If you have a cat, it's likely you've watched him look longingly out the window and wished you could let your kitty friend safely enjoy the outdoors. After all, who doesn't like a little fresh air and sunshine? Or maybe you have let Kitty outside, and she had a misadventure. How do you get the best of both worlds?
Meet the catio.
What's a Catio?
Catios are enclosures specifically designed to let kitties enjoy the outdoors without the dangers of being outdoors, and they have become very popular recently. Designed to help satisfy your cat's craving for more varied types of stimulation (both mental and physical), catios can range in size and complexity from small, "window-box" style cat perches to entire enclosed patios shared by both cats and their humans. Size and complexity are limited only by your imagination, resources, and available space.
Why Does My Cat Need a Catio?
First, let's be upfront about this: we strongly believe (and are backed up by a LOT of research) that cats should be indoor-only, with their only outside time highly supervised (leashed or otherwise contained), not free-roaming. From the dangers posed by everything from cars to infectious diseases, predators, and much more, an outside cat has (on average) a much-reduced life expectancy compared to his indoor-only cousins.
But cats love watching birds and squirrels (even though we don't want them to catch them!) and feeling the sun and wind on their faces. There are, of course, many ways you can enrich your cat's indoor environment, but, with a little time, space, and creative problem-solving, you can give your cat the best of both indoor and outdoor worlds by creating a safely-enclosed outdoor space.
If you want to start small (or don't have much space to work with) it only takes a free afternoon and some rudimentary supplies to construct a small catio to give your kitty a taste of the good life! If you have more time or space, you can scale up your new project.
The first thing to consider is what kind of outdoor space you already have. If you're limited on space, think about your windows or, perhaps, an unused doggy door. These can be ideal places to attach catios, but be sure to keep any temperature extremes in mind - you want Kitty to enjoy the catio! If you have a porch, patio, or balcony, you have more options. Be sure you don't block yourself in, though! If you have a big space, you want to be able to share the space with your cat(s), so think about the best ways to enclose it while retaining its outdoor appeal for everyone.
Once you've decided what you want Kitty's catio to look like and where you're going to put it, you need to think about the materials you'll need and the best ways for making it sturdy and secure. Luckily, if you've got a limited budget, you can build a "purrfectly" wonderful catio using some inexpensive lumber and chicken wire. After it's built, you can add shelves, perches, scratching posts, catnip plants for Kitty, and any other enrichment activities/items you want. The best part of it? You can keep adding to or modifying the catio to your heart's content.
Of course, if you're not the DIY type, you could buy a free-standing enclosure or hire local professionals to help you!
No matter how you decide to achieve your new catio, rest assured that Kitty will thank you. Even the most dyed-in-the-wool indoor cats come around to enjoying secure outside time in their catios (usually very quickly). So what are you waiting for?
For more inspiration, check out some of the links below.