In recent years, cat lovers everywhere have begun to push for keeping pet cats indoors instead of letting them outside to roam for extended periods of time. This is because, while cats naturally love the outside, the modern world has become dangerous for them; cars and busy, built-up areas can lead to injury, while rural areas bring the risk of the cat wandering too far and getting lost. Your cat could also contract any number of illnesses, from fleas to ticks to rabies, all of which will be horrible for both your cat and your home. Outdoor cats could also have a negative impact on the environment, as cats will often hunt local wildlife and could damage the natural ecology of the area.
However, anyone who does have a cat will know they really do adore the outdoors. When inside, cats will often spend hours just sitting by a window and staring out of it, spotting birds, bugs, and other things that may catch their eye. Many cats love relaxing in a warm, sunny spot for a nap, and, of course, fresh air is always healthy and beneficial for any animal.
So, what’s the solution to this? If you want to ensure your cat is happy, healthy, kept safe, and still gets to indulge some of its natural instincts? The solution is to build a catio.
A catio is, simply, a ‘cat-patio’. A section of your garden or other outside space that you have sectioned off with fencing to allow your cat to get out the house and enjoy fresh air. Often, they’re filled with toys, shelves, and cubbies as enrichment for your cat, turning it into a whole area for play and relaxation.
You don’t necessarily need a very large garden to build a catio; you could section off half of a balcony or build an over-hanging box around a window. Any spot of sun and air will greatly improve your cat’s wellbeing and happiness. The catio could possibly encircle the whole or most of your garden, so you can join your cat in there, or could be a small, secluded spot so that your cat can catch some alone time.
There are a few things you’ll need to think about and plan before you go about building the catio. The first thing to remember is that catios are actually quite simple to build, even if some of the more lavish structures you might see while researching online can seem quite difficult. Anyone with a general knowledge of DIY and a passion for hands-on home projects should be able to build a strong, stable, and suitable catio! Here’s what else you’ll need to think about:
Frame & Walls: You’ll want to use robust, weather-graded lumber, such as cedar or redwood, for the frame. You’ll also need some strong pet fencing, made from either plastic or metal, that your cats or other animals won’t be able to chew through. The wiring should also be close enough that birds or small rodents can’t fit through the gaps and enter the patio (you probably won’t want to deal with the clean up if your cat manages to catch one).
Flooring: The ground of your catio can be made from a variety of different materials; concrete patio slabs, raised wooden decking, gravel, grass, or bark are all great choices. As any cat owner will know, cats can be quite picky when it comes to textures, so think about what your cat will like best. Some cats might love running across gravel and digging through it, while others may find the gritty texture too harsh on their paws.
Roof: You will need to ensure that some of the roof is open enough to let in lots of sun, allowing your feline friend a sunny spot to nap and that some of it is closed off to provide a cooler, shady spot. Galvanised wire is a great choice for the open area, while a shingled or greenhouse-style roof is ideal for the closed part. You could also utilise natural shade in your garden, such as trees.
Enrichment: Cats are curious creatures that love to explore, so make sure you provide them with lots of entertainment. Levels of shelves that your cat can jump and climb up, tunnels and cubby holes for crawling, and cat toys that you can rotate in will ensure your cat adores playing in the catio. Make sure you also add a scratching post (a simple, large tree branch is a great weatherproof option!) so your cat can scratch away, soaking it in her scent and giving her a sense of ownership over the catio (this is very important; as cats are territorial creatures, they must have a place to call their own and must have something that they can scratch up in that place.)
1) Design & Plan: Take inspiration from other pet enclosures and other catios you find online
2) Prepare the location: Clean up and remove any plants that are toxic to cats. Check for and get rid of pests and other animals.
3) Build the basic frame
4) Add the roof and, if needed, the floor.
5) Build the walls and door. For this, put together a frame and then stretch the screening across before attaching. Install these into the frame.
6) Add all your accessories. Place your shelves, set up your cubbies, and move in the cat's toys and scratching post. This is also a great chance to add any furniture for yourself, so you can join and hang out with your cat.
7) Now your catio is done, allow your cat to explore! Leave some food and water out for them and leave the cat’s entrance open so that they can explore in their own time. Remember, cats are curious creatures but they also hate being forced into things before they’re ready, so make sure they have lots of time to properly get comfortable in the catio.
Want to make a start on your catio right away? Take a look through our DIY department to pick up any tools and materials you may need. And why not pick up some new toys or an extra treat for your feline friend after perusing our specialised cat area in the pets department.