When it comes to their homes, there are few things like city dwellers prize as much as a little outdoor space — a terrace, perhaps, or a small deck in the backyard. Their cats feel the same way. But often we share space with our feline friends in an area in which there are dangers. Here in Moab most homes have plenty of outdoor space, but often are in close proximity to cars and predators. Catio’s are a great solution to enriching your indoor cat’s life, without all the risk for your pet and stress on the small wildlife that can be decimated by cats that run loose. You can do it yourself, or look to pre-made products to assemble.So some cat owners who would never dream of letting their pets roam free outside have come up with a creative compromise in the Catio: an enclosed space — usually in the form of a screened-in porch or deck — that allows them to share the great outdoors.
One local cat owner said: “The cats seem happier, and there has been an unexpected bonus: Before, we used to have pigeons nesting on the balcony, and it was just a mess.” These days, the birds keep their distance.
Catios have made inroads in the suburbs, where they range from small, practical structures — like a box made of wood and chicken wire — to all-out fantasy cat playgrounds, replete with tunnels and scratching posts. But such enclosures remain a rarity in the city, where giving up even a square foot of real estate to a litter box can seem like a sacrifice. Many Catios are the do-it-yourself variety, but several companies, most of them mom-and-pop, sell ready-made cat enclosures or build custom ones. A big name in the market is Kittywalk Systems, a business that sells modular cat enclosures — tubes and rooms — that can be used individually or fashioned into cat-size kingdoms, much like the Habitrail system for hamsters.
“People can be very creative, you’re really only limited by your imagination and your pocketbook. We have some clients that decorate the inside as if it’s just another room — a picnic table, cat grass — so they can hang out there with their cats,” said Mary Lundquist owner of All things Cats in Alberta, CA.
Some veterinarians and cat specialist believe that outdoor space offers cats emotional benefits. While it is safer for them to stay inside, in an enclosed yard, they’re going to get more exercise. Plus, there’s the intellectual stimulation benefit as well. If you refer to the American Association of Feline Practitioners’ Web page on environmental enrichment, they recommend several types of fencing for suburban cats as a way to enrich the feline experience.
The owners cats — Wilcox, Brandy and Shilo — are well known to the neighborhood squirrels, Ms. Lundquist said. “They calculatedly come and look for the cats and wait for them,” she said. “The squirrels will circle the tree, and the cats will chase after them, then the squirrels will turn around and chatter at the cats.”
What You Need to Build a ‘Catio’
Cat owners who want to create a safe outdoor space for their cats have several options. Do-It-Yourself equipment like PVC piping, heavy mesh nets and chicken wire is available in our local hardware stores and other supply stores. Use lumber to make a frame, and staple heavy mesh to the exterior to create a fresh air enclosure. Attaching heavy duty chicken wire to all porch posts and enclosing a patio is the ideal and easiest way to make a catio, but you can build a small to extra large enclosure off a window into your back yard for minimum space and feature. Adding materials like tree logs, and building multiple “look outs” your can give your cat the safe effective exercise they need to stay fit and keep their minds enriched. Websites like just4cats.com and overcourse the big A we all know of both sell books with detailed drawings and instructions on building a cat enclosure, for around $25 plus $5 shipping. The site also has an attractive gallery of its customers’ installations. If you are not the type to want a custom enclosure, consider pre-made products like window perches, or window boxes.
Cats are predators and truly appreciate time spent outdoors. Enrichment that is safe and easy on the neighborhood too! Plus it can be added living space you share with your cat and you can spend more time outdoors too. A win for everyone, and a great way to live better with your cats!!