Sometimes referred to as “catios,” outdoor cat enclosures offer the best of both worlds.
If you’re a cat parent, there’s no doubt about it – you love your cat. You want what’s best for your little furry friend, and you want him or her to be as happy as possible all of the time.
You may find yourself thinking about letting your cat explore the great outdoors. After all, cats are tiny, domesticated wild animals, and all the wild cats you know of enjoy being outside.
However, letting your cat outdoors may not always be wise. It’s unsafe for local wildlife, and it’s not safe for your cat, either.
That’s why so many cat parents are exploring the idea and concept of outdoor cat enclosures these days.
Sometimes referred to as “catios,” outdoor cat enclosures offer the best of both worlds. With an outdoor cat enclosure, your cat can enjoy the weather, the fresh air, and all of the exciting goings-on that occur outside your home while staying completely safe at all times.
After reading this informative post, you’ll be convinced that this is the way to go, and you’ll be ready to get started on creating your own.
If you’re interested in providing your cat or cats with an outdoor cat enclosure to enjoy, read on.
Indoor and Outdoor Cats
You may think that it’s cruel to keep a cat indoors, but that’s not at all the case. In fact, when you keep your cat indoors, you are being a responsible cat owner. Cat lovers who keep their cats inside are keeping their cats safe from the plethora of dangers that await outside.
Cats who spend time outdoors face so many potential tragedies. They can be hit by a car, may ingest poisons like antifreeze, or might be attacked by another cat or a loose dog. They could become lost or could be trapped by an unhappy neighbor or could be stolen by someone who wants a cat of their own. Your cat could contract a disease from another animal or could have a run-in with an adult or child with cruel intentions.
If you let your cat outdoors on his or her own, every time you do, there’s a good chance that you’ll never see him or her again.
Research has shown that indoor cats live can live a long and happy life of seventeen years or more on average, whereas cats who live their lives outdoors only survive two to five years in many cases.
Furthermore, researchers believe that outdoor, domesticated cats are responsible for the deaths of approximately 2.4 billion songbirds each year in the United States alone. If you love nature, you’re putting birds and other small critters in great peril by letting your cats wander outdoors.
It’s not cruel to keep your cats indoors. In fact, it’s the best thing you can do for them for their overall health, and for the health and happiness of the creatures who live outside all the time. Since we all know pets are good for our health, it’s crucial that we do all we can to keep them safe and healthy too.
Outdoor Cat Enclosures
Anyone who has an outdoor cat enclosure for their cat will tell you that their cat clearly loves the opportunity to get out there in a safe and controlled way.
The term “outdoor cat enclosure” can define a number of different things, but at its simplest definition, it’s an enclosed outdoor structure that is specifically designed for cats. These can be a permanent building that is attached to your home, a standalone structure in your yard, or a temporary, pop-up enclosure that will keep your cat contained.
Outdoor cat enclosures can be any size that is big enough for your cat, but many find that the bigger the cat enclosure, the better. If you have an older cat who just likes to rest and relax then a smaller one will likely do, but if you have a younger and more adventurous cat or a little kitten who loves to explore, you may decide to choose a larger option.
Fancy catios can cost thousands of dollars to create, or you can spend a few dollars to purchase a simple cat tent that includes screens on all sides to keep your cat contained and secure.
Constructed, permanent cat enclosures can be attached to a window or can be built on a balcony or porch. Some people build them on the back of their homes so their cats can access them at their leisure through a small cat door. Many people who build these structures choose to include shelves for climbing and resting, scratching posts, or hanging toys to play with as well.
When it comes to building a permanent outdoor cat enclosure, you can design and build your own, or you can buy a pre-fabricated one. It all depends on how much you want to spend and your own carpentry skills.
No matter which option you choose, your cat will love it.
Are Cat Enclosures Safe?
Cat enclosures are undoubtedly far safer than letting your cat roam freely outdoors.
However, you should check your cat enclosure for hazards on a regular basis to make sure your feline friend won’t be hurt by loose nails or wire and to ensure that escape is impossible.
You will also want to check on your cat when he or she is inside the enclosure from time to time. That way you can see if your cat is happy and serene or if he or she is ready to come back inside.
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Q&A On Outdoor Cat Enclosures
Now to the Q&A. To make it easier, we’ve divided the Q&A into two sections – Catios and Outdoor Enclosures.
The Cat Parent’s Guide To Catios
Video courtesy of Catio Spaces
For expert insight on catios, we reached out to catio designer and cat lifestyle expert, Cynthia Chomos. In a moment, she’d tell us everything you need to know about catios as a cat mom or dad.
But first, let’s meet her.
