Learn How to Build a Catio

posted: 05/15/12
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Why Not Build Your Cat a Catio?
Pam Francis/Getty Images

A new cat craze is giving felines a unique window on the world. The catio --  that's a cat patio -- is a screened enclosure that allows your pet to see and sniff the outside from the safety of a structure extending from a window, doorway or porch. For city-dwelling cat owners and others who lack backyards, the catio offers a cat-friendly dose of fresh air. Catios were spotlighted on an episode of Animal Planet's hit series "Must Love Cats," in which program host John Fulton -- who admitted he's no expert carpenter -- helped construct a large catio. Even "The New York Times" has explored this trend. And really, what cat wouldn't enjoy an exciting 3-D vista?

What's a Catio?

Whether it's a simple box, a walkway or a roomy enclosed porch, a catio is an exterior, escape-proof cat house, screened on all sides and overhead, which allows indoor cats to experience a slice of outdoor life without actually venturing beyond your home. For cats living solely indoors, a catio provides a chance to get outside without encountering predators, traffic or other dangers. A feline-secured balcony, deck or even an extension of a window is an ideal alternative for an owner who frets that Kitty may be bored without outdoor access, even as she worries over his safety. Adding a scratching post, a bed and a spot for snacks or meals gives your cat the feline equivalent of a beach cottage.

Building a Catio

Putting up a catio for your cats to enjoy can be a fun summertime project for you, with relatively quick gratification. Basic construction materials -- lumber, screening and hardware -- and your time will produce a ventilated hideout for your feline friend. A DIY catio lets you indulge your creativity with color, perhaps matching your house trim or adding a cheerful contrasting hue while keeping this feline addition consistent with the look of your home. Making your own catio saves the cost of paying someone else to build it, or the price of a pre-fabricated version. And your catio will be truly one of a kind.

Simple Summer Hideout or Elaborate Addition?

A basic, open-air box is likely enough to thrill Kitty, who doesn't care what those shelter magazines recommend as touches of elegance in a summer home. But if you're skilled and eager to incorporate some imaginative twists, you'll find inspiration online and in cat publications, as other cat owners proudly display their versions of a feline summertime hangout. Long enclosed walkways, similar to those seen in wildlife rehabilitation centers, let cats explore larger areas of your property.

If you need building instructions, photos and catio plans are readily available on the Internet. (Some places to check include Catio Designs and Catio Showcase.) Proud DIY cat owners who've added catios of all sizes to their homes have posted helpful building hints, as well as photos and videos of the finished products, complete with proof that their cats approve.

But if you lack the time or don't trust your carpentry skills to yield the finished project you envision, your cat can enjoy a ready-made catio, such as the ones offered by Outdoor Pet Houses. Cat magazines feature ads for all sizes and prices of outdoor cat enclosures. You could spend anywhere from $500 to more than $2,000 for a finished product. Or you could opt for a portable, folding style with safety netting and weights to keep it grounded on the lawn or deck, which you can find for less than $70. Either way, your cat will soon be relaxing in his own summer place.

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