How to Build a Catio

Behavior and Training  •  Pam Karkow  •  Friday, May 15, 2020

The moment I tie my tennis shoes, there is a jumpy, slobbery, panting golden retriever at my heels, expecting a walk.  And I have just learned not to put on my shoes until I am moments from being ready to walk out the door to take her for her walk.  I figured this was just a dog thing, until a friend of mine told me she saw a cat being walked the other day. On a leash! When another friend told me she takes her cat for walks in a cat stroller, I realized walking is not just for our canine pets.  Cats enjoy the fresh air and the wind on their whiskers, too.

According to Mikel Delgado, certified cat behavior consultant, “In the grand scheme of things, keeping cats exclusively indoors is a recent trend.”  He goes on to say that cats need an enriching environment in order to tap into their physical and emotional needs. So, if your cat is up for it, strap on that leash and take her for a stroll.  Or pop her in a pet stroller. But, what should you do if you know your cat needs some fresh air, but she isn’t up for a walk?  One word: catio.

What is a catio and will my cat like it?

A catio is basically an outdoor enclosure that will allow your cat to enjoy the sights and sounds of the great outdoors.  A patio for cats!

First you’ll need to establish whether your cat will go for the catio.  You don’t want to do a whole bunch of work transforming your backyard space without knowing.  You can be pretty confident your cat will appreciate his catio if he…

  • is curious and playful

  • is energetic and lively

  • seems to need more stimulation than your indoors can provide

How to build a catio

If you’ve decided it’s a go, follow these steps to construct your catio…

  • Offer flexibility to come and go as he pleases.  You will want your cat to be able to enter the catio from his house, and enter the house from his catio.  He should never be locked outside in the catio.

  • Make it sturdy.  Katenna Jones, an animal behaviorist and owner of Jones Animal Behavior in Warwick, Rhode Island, says  “Sturdiness is key. You want something that will keep your cat in, but also keep predators out.”  Also, make sure your cat is up to date on his vaccinations just in case he gets out of the enclosure.

  • Provide shade and places to hide.  For the winter months, you may want to consider K&H Pet Products extreme weather kitty pad as an added bonus to your cat’s hiding spot.

  • Consider building or installing shelves for climbing.  If you are not handy, or don’t trust your carpentry skills, check out the Frisco 72-inch cat tree.  As Jones says, it’s more important to go up than out, when it comes to entertaining a lively cat.

  • Include food, water, and a litter box.

Remember to give your cat some time to adjust to his new space.  You may want to introduce him slowly to his catio, allowing a small amount of time spent there, and under supervision at first.  Happy catio construction!

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