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A Complete Guide to Catios

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cat relaxing on a catio

Catios can be a fun, new space for your cat to explore. These unique areas can also provide a long list of benefits, along with being a cool little addition to your home. Before diving into building one, it may be helpful to learn about catio basics.

What Is a Catio for Cats?

Perhaps the forefront question on many people’s minds—what exactly is a catio? Catios are outdoor cat patios. They are an enclosed structure that allows your domestic feline to safely enjoy the outdoors without facing the dangers that come with it.

Catios can range in size, from a small window option to a relatively large enclosure that could include furniture for you and your family. Along with size, prices, styles, and decorations can all vary, but each option allows you to customize your catio to best fit your and your cat’s needs and wants.

How To Build a Catio

Building a catio could be a fun weekend project, but it’s recommended you have everything in order before hammering or sawing away. Before any construction begins, it’s helpful to consider your budget, your cat’s needs, and what type of catio you would like. For instance, a window catio could be ideal if you don’t have any yard space. On the other hand, if you have multiple, very active cats, you may want a larger structure with many perches.

After deciding which catio plan is the perfect fit, you will have a few options between designing your own structure, finding a pre-designed catio plan, or purchasing a premade one. Construction may not be everyone’s cup of tea, in which case you can contact a local carpenter or home improvement specialist who could help you with the building process.

If you decide to take on this adventurous project yourself, after completing all measurements and planning, you will need to obtain the materials required to build a catio. These can include:

  • Lumber (consider the type of wood)
  • Screws or nails
  • Escape-proof wire
  • Shelving options
  • Panels, mesh, or other roofing options
  • Necessary tools (i.e., level, hammer, drill, saw)

When purchasing a pre-designed plan for a catio, some may include a list of needed supplies to help make your building process easier and streamlined.

How To Build a Catio on a Deck

One of the many wonderful things about catios is that you don’t always have to start at square one. If you already have a deck in your backyard, you may be able to enclose the space, which could become the perfect catio. Survey the area you already have and see how much work needs to be done to make the space safe for your four-legged pal. When planning and constructing, don’t forget to consider how your cat will get from the house to the catio.

With any construction project, remember to measure twice and cut once. After getting all your measurements and purchasing all necessary supplies, begin cutting your lumber into the appropriate size. As you select your screws, use ones long enough to reach through the lumber and place them at least an inch from the edge of the board to help avoid the wood splitting.

If your deck doesn’t have a roof, you will want to add this after all the walls and door are assembled. Consider your roofing options carefully—do you want plywood, shingles, or mesh? When selecting your materials, don’t forget to consider the weather. How waterproof do you want the roof? Do you want it to provide a lot of shade?

Once the walls and roof are finished, attach your mesh to the outside using staples. Be sure to cut off any extra mesh hanging over the edges, as this can help prevent you and your cat from accidentally getting scratched.

How To Build a Window Catio

A window catio can also be a fantastic option to consider. These catios are typically smaller, a little more budget-friendly, and ideal if you don’t have any yard space. For the most part, your supplies list will be nearly identical to building a catio on a deck, but you will need far less of each item.

Once again, it’s helpful to do your measurements and planning first, including the size of your window and how big you’d like the catio to be. While measuring, you will also want to find the nearest stud to your window.

You can start by constructing each of the three walls, attaching and trimming mesh to each piece. After all the walls are built, you can connect them. Using plywood, or your selected material, attach the floor to the inside of your frame. Remember to leave space between your screws and the edge of the boards to prevent the wood from splitting.

For your roof, you can attach a piece of plywood and add shingles for an added waterproofing layer. You can also create a slanted roof which could be even more helpful to protect your catio from the elements.

After your catio is built, you then need to create support brackets to secure it to your window and house. Take special note of your home’s material that you are drilling into, as stucco, for instance, requires an extra step of adding a small amount of caulk into your initially drilled holes. With vinyl homes, be sure to drill only into studs, as this provides better support and ensures you will avoid electrical wires.

Whether you build a window or deck catio, or an entirely new structure, remember to consider the unique features of your home and property. Though your catio plan may have all the measurements for supplies, double-check the dimensions of your deck or windows, as you never know when something may not be quite the size expected.

You may also want to take the extra time to treat the wood. Treating the wood can protect it from the elements, which in the long run can help avoid any mold or rot—why not take great care of the project you spent so much time constructing?

kitten on a catio

What To Put in Your Catio

When construction is all finished, you can start the even more fun phase of decorating your cat’s new space. Depending on the look you want your catio to have, you could also stain or paint the wood as a finishing touch. Stain is a great choice for a more woodsy, natural look. Paint can be used to match your catio to your house’s trim colors, or you can choose a bright color for a statement piece.

