Your Ultimate Catio Guide: Ideas from Making to Decorating
As cat parents, many of us find ourselves in a situation where we don’t want our fur kids to be cooped up in the house all day – but letting them roam outside also isn’t an option. A cat patio – catio for short – is the perfect solution! It’s safe and enclosed outdoor space for your cat to explore, sunbathe, and get some fresh air.
They come in all shapes and size. Some are attached to your home, while others are free-standing. You can even build your own catio if you’re feeling handy.
Convinced? Need more info? Here’s your guide to catios – from why they’re useful to how to make your own.
In this article
What is a catio?
A catio is a purrfect way to give your furry friend the best of both worlds: the freedom to roam outdoors and the safety of being inside. It’s an increasingly popular approach to providing indoor cats some time outside in a safe enclosure. Think atrium for cats!
Catios can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. Some people build their own out of wood or fencing, while others buy pre-made kits. There are even catio companies in Australia that will design and build a custom catio for your home.
Why a catio?
Still unsure about whether your cat needs a catio? Here are the top reasons people build them:
Cats are curious creatures and can easily get into trouble when left to roam freely outside. A catio prevents them from encountering hazardous situations, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries.
Mental and physical stimulation
Instead of being cooped up in the house all day, a catio gives lets them indulge their instincts. It gives them climbing structures, toys, and plants to interact with, which can help keep them mentally and physically active.
Sunlight and fresh air
Cats love basking in the sun and breathing in fresh air. A catio allows them to enjoy these natural elements without exposing them to harmful UV rays for extended periods.
Some cats might feel anxious or stressed when confined indoors for long periods. A cat patio provides a change of scenery and sensory stimulation, potentially reducing stress levels and promoting a sense of well-being.
Interaction with nature
Cats are natural hunters, and observing birds, insects, and other wildlife from the catio can be highly entertaining and satisfying for them.
Preventing wildlife harm
This is a biggie, especially in Australia. Outdoor cats can pose a real threat to local wildlife. By providing a controlled space like a catio, you can ensure your cat enjoys the outdoors responsibly without negatively impacting the local ecosystem.
Cat mum Julie Leslie opted for a cat patio after losing several of her fur babies.
“We live rural on a farm and despite me thinking my cats were safe in our location, I’ve lost more cats than I want to remember on the roads,” she says. “Several were run over in the early hours of the morning by the milk tankers travelling our roads. This is soul destroying to me and my kids.”
“Two years ago, my Maine Coon was chased from our property by a dog and was then run over on the road. I decided enough was enough.”
Julie now houses her cats in a large catio and says it not only keeps them safe, but the wildlife too: “Having cats in a catio saves the wildlife as they’re not roaming the countryside getting into mischief. I’ve had several cats who would bring home rabbits but also birds as well if they were quick enough to catch them.”
Do cats like catios?
We’re glad you asked. The first and foremost question is obvious – will your fur kid like being in their catio?
From what our customers tell us and the comprehensive research we’ve done elsewhere, cats generally seem to like catios. They allow them a break from being indoors and give them a safe place to play, explore, sunbathe, and socialise with other cats.
With that said, not all cats are the same. Some cats may be too shy or timid to use them. Others may not be interested in the activities that catios offer. Your cat will quickly let you know if they want to be in their catio or not!
Cat mum Carolyn Murchison built a beautifully equipped catio for her pedigree cats, which she says they absolutely love:
“Our cat patio isn’t connected to the house, the cats rely on us carrying them out to it. They sit at the laundry door and leap about as the signal they want to go out. It gives them the chance to climb and jump about that they don’t get inside. It’s also visually stimulating for them too, as we have a bird bath and bird feeder in close proximity to provide enrichment to the cats, knowing birdlife is safe.”
Carolyn’s cats were purchased with a condition from their breeder that they were to be house cats only. Carolyn says since their house is a little small, they felt they needed an outdoor space for the cats to have some enrichment where they were contained.
“Also, having only owned dogs prior – the idea of containment to our property was a natural one. My dogs never roamed, why would I let my cats?” she says.
Check out the awesome catio her fur kids get to play in:
Make a DIY catio for cheap
Alright, let’s get crafty and create a purr-fect DIY cat patio for your furry friend without breaking the bank! Follow these simple steps and watch your cat’s excitement soar:
1: Plan and measure
- Pick a suitable location near a window or a door for your catio.