Founder & Catio Designer, Catio Spaces. Cat Lifestyle Expert
A passionate cat lover, Cynthia founded Catio Spaces to address the need for safe and visually appealing outdoor enclosures to enhance the lives of cats. She combines her expertise as a Feng Shui Consultant and Designer to create outdoor havens for felines and their parents.
Cynthia works with a team of carpenters building custom catios in the greater Seattle area. She also offers a variety of DIY Catio Plans for cat guardians who want to build one themselves or hire a local carpenter to build a plan for them.
Question #1. For the benefit of those who may not know, what is a catio?
A catio is an outdoor cat enclosure or “cat patio” that provides cat safety and enrichment outdoors. Catios help solve the indoor/outdoor dilemma faced by cat parents worldwide and provide peace of mind knowing your cat is safe while enjoying stimulation cats crave. Catios also protect birds and wildlife. While the indoor/outdoor dilemma is debated among cat parents, veterinarians, animal, bird and wildlife organizations, the one solution everyone seems to agree on is giving cats access to safe, outdoor enclosures known as catios.
Question #2. What are catios made of?
Cat enclosures are typically constructed with wood framing, escape-proof wire, a polycarbonate or wire mesh roof, shelves for exercise, perches for lounging, and other features like ramps, branches, and awnings for shade. Flooring options include grass, decking, pavers, and more. Wood framing can be left natural, stained, or painted to complement a home. The finishing decor and enriching touches for a catio include outdoor rugs, seating, cat toys, scratchers, cat-safe plants, and other creature comforts.
Question #3. Please tell us about the different types of catios.
Types of catios include window, porch, patio, deck, and garden catios, or they can be a focal point in your yard. Cat tunnels, located on the ground or elevated on a fence or support posts, are another way to provide cats with exercise and a cat nap in the sun. From small and simple to large and luxurious, with space for humans too, catios offer endless ways to create a cat-friendly home and garden.
Question #4. What’s the best way to have a catio for my cat?
Catio resources include custom-built catios, DIY catio plans, catio kits, or you can build your own catio creation. Key considerations include the location, size of the space, and how your cat will access a catio. Cat doors can be purchased online or at your local pet and home improvement store, and provide outdoor access along with protection from heat loss and critters from entering your home. Cat doors also offer security options for controlling cat access.
Other catio considerations include sun (cats love it), shade, a level foundation, and maintenance, especially if you have trees nearby with leaves and debris that might fall on the catio roof. The ideal catio location has stimulating views of the outdoors, family activities, and birdwatching (the best cat TV!)
Question #5. Can you buy a catio?
In addition to online catio kits, DIY Catio Plans are available in a variety of designs and sizes for a window, deck, patio, or yard. Catio Spaces offers DIY catio plans that take the guesswork out of building a catio, including a material and tool list, step-by-step instructions, diagrams, and tips for a successful project. The plans range from $39.95 – $69.95 and can be customized by size or painting the wood framing to complement your home and garden. Catio Spaces donates 10% of plan purchases to animal welfare organizations. Click here >>> to check out DIY Catio Plans by Catio Spaces.
FAQs on the Cat Parent’s Guide to Outdoor Cat Enclosures
Now to the rest of the Q&A, which are frequently asked questions by worried cat parents.
To help us answer these questions, we reached out to cat parents, Vets and animal lovers. As you will soon see, we were really spoiled for choice here.
Question #1. Do cats like outdoor enclosures?
Great question. No point going to all the trouble and expense to create an outdoor cat enclosure if the star of the show, your cat, doesn’t like it.
To help us unpack this crucial question, we spoke to Dr. Michelle Burch, DVM a Vet; Caroline Cochran, former Vet technician and writer; and Cynthia Chomos, catio designer and cat lifestyle expert.
Let’s dive right in.
“Yes, cats love outdoor enclosures. I recommend outdoor enclosures as a part of environmental enrichment for cat’s mental health. A cat that can go outside can have a happier life and fewer behavioral problems inside your house.” -Dr. Michelle Burch, DVM, Veterinarian from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance.
“Most cats enjoy spending time outdoors, and many indoor cats spend hours at the window staring outside. However, it can be dangerous to allow your cat to roam freely outside of your home.” -Caroline Cochran, former veterinary technician and writer for Dog Food Heaven.
“In my experience, yes! Over the past eight years designing and building catios, I’ve never met a cat who didn’t enjoy catio life. There’s nothing better for our feline friends than fresh air, the warmth of the sun, birdwatching, bug chasing, and the stimulation of the natural world while safe in a catio.
