a catio with two cats

10 Things you need to know before building a catio

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If you’re a cat parent, you’ve probably thought about making an outdoor catio for your furry friend. Don’t let the building process scare you away because even newbies with little construction experience can do the job. All you need are great ideas, materials, tools, dedication, and an understanding of your cat’s needs.

Should I build a catio for my cat?

But first, what’s in it for you and your cat? Why build an outdoor catio? The following points explain the benefits:

  • Enriched environment – A catio opens your cat to a broader range of outdoor scents, sights, and sounds, great for healthy mental stimulation. There’s also more room to explore and do activities safely. Bird watching, observing nature, and lounging on hammocks can alleviate mood and boredom, while climbing a cat tree outdoors and exercising promote good circulation and prevent obesity.

  • Peace of mind – Cat owners will naturally worry about their feline friends when they spend time outdoors. But a catio eliminates many threats, such as other animals, moving vehicles, poisonous plants, and toxic substances. You wouldn’t have to worry about your cat getting lost, escaping, or stolen. They can safely play, exercise, hang out, and have fun in their space.

  • Better well-being – An outdoor catio is ideal for your cats to experience the sun, soak up Vitamin D, enjoy the outdoor scenery, breathe fresh air, bond with other cats (if you have more than one), and relieve indoor stress. All these would boost your cat’s immune system and overall health, all thanks to a simple outdoor cat enclosure.

  • Prey protection – Cats love hunting; sometimes, birds, mice, and rodents fall prey! Cat enclosures help prevent cat attacks, protecting wildlife and the ecosystem. A catio gives your cats and susceptible small animals a safe outdoor space.

10 Things you need to know before building a catio

The advantages of a catio are convincing enough. But before setting one up, there are a few things to consider.

1. The size of your cat

big fluffy maine coon cat

Although most cats have similar measurements, they do come in various sizes. Maine coons and Savannah cats are large breeds that require bigger outdoor cat enclosures and vertical space.

Besides the catio, you’ll have to ensure the cat door and window are spacious enough for them to go through. If you have or plan to have kittens, adjusting dimensions according to their small size is also crucial to make it safe.

2. The location of the catio

cats walking in an outdoor garden

Location is a critical decision because bringing your cat outdoors comes with risks. Are there predators or other animals lurking in the area? How is the soil flora? Are there toxic plants around? Is there good ventilation?

Will there be a good balance of shade and sunshine during the day? Is the location conveniently situated for you and your cat? These are some questions you should consider before building an outdoor catio.

3. The materials you will need

There’s a wide variety of materials in the market today, but it all boils down to your preferences and needs. You can get metal, wood, plastic, or PVC for the base, panels, and roof. You can even add a polycarbonate sheet on the roof for better insulation.

Whether making an outdoor cat playpen from the window or a freestanding catio, you can benefit from professional pet fencing services. They can help you achieve a fail-safe cat enclosure. Additionally, you may need locks, latches, a cat door, and a tunnel.

4. The tools you will need

Just like most DIY projects, basic tools are a must. These include a measuring tape, pencil or marker, drill, screwdriver, staple or nail gun, screwdriver, and wire or bolt cutter. You may also need a saw and safety equipment, like goggles and gloves.

5. The design of the catio

cats lounging in their enclosure

The great thing about a DIY catio is you can customize it. But there are two types: an attached outdoor catio or a freestanding enclosure. An attached outdoor catio can be mounted to your house or wall like a box or porch cat enclosure. A cat window enclosure is another popular attached catio among fur parents.

On the other hand, a freestanding catio is separated from your house. You can create a sizeable outdoor catio since it’s usually located in your garden or backyard. Some cat owners also like a cat balcony or terrace enclosure where they can hang out.

But remember that with this design, you would have to carry or walk your cat to the outdoor catio. Remember to include accessories, toys, a cat door, a tunnel (if needed), and other outdoor cat furniture in your design.

6. The safety of the catio

cat inside a safe outdoor catio

One of the top priorities in building your DIY catio is to keep your cats safe. Sand rough patches, smooth edges, and use pet-friendly paint or finishes. Check on gaps where paws or your cat could get stuck.

You should secure locks or latches to avoid intrusions and accidental escapes. Consider your cat’s well-being and safety all year round, specifically if you have fluctuating or extreme temperatures.

7. The accessibility of the catio

cat passing through a cat door

Regarding safety, easy access is essential, too. Your cat should be able to freely go in and out of your catio, especially if it’s an attached outdoor catio. A professional cat door installer can effortlessly set this up for you.

As for a freestanding outdoor enclosure, you can improve accessibility by creating a secure tunnel to and from the catio. Besides a smooth entry for your cat, you should also have access to the catio. Ensure you have a door or panel you can open to have easy reach when cleaning the catio or trying to get your cat.

8. The cost of building a catio

Setting up a cat enclosure will cost money, but this varies on your choice of materials and design. Catios in Australia can range from a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousand. This can also increase if you add outdoor cat towers, cat trees, scratching posts, hammocks, etc.

9. The accessories you can include

kitten playing with a scratch post

Another awesome thing about a DIY catio is you can make it a fun project. Add exciting and engaging toys to your cat’s experience of the great outdoors to a new level. Cats will enjoy their outdoor catio if it has a hammock, shelves to climb, different spots to hang out in, a scratching post, and a sunbathing area.

Your cats can last many hours in their outdoor catio as they can relax, play, exercise, and be accessible without sacrificing safety.

10. The maintenance you will need

Whether you take your cat to your local pet groomer or let it self-clean, note that your DIY catio needs regular cleaning. A part of keeping your cats happy is maintaining cleanliness.

Your outdoor cat enclosure should have access points or removable panels for trouble-free cleaning. It’s also best to choose materials that are easy to sanitize and regularly inspect your DIY catio, cat door, tunnel, and furniture to keep your cat safe.

Your catio ideas in action

Whether you plan to build a small or large outdoor catio, your cat will thank you. With a cat patio, every day will be a holiday for your cat, and your mind will be at ease. So, are you ready to embark on your DIY outdoor catio project? Call up a cat care expert from Airtasker to start today! For more information about catios, check out this website.

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FAQs on building a catio

A catio doesn’t have to be huge. Instead, focus on vertical space. Cats love climbing and watching their surroundings from a high point. Hence, a 3-by-6-by-8-foot (91-by-183-by-244-centimeter) catio is good enough.

It depends on your preferences, but the great thing about building a catio is customization to fit you and your cat’s needs.

You may choose any, but cedarwood is one of the top choices for an outdoor catio because of its durability and versatility. Although cats rarely chew on wood, watch out if you’re saying cedarwood, as this can be toxic to them. Red Maple wood may not prevent decay, but it should be good if you keep it dry. Plus, it’s safe for cats. 

You must secure a permit if you rent or live in a condo. But a permit may be optional if you own the house and property. It’s best to check with your local authorities.

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