Catios are outdoor spaces designed for your feline friends. They could be true to their name and as large as a patio or a smaller space where your kitty can safely feel the breeze in her whiskers.
There are no rules about how to design and build your catio—that’s up to you and your feline. “Catios can be build-your-own. If you lack space or funds, a large wire dog crate makes a great outdoor safety area for your cat,” says Leanne Lilly, DVM fear-free certified Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University. Dr. Lilly is an advocate for safe, outdoor enrichment and says catios are a great option for keeping your cat out of harm’s way.
With so many options and designs at different price points, Figo couldn’t resist sitting down with pet parents for an exclusive look at their one-of-a-kind cat sanctuaries. Warning: if your feline sneaks a peek, she’ll be begging for her own secure outdoor oasis.
DIY Catio Materials and Advice
Captain Lord Snow and his seven fluffy siblings are living the dream in Riverside, California. Cat mom, cat foster parent, and rescue advocate Yazmin says their catio doesn’t just provide additional space and exercise for her floofs—it’s an essential tool for socializing rescued feral cats.
Alongside her husband and her father, this cat-loving team built their 13 by 25-foot outdoor enclosure in five full days. “We had no idea what we were doing. We made a lot of mistakes along the way and have learned ways of building it better,” she says. “It wasn’t easy, but seeing the look in your kitty’s faces when they first step foot in it makes everything completely worth it.”
How much does building a catio cost?
Yazmin says that designing and building the catio themselves was the economical choice—saving more mullah for TNR work. “After adding the pavers and all the accessories inside, the total was about $1,200.”
Yazmin has a few tips for keeping catio costs down:
Source materials from lumber warehouses vs. big-name stores
Choose polycarbonate panels over roofing materials
Include DIY scratching posts, perches, and other enrichment features
Don’t skip the research and planning phases
“My most popular DIY item is my cat bridges. I am all about DIY because I can make it more personal, targeted more for my cats’ needs, and of course, budget-friendly,” Yazmin says. She adds that the polycarbonate roof isn’t just budget-friendly, her sunshine-basking cats love the open-sky feel.
Is there anything you would change about your catio?
Redoing the wooden floor and adding a door from the house to the catio are also on Yazmin’s to-do list. “Pavers as flooring are easier to keep clean and will last longer than wood,” she says. “Instead of attaching to the house through the window, we might tear the window down and build a door there. That way it is easier for us to access without having to exit the house.”
Catio Kits and Enclosures
Adventure cats Lewis and Clark can’t get enough of the outdoors. In fact, they would wake cat dad Jory up at the first sign of light for a walk on their harness and leashes. “The catio allows them to go out safely whenever they want,” Jory says of the modular catio he designed with the help of Habitat Haven, who pride themselves on renter-friendly catio options.
@lewis.clark.explorer.cats on Instagram
“I came to Habitat Haven with a basic concept. They recommended some changes, and we went back and forth via email for six to eight weeks before I placed the order,” Jory explains. “I think I spent longer on the design than the construction.” Once the design was complete, Habitat Haven sent Jory the complete catio kit. All Jory needed was a few weekends to assemble the cat-only space.
We know you love sleeping in thanks to the catio. What do Lewis and Clark love most about their catio?
Jory and Habitat Heaven designed the 6 ½- by 4 ½-foot catio to include a 28-foot-long catwalk with a birds-eye view of, well, the birds. “They both will lay there for hours watching the hummingbird feeder,” Jory says. “I chose not to cover the entire catwalk with the waterproof awning. That turned out to be a great thing. When it’s raining, they can hang out under the awning. When it’s sunny, they can pick a spot in the sun.”
@lewis.clark.explorer.cats on Instagram
How do your cats access the catio?
Lewis and Clark access the outdoor structure through a microchip-controlled cat flap that is installed into an existing window, Jory explains. The smart cat door includes a curfew feature that could restrict access at a certain time—but cat dad doesn’t use that feature.
“I trained them with the SureFlap Pet Door before it was installed,” Joy says. “Once the door and the catwalk were in place, Clark figured it out right away after I showed him the door. Within a few hours they were going in and out at will.”
Jory says cats aren’t the only ones that need special access to the catio. “It’s important to be able to access all of the spaces in the catio including the catwalk. If the cat is injured or afraid, you may need to go into the catio to get them out,” he explains. The modular catwalk has emergency access hatches every four feet.
Enrichment is just the first step to keeping your feline happy and healthy. Get a Figo Insurance quote to learn more.
Janelle is a cat mum to two resident adventure kitties, Lyra and Atlas, and numerous cat and kitten fosters. Janelle and her furry family enjoy filling their days with hiking, kayaking, and seeking out the best cat-friendly destinations around the Pacific Northwest. You can follow Janelle, her adventure kitties, and adoptable fosters at @paws_pdx.