When combined with a cat door (for a window, wall, or door), catios provide the freedom to explore additional territory outdoors and the stimulation cats crave on a daily basis. Plus, a happy cat is a happy cat parent!” -Cynthia Chomos, Founder & Catio Designer, Catio Spaces.
Question #2. Are outdoor cat enclosures safe?
When thinking of outdoor cat enclosures, safety has to be at the forefront of every pet parent’s mind.
And to help us answer this important question, we sought the expert opinion of Dr. Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS, a Vet; Caroline Cochran, former Vet technician; and Cynthia Chomos, catio designer.
“Outdoor enclosures are generally considered safe for cats, but with a couple of caveats. One thing to watch out for if using an outdoor cat enclosure is to make sure your cat can get out of the heat. Shaded areas, shelter, and water are a must if your enclosure doesn’t allow your cat continuous access to the house.
Another thing to watch out for is climbing, especially with kittens. Whilst cats love to climb, it increases the chance of them falling and hurting themselves. Try to envisage your cat using space to climb, and look for areas that they might struggle to make a leap or areas that are unstable that might collapse. If your outdoor enclosure is made from chicken wire or netting, try to choose a hole size that’s too small for your cat’s leg to fit through to reduce the chance of it getting stuck as they fall.” – Dr Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS, Veterinary Advisor at Miss Cats.
“Well-built cat enclosures are the safest way for cats to spend time outdoors. These enclosures have sturdy frames and screens to prevent escape but allow feline friends to enjoy the fresh air.” -Caroline Cochran, former veterinary technician and writer for Dog Food Heaven.
“If properly built to be escape and dig proof, catios are a safe way to provide outdoor enrichment from the foundation to the roof. I recommend using 14-16 gauge welded wire for the walls (secured to wood frames) and around the ground frame’s perimeter to keep cats safe from predators. Avoid vinyl-coated wire as it can be a choking hazard for cats and deteriorate over time due to UV exposure. Depending on the location, catios can be attached to a 4×4 ground frame, vertical posts, or the house siding to ensure they are stable and secure.” -Cynthia Chomos, Founder & Catio Designer, Catio Spaces.
Question #3. How big should a cat enclosure be?
An outdoor cat enclosure is one area where size definitely matters. And we’ve got 3 expert answers for you.
“Cat enclosures don’t need to be huge to boost your kitty’s happiness. Small and simple structures that are big enough for the cat to comfortably sit, lay down, stand, and turn around still allow your cat to get closer to nature. But some cat parents prefer larger spaces that are big enough for cats and owners to spend quality bonding time together.” -Caroline Cochran, former veterinary technician and writer for Dog Food Heaven.
“The bigger the better! At a minimum, though, it’s nice to have an 8′-0 deep by 12′-0 wide enclosure so you can have some perches for them at different levels. You also need to have access for yourself to get in and out, to clean it up when needed, especially if you keep a litter box out there.” -Mario Arbore, Architect & Furniture Designer, Square Paws.
“An outdoor enclosure can be any size and provide environmental enrichment. If you only have a small space, I recommend creating an area that is sturdy and safe outside of a window. If you have a larger space, then the enclosure can be as large as your imagination. If you have a larger enclosure, then I recommend having multiple cat landings for perching and observing.” -Dr. Michelle Burch, DVM, Veterinarian from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance.
Question #4. Is it cruel to keep a cat indoors?
To help us unpack this all important question about cruelty, we sought the expert advice of Dr Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS, a Vet; Andrew Guerra, a proud pet lover and owner; and Mario Arbore, Architect and Cat Tree Designer.
“In my opinion as a vet, it’s not cruel to keep a cat indoors, as long as their needs are met, and sometimes it’s medically necessary. The most difficult ‘need’ to meet for an indoor-only cat is the need to display natural behaviours- among other things, that means climbing and scratching. If cats are kept solely indoors they should be given lots of opportunity to exercise. Cat trees are great, but going a step further and creating floating shelves for your cat to climb is ideal!” -Dr Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS, Veterinary Advisor at Miss Cats.
“If you don’t have a safe enough habitat for your cat (busy roads, wild animals), then keeping your cat at home, providing him with a balanced diet and regular physical activity, is a smart decision. If a cat wants to be outdoors, then keeping your feline inside by force is cruel. In this case, it is possible to let the cat out, however, make sure that there are no large predators around, heavy traffic, and that the cat has all the necessary vaccinations.” -Andrew Guerra, Proud Pet Lover and Owner, and Chief Editor of CatsPurfection.
“It’s not cruel, but you should be sure to have places for your cat to climb and sleep on, for them to scratch, and to spend time playing with them. The hunt is a critical activity for them to feel their ‘cat mojo’ to quote from Jackson Galaxy.”-Mario Arbore, Architect & Furniture Designer, Square Paws.
