Dangers abound for cats wandering the neighborhood -- traffic, poisons, other cats, wildlife and weather -- but they have a natural instinct to want to explore the outdoors. There is a solution, though, that can make you and your pet happy. Why not build an outdoor cat enclosure?
Often called "catios" (a patio for cats), outdoor enclosures can be built to your specifications and may be as large or as small as you want. They generally consist of 3 basic elements: an entrance (for cats and sometimes for humans), a wooden or metal frame and a mesh material laid over the frame. Sound easy? It can be!
Here are 4 great ideas for building your own catio.
Window Box. If you're truly short on space or if your cat isn't a wanderer, a window box perch may be all you need. This small frame enclosure is built out from one window -- usually only a little larger than the window base and a couple of feet tall. The cat uses the open window to enter and exit as they wish. Build it on a partially sunny side of the house so that Fluffy can relax in the sunshine. Small DIY kits for window boxes can be found on the internet or at some pet stores.
Cover Your Deck. Whether you have a deck structure in place or are planning to build one, it can provide a great base for a catio. You can choose to enclose the entire patio with the mesh or chicken wire covering, or you may want to divide the deck in two and use only one half for the catio. A deck is an excellent way to be able to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air with your cat as part of the family. If converting a deck into a catio, it's best to work with a qualified deck builder to design the additional framing required and ensure that the mesh doesn't allow any tiny spaces for an adventurous cat to escape.
Tunnels. Frame-and-mesh tunnels (usually only slightly larger than a cat) can run from an open window or cat door out into the yard itself. A tunnel system allows your cat to move around the yard safely or travel by themselves to a separate cat enclosure placed away from the house. If you're worried about how it will look amid your landscaping, run the tunnel along a fence line or behind existing bushes or flower gardens.
Dedicated Enclosure. If you have enough space, building a full-size enclosure in the yard can be heavenly for cats. This type of catio can be as big as you want it to be and is often tall enough that you can include climbing trees or playgrounds, dwarf trees or hanging branches and bridges. Depending on the size of the planned catio, you may wish to work with a contractor to build it sturdy enough to hold up over time.
Installing a cat enclosure helps provide entertainment and exercise while keeping the kitty safe. And it may even provide you and your family with a little entertainment, as well as the chance to enjoy the yard with your four-legged friend.