Occasionally I get asked “what is a catio?” and I answer in a variety of ways. Such as “think dog kennel for cats” or “patio for cats”. And I usually get confused looks in return. A longer, more detailed answer, is that a catio is an outdoor enclosure that allows a cat to be outside and yet safe from danger.
And they come in so many sizes and a variety of materials. Tents and/or tunnels made of a see-through mesh material. Wood and metal wire constructs of every size imaginable. Even ones that kinda sit on a window sill, sticking out maybe a whole foot, for the cat to experience nothing more than a breeze.
I wanted so much more for my cats. When I was house-hunting it was a prime consideration for me: how big was the backyard? and, is there a covered patio?
I finally found what I was looking for, a house with the covered patio and a huuuge backyard. It went so far back that I couldn’t throw the tennis ball beyond the back fence for my Labrador to retrieve it.
Within the first few weeks after we moved in, my husband fully enclosed the patio and longer to the edge of the house.. It wasn’t pretty, but the cats could be outside and I didn’t have to worry about things. Things like cars and cat-hating people and dogs, or even really large hungry birds.
This house had had previous owners, and one of them decided to add on a garage. Yay me, if you know what I mean. Also, as a part of the add-on, there was a fourth room at the rear of the garage. Totally separate from the rest of the house. It’s own rear door with access to a hallway to the 4th room’s door and bathroom. That room became automatically the cats’ room. I leave the window open 24/7 every day of the year so they have a safe space during bad weather or whatever. Of course there’s also a small childs’ wading pool in there filled with kitty litter. Gotta lotta cats.
As soon as I could, I hired a handyman to expand it far beyond the patio.
There’s enough space out there that I can be there with them and play. Twirl and swing that feather on a string without it hitting a chair or tv or table. Room for a cat to have some true “zoomies”. If I could I would make it even bigger. I get so much joy watching the cats out there.
A few weeks ago, in my Facebook “feed” someone had posted a question of what to put into a catio. I just kept on scrolling. No idea who posted it. Couldn’t find it again.
The size of the catio is the first consideration. And the second is “how many cats” and for “how long?” No matter if it’s for 30 minutes or even less, always have fresh water!
After that, remember that cats will always choose the highest perch to look down upon their kingdom. So a cat tree or shelves are a must. And, you must consider a litter box. And, with a litter box, you need to have an entrance for yourself so you can clean it out. I remember hearing about someone who built a catio and forgot that. Got kinda messy, I would think. And, since someone will have to actually get in there with the kiddos, why not have a chair to sit on and visit? Some toys and never forget a cardboard box!
My final piece of advice is this: Move the contents around once in a while. Change out the toys, rotate them. When the cardboard box has been so well-loved, take it out and toss in another one in a few days. Move the cat tree over to the other side.
You have a catio for a reason: To give your cat(s) some outdoor time. To help relieve them of the stress of the indoor sameness.