Question #5. Is it cruel to keep cats in cages?
Great question about the 3 Cs – Cruelty, Cats and Cages. Who better to answer the question than Caroline Cochran, former Vet technician; and Dr. Michelle Burch, a Vet?
Check out their insightful comments here.
“It is cruel to keep any animal in a small cage for extended periods of time. Outdoor cat enclosures should not be used as cages. Cats should be able to return inside as they choose.” -Caroline Cochran, former veterinary technician and writer for Dog Food Heaven.
“It is not cruel to keep a cat in a cage as long as their environment is large enough to move around, have a space for a litter box, and a room for food and water. Having an enclosure outside that is secure will keep your cat safe.” -Dr. Michelle Burch, DVM, Veterinarian from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance.
Question #6. Is it better to keep cats indoors or outdoors?
Indoors or outdoors? This question was bound to be asked at some point. And we have three expert viewpoints for you.
“It’s no secret that indoor cats live longer than cats allowed to roam freely outdoors. An indoor cat’s average life span is 16 years or more, while free-roaming outdoor cats average 2 to 5 years of age. A catio is a purrfect solution for the best of both worlds, the comfort of indoor living and the stimulation of the great outdoors.” -Cynthia Chomos, Founder & Catio Designer, Catio Spaces.
“Indoors is best for their own safety from predators, as well as from motor vehicles. Having an enclosed catio is a good compromise, though.” -Mario Arbore, Architect & Furniture Designer, Square Paws.
“It is generally safer to keep cats indoors. Indoor cats live longer lives compared to outdoor cats. Life expectancy for cats that roam freely can be as short as 2 to 5 years.” -Caroline Cochran, former veterinary technician and writer for Dog Food Heaven.
Question #7. Will my cat come back if I let him outside?
With so many cats straying, anxious cat moms and dads want to know if their cat will return home, if allowed to roam freely outdoors.
And we’ve got some insightful answers for you. 3 answers in fact 🙂
“For cat parents who allow their cats to roam freely outdoors, your cat may not return at the end of the day. Many outdoor hazards include cars, predators, poisons, diseases from other animals, getting lost, or even locked in a neighbors garage. A catio is a purrfect solution to the indoor/outdoor dilemma, plus you’ll enjoy peace of mind your cat is always safe.” -Cynthia Chomos, founder & Catio Designer, Catio Spaces.
“My first cat did, but sometimes she’d get into scraps with other animals and be missing for days. And when she returned, it usually resulted in a trip to the emergency animal hospital.” -Mario Arbore, Architect & Furniture Designer, Square Paws.
“It is never guaranteed that your cat will return home if you allow him to roam freely. Some outdoor cats stay close to their property. But many families have lost beloved pets that wandered away for good.” -Caroline Cochran, former veterinary technician and writer for Dog Food Heaven.
Question #8. Why has my cat started staying outside?
An anxious cat parent wants to know why Kitty is no longer returning home. And we couldn’t have asked for a better trio to provide the answers you need.
“There could be so many reasons for this. Is he or she in heat? Have they been spayed or neutered? Are they in a stressful situation for them like too many people in the house, or have you introduced a new pet in the home? There would need to be much more context to answer this question.” -Mario Arbore, Architect & Furniture Designer, Square Paws.
“Most likely because your cat enjoys the stimulation and enrichment of the outdoors, or perhaps your cat is bored indoors, stressed by changes in your home, or needs more space, especially during a pandemic with many cat parents working from home. A catio provides additional territory to explore and enjoy while safe outdoors. After all, cats need a place of their own too.” -Cynthia Chomos, founder & Catio Designer, Catio Spaces.
“Cats have a hunting instinct, and on the street, they explore the surroundings, hunt, and communicate. However, being outdoors is not always safe. It will be better for the cat to live in the house and discover the world in the cat enclosure.” -Andrew Guerra, Proud Pet Lover and Owner, and Chief Editor of CatsPurfection.
It’s Time to Get Started
As you can see, there are so many options when it comes to outdoor cat enclosures, but one thing is for sure. If you build or provide your cat with one, he or she will be so happy and grateful for it. Building a catio for your cat or providing him or her with an outdoor cat enclosure to enjoy will be something that you’ll never regret. Your cat will enjoy the stimulation and exposure to the great outdoors, and you can sleep well at night knowing your little furry baby is always safe.
It’s time to dive in and get started on the development of your outdoor cat enclosure. What are you waiting for?
Your cat can’t wait to get out there in it!
If you’re interested in reading more interesting and informative posts about cats and other pets, check out the Top Stories section of our site for more.
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