Catio Planning for my Adventurous Cats
Since moving in February, I now have a huge fenced yard, a rather large garden, a covered front/side patio (ok, it’s a carport, but we have seating and tables in there instead of cars) and the start of a greenhouse. My dogs and my potato cat (Eden) go out into the yard with me all the time. Reilly, however, has been confined to the house after demonstrating that he can, will, and desperately wants to jump over the fence. He needs a catio.
While we’re outside, Reilly sits at either the back door or in the back window, crying and begging to come outside with us. I’d love to grant him that wish, but I can’t have him running off. I’m totally against outdoor cats for several reasons. Outside cats kill wildlife and are responsible for many species going extinct or becoming endangered in the US and elsewhere. (In fact, Australia has banned outdoor cats for this reason) Cats that are allowed to roam outside are susceptible to diseases that they would not encounter indoors. FIV, Rabies, and others can be avoided by keeping your cat contained. Also, the risk of being hit by a car or getting into a fight with other animals can be nearly completely eliminated if they stay inside.
Obviously, with the right set up, your cat can go outside and still be safe from these dangers. Eden, for example, is not capable of jumping over a six-foot fence. She’s basically a short hair Persian, and they’re just not made for athletics, although she does enjoy an occasional sprint around the safely fenced yard.
Leashes also improve safety, but it takes the right cat for that to work. Eden doesn’t mind walking on a leash at all. In fact, she’s a bit dog-like in that regard. I’ve taken her to the pet store on a leash, and she walks up to stranger and begs to be pet just like Quincy or Bentley. Reilly, however, has made it VERY clear that he is above leashes. I’ve tried acclimating him to a harness in the past, and he turned into a furious ball of rage just at the sight of the harness. After several attempts, I gave up on that idea.
I’ve also seen roller bars installed along the tops of fences. This may work better on escapee dogs, however. The concept is, you install rolling tubes along the top of the fence. When the animal tries to jump over, the tube rolls back, dumping them back into the yard. For dogs, this can work out very well. For cats, it can work, but I’m afraid Reilly’s intelligence would help him figure out a way around it. Also, I have a LOT of fence. This solution would be cost prohibitive.
My favorite solution is the Catio. A catio is an outdoor enclosure that is secure enough to keep your cat contained. They can be built in all shapes and sizes to fit your needs. Some people simply put screen up to enclose an existing porch. Others built an entirely new structure, often attached to the house itself. A few people opt for free standing, and either move their cats out to it manually, or attach it to a window via a tunnel or bridge.
Pinterest has a huge variety of examples and ideas to choose from. I’ve been browsing pictures on there ever since I moved, envisioning the perfect catio. During that process, I also stumbled on a lot of “cat enrichment” ideas as well, that can be combined into the catio itself. I have a feeling that Reilly willl want to spend ALL of his time out there once it’s built.
I plan to have Reilly’s catio built to be accessed from my bedroom window. The two pictures below are the closest I’ve found to what I’m considering. The first one is probably the best option for my house. It will allow Reilly to be outside without obstructing other projects in the yard. This design also looks like the best for rainy weather usage. It should be easier to winterize than a free standing catio.
The catio attached via a tunnel/bridge would allow me to build a larger catio, but it may get in the way of other yard projects, and wastes some space between the house and the catio. I like this design, but it’s in second place for my needs at this point.
I found a lot of other great designs. The one below is very sturdy! I love the spiral staircase and suspended walkways. It’s a great design, but probably larger than I’ll end up building.
There are also some pre-fabricated options, if you’re not the handy type. This metal one is a nice option, and I like that it comes with a roof. I already have quite a bit of the building supplies though, so I’m planning on building my own.
I considered a window box at my last house, since there wasn’t a yard. This would have been perfect in that situation. The decorative metalwork is a great touch. My kids are going to get a larger enclosure than this, but it’s great for smaller spaces.
Whoever build this one has some great skills. It looks pre-fab, but I’m pretty sure this is home made. Very sleek! I’m hoping I can pull off something this nice looking for my cats. I want to include more built in perches and obstacles for them to play on though.
I love this one for a free standing catio in the middle of the yard. The plants and grass trays growing inside are a nice touch. I’d like to have a cat-friendly garden surrounding my catio, maybe with some climbing plants growing up the side that are safe for cats to nibble on, because you know they will!
This one is really elaborate and cool! I’m not going to go this crazy…. yet. You never know what I might do next. Reilly would LOVE a tower look out!
I’m not ready to start building yet, but I’m pretty close to deciding on the design and size. Next, I’m going to look into “enrichment” type additions for the cats to play on in the catio. Scratching posts, plants, toys, and other items will make it a kitty play land.
Do you have a catio? Share pictures with us!