Building a catio – an outside cat enclosure

My last post looked at the reasons for and against letting your cat outside and I’d almost settled on her being a housecat – though in the past week I’ve changed my mind several times… usually when Lyla-cat was miaowing her loudest and when it was really warm and sunny outside. As a compromise she’s been quite happy to go out each day on her harness and leash and sit in our biggest dog cage on the patio. If by ‘happy’ you mean ‘tolerate’ and also recognise that the cage isn’t nearly as big and exciting as it ought to be – and she knows it.

What we really need to do is to build a catio – a cross between a paved patio and a cat enclosure – or an outdoor cat house. Somewhere safe where she can climb and jump and flop and roll about – without me stood at the window every five minutes sucking my teeth or frantically shaking her Whiskers box to entice her back into safety.

There are a few things I have to consider with the most important being that I am utterly useless at DIY (when I go to B&Q it’s to buy fairy lights and picture hooks). Putting my creative ideas into action usually involves just one coat of paint then devouring a full packet of chocolate hob nobs and not much else. A lot of the catios you’ll find on the internet are grand, awe-inspiring things worthy of mention by the New York Times… but us normal folk just aren’t readily equipped for lumberjack and jill elaborate oak-tree based walkways!

So backing away from google image searches – I looked into buying a readymade free standing cat enclosure. There are lots of websites in the UK which will build and assemble freestanding or bespoke designs for around £500. Something self-contained as seen on woodenart would be brilliant for me… or there’s a great variety of cat houses with runs over at Safe Pet Pens. The companies aren’t based in my area unfortunately but they’re exactly the kind of thing I’m after. Featuring square, simple shaped runs means that I’ve got it into my little head that they’d be easy to build… and that building my own cat run will be rewarding. And fun. I was an arts and crafts child and still love a good old project. Roping my dad in (to do the bulk of the work) for some father/daughter time has gone down well and it might even cost less in the long run). So I’ve been doing my research for catio must have’s;

  • First of all decide on level of elaborateness i.e. cat-flap out of the house with connecting tunnels and mazes?? (sunCATcher enclosure tunnels)
  • Or a square shaped enclosure attached to the house or separate freestanding structure that would be easy to move around
  • Whether to have a walk-in run (which will need to be at least 6.5 feet high for me and the husband) or little cat entrance – though difficult to get Lyla out and difficult to clean
  • Access to sunlight and shade with shelter from the elements
  • Space incase we take the plunge and introduce another cat to our family
  • An anti-cat-thievery lock
  • Work out a cost – how much and what type of materials which links to…
  • … Appearance – does it matter to me what this wooden/chicken wired cage will look like in my garden?
  • A sisal climbing pole for scratching
  • It needs to be escape proof (probably an obvious one to point out…)
  • Access to litter tray and fresh water
  • Access to grass as this helps her tummy
  • Shelves for climbing and sunbathing
  • A sign or plaque e.g. the cathouse est. 2012
  • Toys e.g. feathers tied to string that will move in the breeze

Update 2014

April: We recently moved house and while Lyla and Boop were grounded… we installed some cat activity shelves for them to jump about on while we set about making their catio – have a look at How To Make Homemade Cat Shelves.

August: We’ve now finished building our DIY outdoor enclosure. We used a spinning drainpipe system together with wire mesh to keep our cat safe outside. You can read all about it Homemade Catio – click on the link and let me know what you think!

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3 thoughts on “Building a catio – an outside cat enclosure

  1. I love that first photo. What an awesome outdoor enclosure for cats. But you gave me an idea. I can put the dog kennel outdoors and let the cats enjoy some outside time. I just have to figure out a safe way to get them in and out.

    • There’s some really creative ones out there! I’m completely in awe of their skills (and jealous!). I’ve got a cat harness and lead that I put on Lyla when walking her to the cage then sort of wrestle it off her once she’s inside. It’s not ideal! I’d love to have a tunnel going from a cat flap so she can just run in and out of the house whenever she wants.

  2. Pingback: It’s very nearly springtime… | whitburnwhiskers

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