We all want to provide the best possible living arrangements and fun experiences for our cats. This can be easier said than done when you have an indoor cat with an interest in the outside world. There is a solution that could bring the best of both worlds with access to the garden and lots of sunshine, but also the security of an enclosed space. You could try a catio.
What is a Catio?
Many cat owners are now installing catios – a cute portmanteau of cat and patio. This is a specially designed outdoor space where the cat can enjoy itself and socialize outdoors with the family without straying too far. They are great on decks and patio areas, as the name suggests, but also have great potential on balconies if you live in an apartment.
Why Should You Set Up a Catio?
The main aim here is to provide somewhere interesting for the cat during the day that takes them away from the bedroom or lounge area. It provides access to fresh air and sunshine, different smells, new textures, and potentially some interactions with the family or neighborhood cats. Your cat could play contently here while you enjoy summer afternoons in the yard or by the pool. There is a lot of potential here, with the right catio idea and the correct set up. So, what do you need to do?
Pre-Made Catio or DIY Catio?
The first question to ask here is whether you want to build your own catio area from scratch or to buy a pre-made one. There are pros and cons to each option. DIY options are generally cheaper if all you need are basic materials. You can build something to your own specifications to suit the cat and the available space. But you do need to be sure of your construction skill so that you create a two-story structure that is stable, unlikely to injure the cat, and doesn’t have any holes they can escape from.
Store-bought options are easy to order online and take out all of that hard work. But you might not get the custom fit or design you had in mind. They can also get quite expensive, so it pays to shop around. There are various designs out there, but they tend to fall into the two categories highlighted below.
The Aivituvin Outdoor Cat Enclosure is a small two-story hutch. These sorts of products are great if you have a small patio area or balcony where a larger “run” isn’t going to work. They give your cat somewhere to sleep and play with security. But I think they can seem a little too cramped for long-term use. Take a closer look at the designs, make sure there is good access to a second story, like in this model highlighted, and make sure it is well-made.
The alternative is to go for something much wider like this PawHut Large Wooden Cat House. This product is similar to a lot of others in that it resembles a cross between an aviary and rabbit run. This means that there is no way that the cat can escape, but also plenty of room for exploration and fun accessories. With that in mind, you need to think about the next important feature of a catio – enrichment.
An oddity that your cat may enjoy is this Betyman Outdoor Pop-up Playpen tent structure. Cats like to be in enclosures and tight spaces for comfort, and the wider open space of a run may be unnerving if they get spooked. A tent like this mesh structure with its tunnel provides somewhere that they can curl up and sleep with greater security. They also work quite nicely as a little portable enclosure for if you want your cat out in the yard or by the pool, but don’t want them getting in the pool. They can see what is going on, feel secure, and enjoy the comfort of the material and any toys brought in with them.
What Should You Put in a Catio?
The next step for outdoor catio ideas is the interior. Enrichment is essential for all cats and other animals in confined spaces in the home or yard. You want them to feel happy and engaged with different activities and stimuli. There are lots of ways that you can do this with a catio structure. The best place to start is with the things that they can climb and the textures they provide. Cat scratching posts are a must, but you can also bring in more natural logs and other pieces of wood that you wouldn’t want inside the house. From there, you can think about other toys and enrichment items.
Another thing to add to your catio is plantlife. This is a garden setting after all. You don’t have to plant traditional bedding plants, but I do recommend bringing in some catnip or cat grass. This is a great substance for keeping cats in a better mood and they will happily roll around. Growing it in the house can be messy and difficult to find a home for. This isn’t such a problem with a rustic planter and starter kit like this Cat Ladies Complete Kit. Or you could always make a DIY plant stand.
Finally, you need to think about the cat’s water supply. Food can be problematic in a catio if the smell attracts other animals or leftover scraps bring in insects. But, they will need to stay hydrated. Instead of leaving a bowl of water to go stagnant, I suggest considering getting a cat water fountain instead. Products like the Wonder Creature Crystal Cat Water Fountain use a gentle pump to circulate and provide drinking water that is engaging and accessible. The best fountains can also look pretty cool next to the cat grass and other decorative elements of this cat garden you have created.
Design a Catio Your Pet Will Love
A catio should be also much of a relaxing sanctuary for feline friends as the patio is for us humans. We should be able to laze adjacent on summer days and enjoy our free time with ease. So, designing great catio ideas and building an enriching two-story patio with a secure structure and comfortable shelter is a great project to get your claws into this year.
Next, for our crochet lovers you need to check out our crochet animal ideas. There are a variety of animals to create, even cats. Plus, this would be a great craft while enjoy your outdoors with catio.
I’m a stay at home mom with our two kids. I really enjoy doing crafts with my kids however, that is typically a challenge with how limited their attention span can be and how messy it gets. So, I’m always looking for ways to make crafting an enjoyable experience and creating fond memory for all of us.