catios can be as simple or complex as you want them to be.
You can create a simple catio attached to your home's exterior outside your cat’s favorite window. If your feline has a favorite place they like to lounge and look outdoors, this is the best place for the catio.
This type of catio would be an enclosed box, using heavy-duty stainless steel or galvanized mesh. The BC SPCA provides some excellent catio plans.
- A window catio — Your cat can go in and out of the window to access the catio. Have a comfy place for them to rest and enjoy the fresh air.
- A larger, enclosed catio — If your cat needs more space and exercise opportunities, a large catio can go on your porch or existing patio. You can create access to it by installing a pet door in the wall or a door that attaches to the catio.
- A stand-alone catio — Do you prefer to keep the catio a short distance from your home? You can opt to build a stand-alone catio that your cat reaches by traveling through a tunnel from a window or door.
Benefits of a Catio
1. A catio provides your cat with a safe place to enjoy the outdoors.
If your cat is a former outdoor cat that needs to transition to being a house cat, a catio can help ease the change. They can still explore, roam, climb, experience the outdoor environment, etc., but they can do it safely. The same goes for cats that have always been indoor kitties.
Since the catio is completely enclosed, you can control the environment. This means your cat doesn’t have access to toxic plants, won’t get stuck in a tricky situation, or get hit by a vehicle.
2. Your cat and local wildlife can remain safe.
A catio also keeps your cat separate from other neighborhood cats that might want to start a fight. Likewise, your cat won’t try to hunt the local wildlife or injure other animals. It also keeps your cat from encountering neighbors who might not be as much a cat person as you are.
3. You won’t contribute to the ever-increasing cat population.
If your cat isn’t spayed or neutered, a catio enables them to enjoy being outside without adding another litter to the cat population. This helps reduce the strain on already crowded shelters and makes it more likely for existing shelter cats to find homes.
4. A catio means you won’t have to worry about losing your pet.
Microchipping your pet is an excellent way to get them home safely if they become lost. But it isn’t foolproof. You also need to ensure you take precautions to keep your pet home safe and sound. A cat that yearns to be outside benefits significantly from a catio because they can’t roam and wander off.
5. Your cat gets much-needed exercise.
Catios provide a perfect place for cats to exercise and tap into their natural instincts. If your kitty could benefit from more exercise, build a catio that gives them lots of ways to move and explore.
6. A catio can reduce indoor pet odors.
If you give your cat a safe place to spend time outside, you might notice fewer pet odors in your house. Providing a litter box out in the catio can encourage your cat to do their business outside more than inside.
7. Multi-cat households can benefit from the additional space a catio provides.
If you have several cats at home, sometimes trouble can arise when things get tense. A catio provides your cats more space and opportunities to blow off excess energy. The extra stimulation and activity also help keep stress levels down, reducing conflict in a multi-cat household.
How Do I Decide What Kind of Catio to Build?
If your cat is shy, you might provide a catio with several hiding places for your kitty to retreat and relax. For a more playful, active feline, the catio might include more climbing, balancing, and jumping opportunities.
If your cat likes to relax in the fresh air, a simple window perch catio could be the perfect solution. This type of catio could be ideal for a senior feline. Consider your cat’s personality and habits when deciding on the best catio style for them.
Tips for Building a Safe Catio
Safety is of the utmost importance if you plan to build your own catio. Here are some tips to ensure your cat’s new outdoor hangout is a safe and secure place to play, rest, and explore.
- Use stainless steel or galvanized metal mesh that won’t rust.
- Make sure the holes in the mesh are small enough so your cat can’t squeeze through — especially important for kittens.
- Ensure the catio has a shady spot or two within or over it. Bring your cat indoors if they’re in direct sunlight.
- Check the weather. If it’s going to storm, close off access to the catio, and keep your cat in the house.
- A litter mat is wise, so your kitty doesn’t track things back into the house.
- Always keep a large bowl of fresh water in the catio so your pet can always access water.
- Don’t leave food in the catio as it could attract outdoor wildlife and pests.
- Adding plants to your cat’s outdoor space makes it more inviting. But, if you include plants in your pet’s outdoor space, research first. Only use pet-safe plants and flowers.
- Use sturdy wood, such as pine or cedar, when you build your catio.
- Consider your cat’s size when you make the catio. Make sure they have enough room to get in and out of the space comfortably and turn around, sit, and stand inside.
- Build the catio on a durable, solid piece of ground. If it’s outside a window, use plenty of support to keep it stable.
- Make sure your cat is using flea and tick medication since they will be outside.
For more helpful ways to raise your pets, check out the rest of our blog. Our goal is to give you resources and info to help you be the best pet parents for your fur family.