Fun items to put in your catio include:

Depending on the size of your catio, you can also include some furniture for yourself. Adding a chair or lounger provides your cat with an extra place to nap and allows you to spend quality time with your best pal.

As you select items for your catio, sticking with a theme can be fun. This can make the purchasing and decision-making process easier and give your catio a cohesive look. That said, the sky is the limit. You can change your decorations based on the season or holiday. If you’re a sports fan, you could deck out the catio to represent your favorite team.

Cat-Safe Plants for Catios

Plants are a fantastic décor item for catios. However, it’s crucial that you do your research ahead of time, as some plants can be toxic to cats.

Plants that are toxic to cats:

  • Aloe
  • Fig
  • Geranium
  • Mint
  • Peony
  • Primrose
  • Sweet Pea
  • Tiger Lily

Plants that are non-toxic to cats:

  • Bamboo
  • Brazilian Orchid
  • Easter Daisy
  • Fennel
  • Garden Marigold
  • Grape Hyacinth
  • Hollyhock
  • Moss Fern

Though these are a few examples, it is not an all-inclusive list, so be sure to still research any plant before putting it somewhere your cat could potentially get ahold of it.

What Not To Include in Your Catio

Even though there is a long list of practical and exciting items to include in your catio, there are a few things from which you should steer away. In addition to plants that could harm your cat, you should avoid breakable items such as glass windchimes, porcelain decorations, or ceramic water dishes. Being outside, fragile items could accidentally be knocked over due to the weather. Plus, if you rarely go out to the catio, something could be broken for many days without you realizing it. This could pose a danger to your feline friend, who could accidentally step on the broken pieces.

Besides easily breakable items, it’s also important to consider any choking hazards, such as toys that are too small and any pebbles or rocks you may have out as decorations. This can also include string lights. Though these outdoor lights are a cozy addition to any space, some cats may try to chew on the wires. If you’d like to include lights, try to find some space to hang them outside the catio.

Although there’s nothing wrong with giving your cat some treats out in their catio, it’s best to avoid keeping any food in this space. Since it is outdoors, food left in the open could attract unwanted wildlife.

Cost of Building a Catio

Catios can be a unique addition to your home and can be made on nearly any budget. Since there are so many variations from one catio to the next, the prices can also range quite a bit.

Perhaps the most cost-effective method is to create a window catio yourself. By keeping the size smaller, you can save money on materials, and by planning and building yourself, the labor cost is just your time.

On the other end, if you purchase a pre-designed plan for a large catio and then hire someone to build it, this may be a more expensive method. For some cat parents who have busy schedules or don’t want to dive into a construction project, the added cost could very well be worth it.

Before selecting your catio, you can do some research about various catio companies and which products used seem to work the best. Don’t forget to compare material prices as well. For example, if you want to use shingles on your catio roof, you may find them on sale at one of your nearby home improvement stores.

For cat parents constantly working on projects around the house, it’s possible that all materials needed for a catio will already be sitting around, in which case, the cost could be kept incredibly low. That said, when comparing all the available options, a catio could range anywhere from under $100 to a few thousand dollars.

Benefits of a Catio

There’s no denying that catios can provide many benefits for domestic cats. Most cats love the outdoors and seem intrigued about spending time out in nature. However, as any cat parent is already aware, the outside world is not always safe for your cat. Catios can provide the perfect compromise to this problem.

While in their catio, your cat can be safe from dangers such as cars, accidentally getting lost, catching various diseases or illnesses, and having altercations with other cats or wildlife. Not to mention, if your cat were out exploring, they could accidentally get into pest repellant that others have on their property.

Besides protecting your cat from multiple threats, keeping your cat in a safe space also helps reduce the issue of cats attacking local birds, interactions with stray cats, and the chance of unwanted litters.

Of course, not only do catios prevent unwanted occurrences, but they also provide numerous benefits for your best feline pal. A major plus is enrichment. All cats need enrichment, ideally on a daily basis, and catios can be a fantastic supplier. Giving your cat a chance to be stimulated mentally and not feel bored could lead to overall improvements in how your cat is feeling.

Exercise is another positive outcome of creating this new space for your cat. Even if you have a smaller window catio, this added space could encourage your cat to get up and go outside, when otherwise they may have just stayed on the couch. Larger catios with various perches and shelves may have enough room for your cat to run and jump around.

Just as people like fresh air and sunshine—so do cats. No matter the season, though you may have to limit your cat’s access to the outdoors if the temperatures and weather become too extreme, your pal could enjoy their catio all year. However, one of the best parts about catios may be that any cat could appreciate them. Whether old or young, small or large, energetic or lazy, introverted or extroverted—catios can be for all cats.

An ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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