- Measure the available space to determine the dimensions for your project.
2: Gather materials
You don’t need fancy stuff; everyday items will do the trick:
- Wooden pallets or planks (from recycled sources if possible) for the frame.
- Chicken wire or wire mesh to create the enclosure.
- Nails or screws to hold everything together.
- Hinges and a latch for a swinging door
- A staple gun or zip ties for securing the wire.
3: Build the frame
- Assemble the wooden pallets or planks to create a rectangular frame according to your measurements.
- Use nails or screws to fix them securely, making sure the structure is stable.
4: Create the enclosure
- Attach the chicken wire or wire mesh to the frame using a staple gun or zip ties.
- Make sure there are no gaps big enough for your clever cat to escape!
5: Add a roof
- Attach a tarp or a simple roof made of plywood.
6: Decorate and enrich (see more on this below)
7: Create an access point
- If you want your cat to access the catio independently, cut a hole in the wall or install a pet door.
8: Safety check
- Ensure there are no sharp edges or nails sticking out that could harm your curious cat.
- Double-check the enclosure for any potential escape routes
Can a cat live in a catio full time?
Generally, a cat patio is there to give your fur kid a safe place to enjoy the fresh outdoor air without actually being outdoors. The rest of the time they’re indoor cats with all the space in your house to roam.
It’s not ideal to have your cat live in a catio full time. However, if you have no other options and you’re able to build a large and enriching space, you cat may be able to live there full time. Bear in mind it has to be:
- Large: Consider how many cats you have and what their activity levels/needs are, as well as what equipment, toys and other items you need to space to contain.
- Have enriching and stimulating items: Such as toys, scratching posts, and hiding places.
- Not too hot or cold: If you live in a warm place, it should have plenty of shade and a way for your cat to cool off (ever heard of a pet cooling mat?). If you live in a cold climate, it should have insulation and a way for your kitty to stay warm.
- A place your cat/s actually likes: Some cats are more outgoing and would enjoy living in a catio full time. Other cats are more introverted and may prefer to spend more time indoors.
If your cat lives in a catio full time, it’s important to monitor them closely to make sure they’re happy and healthy. You should also take them to the vet for regular check-ups – more on that below:
How big should it be?
As mentioned above, the ideal size of a catio will depend on many several factors, including the number of cats you have and how active they are. A larger catio will give your cats more room to run, climb, and play. It will also give them more places to hide and feel safe.
Of course, another key consideration is how much space you have available.
A good rule of thumb is that it should be at least 2 metres squares and 2.5 metres high. If you have a larger cat, you may need to provide more space. If you’re limited on space, you could consider a vertical catio. They’re tall and narrow, which allows you to maximise the space you have available.
You can also build one that’s attached to your home. This type of cat patio will take up less space in your yard, and it will be easier to access.
How to decorate it
Now for the fun part! Here are some tips on how to decorate a catio:
- Choose a theme. This will help you narrow down your choices and make the decorating process easier. Some popular themes for catios include:
- Jungle: Perfect for cats who love to climb. You can add plants, vines, and even a small waterfall to create a jungle-like environment.
- Desert: For cats who love to sunbathe. You can add sand, cacti, and even a small pool to create a desert-like environment.
- Country: Great for cats who love to relax. You can add a hammock, a birdbath, and even some flowers to create a country-like environment!
- Add plenty of hiding places. Cats love to have places to hide. You can use boxes, baskets, or even plants to create hiding nooks.
- Provide plenty of enrichment. Add cat toys, scratching posts, runners, and perhaps even hang a bird feeder off the outside of your cat patio.
- Make it comfortable. Your cat should be able to relax and enjoy their time in the catio. Make sure to add a comfy bed, a water bowl, and a litter box.
- Personalise it. Add your own personal touch by adding a photo of your cat, their favourite toy, or a piece of their favourite blanket.
Here’s some awesome inspo:
Insure your curious cat
Whether yours is an indoor, outdoor, or catio cat – they’re still prone to unexpected accidents and illnesses.
A pet insurance policy helps your fur baby be able to rely on you for medical treatment when they need it most. PD offers award-winning, low cost, quality protection and (depending on your policy) a multi-pet discount if you have more than one fur kids.
More pets with pet insurance means more feel good moments for the planet, in our opinion! Get a quote today.