- This post contains affiliate links. Read more here.
If you’re a human, patios are a prime spot for outdoor recreation and relaxation. And if you’re a cat? There’s no better place than a catio.
Catios are all the rage for cat owners who want to give their cat an enclosed, safe place to spend time outdoors but also want to protect birds and other wildlife from their cats! It’s a win-win every way you look at it.
But what, exactly, is a catio? Why are they the ideal outdoor space for cats? And, if you do decide to add one to your home, should you attempt to build it yourself—or should you bring in the professionals?
Let’s dig in and find out!
So, first things first—what exactly is a catio?
“A catio is an outdoor cat enclosure or cat patio that’s designed to keep cats safe, healthy, and happy outdoors,” says Cynthia Chomos, designer and founder of Catio Spaces. Often, they are attached to the cat’s home via a cat door and catwalk to allow the cat to freely come and go.
Typically, these enclosures consist of wood framing (“cedar wood is a good and popular choice,” says Chomos) and wire or wire mesh to enclose it. Choosing the right materials—and, in particular, the right kind of wire—is an important factor in construction. “Using galvanized welded wire or wire mesh will allow it to be an escape-free space,” says Chomos. “I don’t recommend chicken wire or plastic netting or anything like that…It’s important to have at least 14 to 16 gauge wire to enclose the unit [and] to keep coyotes and other predators away.”
There are two different types of catios to choose from, Chomos says—freestanding and attached. Attached enclosures are three-sided and connected to the house, so your cat can wander freely from a window or cat door into the outdoor enclosure. Freestanding cat houses aren’t attached but instead set away from the house, meaning you’ll have to carry (or leash-walk) your cat to the enclosure when you want to give them time outside.
Both catio types have their benefits. The attached style gives your cat the freedom to come and go whenever they like, while the freestanding style gives you, the owner, more flexibility on where you can build and store your cat house (for example, in a far corner of your backyard).
When it comes to these structures, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Catios can be as simple as a window box with just enough room for your cat to lounge or a more elaborate space with tunnels and plenty of places to perch. The point is, you can buy or build a cat house in a variety of shapes and sizes. “[These structures] vary in size—it’s just a matter of how much space there is, and for the scale to complement the home and garden,” says Chomos.
If you’re limited on space, that’s OK! When it comes to building your own cat enclosure, it’s more important to build up than it is to build out. “Cats love vertical space so their enclosure doesn’t need to be huge structures. A 3 by 6 by 8-foot catio would give plenty of vertical movement,” says Chomos.
But if you want to do something more elaborate? There are plenty of large-scale options out there, especially for cat owners with multiple felines. If you have space, the sky’s the limit for your design. Chomos recently designed a cat complex with 150 feet of elevated catwalk tunnels, for example.
These functional structures certainly make for an interesting addition to your home and garden decor, but they also have some major benefits for you and your cat.
Some of the key benefits of adding a catio to your outdoor space include:
- More outside time. Your cat wants to be outside, enjoying the sunshine—and this space gives them the opportunity to spend plenty of time outdoors. “Cats naturally want to be outdoors where they can experience the sights, the sounds, the stimulation of the outside world. So it provides both stimulation and enrichment,” says Chomos.
- Safety for your cat… Your cat may want to spend the bulk of their time outside, but the outdoors can be a scary place for a cat. “There are so many outdoor hazards for cat parents that have indoor/outdoor cats,” says Chomos. Predators such as coyotes along with other dangers like vehicles, poisons, other cats, or even getting stuck in a tree are a few potential hazards for your pet. Building a catio gives your cat the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors without the risk factors that go along with roaming freely outside.
- …and safety for your cat’s prey. Outdoor cats can wreak havoc on bird populations. Having an enclosed space not only keeps your cat safe, but also keeps birds (and other small wildlife) safe from your cat.
- Freedom of choice. If your cat unit is attached to your home, it gives your cat the freedom of choice as to where they spend their time; they can move freely from inside to outside without any human assistance.
“There are a variety of resources out there,” says Chomos. You can hire a professional to build a custom one just for you, you can order a kit with pre-assembled panels, or you can buy a DIY plan to build and customize your own. But which is the best option for you?
Here are a few things to consider when deciding whether to build, buy, or hire a professional to construct your catio:
- Skill level. Building this specific type of structure soundly and well takes a certain level of skill. If you consider yourself to be a handy person, a DIY plan or kit is a great fit. But if you don’t exactly know your way around a toolbox, you might want to consider bringing in a professional.
- Cost. There’s a wide spectrum of costs when it comes to building these units. The resources you have to spend will definitely play into whether you should buy, build, or hire out the construction. DIY plans are fairly affordable (for example, the DIY plans from Catio Spaces cost between $39.95 to $69.95), but you’ll have to budget money for materials and time for construction. Hiring a professional can cost thousands of dollars, but it’s also the most convenient and time-efficient option. Before you settle on the best option, make sure to consider the full cost of building and/or buying the unit (including time, labor, energy, and materials).
- Deadline. If you want and/or need your outdoor cat space completed by a specific date (for example, in time for your cat to enjoy the summer sunshine), that’s definitely something you want to consider before deciding to buy, build, or hire. Professionals may book out far in advance and DIY projects have a tendency to take longer than you anticipate—so if you’re working on a tight deadline, a pre-assembled kit might be your best option.
Need some catio inspiration? Let’s take a look at some specific spaces in action:
This stylish outdoor cat space (courtesy of @catioguy on Instagram) has plenty of vertical space for cats to explore. Pair that with the chic dark gray color scheme and full-sized door (for easier human access), and you’ve got the perfect blend of function, style, and convenience.
If you have multiple cats, you need an area spacious enough to accommodate them all comfortably. This style (courtesy of Casey’s Catios) features a variety of perches at different heights, which allows each cat their own space and unobstructed view. No catfights over the best view of the backyard with this catio!
The white wood, farmhouse accents, and stringed lights make this catio (courtesy of @geishatherescuedcat on Instagram) a great design addition for any rustic-inspired outdoor space, and it’s plenty spacious for a cat.
Looking to keep things simple and skip the whole DIY process? Here are a few ready-made options you can purchase for your cat:Shop on Amazon
Buy Now on Wayfair Shop on Amazon
Buy Now on Wayfair Shop on Amazon
A simple Google search will help you identify more options to purchase online, as well as local catio builders near you and kits and plans for sale.
We hope we’ve provided you with some good ideas and points to keep in mind when considering making a catio part of your outdoor space, and we hope the catio you settle on brings you and your cat hours of safe, outdoor entertainment!
- 7 Clever Puzzle Toys to Challenge Your Savvy Cat
- Cat DNA Tests: Is The Science Worth the Cost?
- 8 Fun Cat Window Beds to Give Kitty the Best Views
- 8 Ways Cats Can Make You Healthier
- Here’s What Your Cat’s Tail Behavior Really Means
Featured image via Catio Spaces