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What is a Catio? A Complete Guide for Cat Parents

Cats love exploring, but the great outdoors can be dangerous for your furry friend. From potential diseases to wild predators and parasites like fleas and ticks, the outside holds too many hazards to safely let your cat roam.

A catio, or cat patio, offers a safe way for your indoor cat to enjoy the outdoors. These cat enclosures give your feline friend access to the sights, sounds, and fresh air of outside while still being confined – the best of both worlds.

Keep reading to learn more about catios, their benefits, and whether a cat enclosure is right for your kitty.

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Types of Catios

There are a variety of catio styles to choose from, depending on how much space you have and what your design preferences are.

Most catios are made with a wood frame and wire mesh walls and roof to give your cat maximum exposure to the outdoors, but the materials can differ.

Window Catios

Window catios are securely attached to your home and use a window as the entrance into the structure.

They can be compact window boxes if you have limited space, or they can be large, multi-level structures that your cat can use to climb and explore.

Tunnel Catios

Similar to window catios, tunnel catios are often attached to your home, but instead of a tall structure, these catios are designed as long, sprawling tunnels that your cat can use to explore.

These structures can be small, taking up just one small section of your house, or you can wrap the tunnels around the length of your yard for even more space for your cat to play.

Free-Standing Catios

Instead of attaching to your home, free-standing catios are structures that can be placed anywhere throughout your yard. This type of outdoor cat enclosure is usually portable, and can be made from the traditional wood frame or even a pop-up tent.

Because these aren’t connected to your home, you’ll need to carry your cat to the catio and place them in through a secure entrance.

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Catios Made from Existing Structures

What makes catios great is that they can be made from structures you already have. If you have a balcony, deck, or porch, you can convert sections of these into a catio instead of building an entirely new structure.

Because these are already attached to your home, that can make the building process even easier. In fact, you may be surprised by how simple it is to construct a catio with some basic materials, a few tools, and a little bit of elbow grease.

Should I Build a DIY Catio?

If you’re handy and have some basic carpentry skills, you can easily build a catio yourself with a little planning. There are plenty of resources available to help you, including online videos, step-by-step instructions, and even pre-made catio kits.

Building a catio can be a fun weekend project, and it can also save you money since you won’t have to hire someone to do it for you. Plus, you’ll be able to customize the catio to your home and your cat’s specific needs and preferences.

Of course, if you don’t feel confident in your abilities or don’t have the time to do it yourself, there’s no shame in hiring a professional to build your catio for you. You can even purchase a ready-made catio if you want something that’s easy to set up and doesn’t require any construction.

Benefits of Catios for Cats

Pet parents everywhere are choosing to buy or build their own catios for their feline friends because of the variety of benefits they offer. Here are just a few of the reasons you may want to consider a catio for your cat:

1) Keep Your Cat Safe

One of the biggest benefits of a catio is that they keep cats safe from the dangers of the outdoors. If your cat is left to roam outside alone, there are a number of hazards that can leave them sick, injured, or worse.

Cars, wild animals, and even other cats pose deadly threats for your cat. Cats that are let outdoors are also at risk of diseases like feline leukemia (FeLV), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), and more, as well as parasites like ticks, fleas, and ringworm.

Outdoor cats have an average lifespan of only 2-5 years, compared to indoor cats that can live 10-15 years and often longer. That’s why the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends keeping cats confined – whether indoors or in an outdoor enclosure like a catio.

2) Provides Much-Needed Enrichment

Many cat parents choose to let their cats outside because of the environmental enrichment and mental stimulation that it offers. With a catio, your cat can still experience the sights, sounds, and smells while still being safe and secure inside.

Cats are natural hunters, and they love to explore, climb, and stalk their prey. In a catio, your cat can climb to their heart’s content and spend hours watching the birds and squirrels.

Without environmental enrichment, your cat can easily get bored and turn to other outlets to keep their mind occupied. Often, cats turn to destructive or problematic behaviors like urinating outside the litter box or excessively chewing or scratching.

3) Protects Local Wildlife

Because of their status as beloved pets, many people forget that cats are also predators.

Cats have natural hunting instincts, and those that are allowed outdoors kill millions of wild birds and mammals in North America every year. This significant impact to the bird population has consequences to the wildlife in the area and the environment as a whole.

Giving your cat a space where they can still enjoy the outdoors while being inside an enclosure helps protect local wildlife, keeping everyone happy.

4) Reduce Indoor Litter Box Odors

As much as we love our cats, we don’t always love the odors they come with. While regular cleaning of the litter boxes and vacuuming of the carpets can keep odors to a minimum, it’s hard to eliminate the litter box smells altogether.

Catio spaces offer a place to put a litter box outside of your home. Depending on where you live, this won’t always be possible year-round, but it can still help reduce indoor odors at least part of the year.

5) Decrease Fights in Multi-Cat Households

If you have multiple cats in your home, fights over territory can lead to serious conflict. For many cats, the solution to these fights is more space for them to separate.

Cats prefer to have their own individual resources as well as space to climb, hide, and relax. Catios provide additional space for your cats to spread out and cool off, especially if your catio design includes vertical space.

6) Keep Your Neighbors Happy

While you may love your cat, not everyone is going to feel the same way. If your cat is allowed to roam outside, it’s likely that they’ll end up in your neighbor’s yard at some point, often to nibble on their growing plants or to find new areas to use the bathroom.

Keeping your cat inside a catio prevents them from wandering through your neighbor’s space and reduces potential conflicts between you and others in your neighborhood.

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Is a Catio Right for You?

If your cat could use more environmental enrichment in their day or they have a craving for outdoor exploration, catios can be the perfect solution. By providing your cat with a safe outdoor space, you can let them enjoy the outdoors without worry.

With many styles and sizes to choose from, you can find the perfect catio to meet you and your cat’s needs. So, what are you waiting for? Get started on creating your cat’s new outdoor playground today!