Homemade Catio – Outdoor Cat Enclosure

We’ve finally completed our DIY outdoor cat enclosure – or cat patio – or catio for short!… This followed many long nights of research, walking our cats around on cat leads and LOTS of meowing at the patio doors to go outside and a bit of elbow grease…

Catio drainpipe solution

Patio with spinning drainpipe enclosure… spot the two cats!

For Lyla and Boop, this is a way of getting sunshine and fresh air but at no risk from busy roads, noisy neighbourhood foxes, eating things they shouldn’t or getting stuck in trees (I’m looking at you, Lyla!). The pros and cons are endless but we’re happy with the compromise we’ve made for them both – and they seem happy too.

Outside cats in catio

Lyla and Boop – outdoors!

We have a small garden (7m x 5m) which we’ve recently had patioed (goodbye lawnmowers) with standard 6 feet fences and a car port bordering our property. After painting the fences and assembling and painting the shed – we were ready to go!  First of all I fixed some bamboo screening against the car port fence for privacy and also to stop them escaping that way.

outdoor cat enclosure bamboo fencing

Carport Bamboo Fencing

Then we set about installing the cat enclosure drainpipe ‘system’. I’ll be honest. We weren’t 100% sure if it would work… but we really wanted to give this a go rather than just using brackets and metres of overhanging wire mesh – which we were worried would look a little bit prisony.

Whole Catio View

Catio Panorama

Here are the materials we used (incase you were interested!)

  • Electric screwdriver – make sure to drill into the horizontal fence post
  • Screws – choose the right length so that they don’t go through to your neighbours’ side if you have a shared fence!
  • Saw to cut drainpipes to size
  • Staple Gun
  • Steel Threaded Rods – small enough to go through the bracket holes – these don’t go all the way through the drainpipe
  • Drainpipes – we chose brown ones in the hope they’d blend with the paint!
  • Brackets – already twisted so you just need to bend them to your desired angle. Once they’re screwed to the fence you can still bend them slightly to the right position.
  • Hex Nuts – placed on either side to keep the rod firmly in place
  • Wire Mesh – we opted for the PVC coated mesh to last longer and to reinforce weak spots on the perimeter using the staple gun
Outdoor cat enclosure double rollers

Double Rollers for Extra Security

The basic idea is that the drainpipes rest on steel rods so that if the cats try to jump up, they’ll spin. I wish I’d recorded Lyla and Boop’s attempts to escape but after those first few occasions, they haven’t even tried again! We haven’t had any problems with other cats either as they seem a bit put off having to jump over the piping.

Wire Mesh Cat Enclosure

Using Mesh on the Weak Spots

We opted to go with double rollers as the twisted strap has more than enough space to hang both. It means the lower one can be pushed closer to the fence so the cats can’t get under the first drainpipe, or over the second drainpipe. This is a trial and error thing and very much depends on how much of a houdini your cat would be!

Catio weak spots

Plants and wire mesh in Corners!

We’ve had to put all of our garden furniture in the middle of the garden as otherwise they could use them as platforms to leap over the fence. And I’ve put a few plants around the corners to lure them away from weak spots! In time I’ll make them some outdoor cat toys but for now, this is where Boop likes to spend his time…

Silly Boop

Where’s Boop?

And because I’m a softy, I bought a little cat maisonette for our Lyla so she can even sit outside in the rain.

Shade for Catio

Cat Maisionette

Let me know what you think and if you have any questions, ask!

Rach x

(The Cat Whiskerer)

Welcome home little rescue kitten!

With kitten food, kitten toys, new litter box, new litter, new bowls, kitten isolation cage, Lyla-scented blankets, carry-cage, adoption fee and video camera waiting at home – me and Mr Whiskers went to meet Carole who we found through Animal Krackers in Sunderland. She helped us pick the perfect little boy kitten to take home.

Indiana Boop – Our new little whitburn whiskerer

Well… strictly speaking – Carole had me wanting to pick two kittens – a brother and a sister. She even put their floofy cheeks together and they tumbled about providing proof of their siblingness to melt my heart a bit. Luckily for us (and Lyla-cat), Mr Whiskers pointed out that we’d come to get one kitten and we hadn’t planned for two. And as I said in my previous blog post – two cats will need more time and attention than one cat – and three cats will need more time and attention than two…

Indy (full name Indiana [Jones] Boop) is currently in his isolation cage and Lyla-cat is strongly disapproving of him from a distance. The idea of her taking to him straight away seems like a distant memory. But we’d expected that. We’d prepared for that. (But we’re still a teeny bit disappointed with that). They should be cuddling like a hallmark card by now, right? Wrong. But we’re taking it slowly and I have high hopes for Lyla-cat becoming a caring foster-mum. Or at least a tolerant big sister.

Rachel

(The Cat Whiskerer)

If you’re in the area and want to rescue a kitten like Indy, please have a look at Animal Kracker’s website – or join the Animal Krackers facebook page – or join Carole’s facebook group 🙂

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!

Should I let my cat go outside?

In the vast internet world there seem to be two groups of cat people; the ‘if you let your cat outside your cat will die’ group and the ‘if you keep your cat indoors then you’re reducing their quality of life and you are bad’ group. It translates as a fight between ‘curiosity killed the cat’ and ‘satisfaction brought it back’. But what about us humpty dumptys? I’ve been sitting on this wall for some time now, but as spring and sunshine have arrived it’s time to do some proper thinking.

Lyla-cat thinks she’s brave enough to go outside of course. Here she is pretending to be a bear;

Rawwwwrghhh… (big bear growl)

So. Here are a list of reasons why you should not let your cat go outside;

  • The big scary one – accidents caused by cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, mobility scooters, segways… (lots of things that move and are heavy and can cause squishing)
  • Injuries from fighting with other animals which can lead to…
  • …risks of disease (including Feline Leukemia, Feline AIDs, rabies, toxoplasmosis)
  • Animal cruelty. Every day there seems to be something new and horrible out there; the postman-cat killer, cat shot by yobs and the 2010 famous ‘cat in wheelie-bin‘ incident.
  • Parasites – icky things like fleas and worms and other insects
  • Skin cancer – especially if they have white or light-coloured fur on their little faces and lie on their back with their legs in the air to sunbathe
  • Catnapping – to be kept as pets elsewhere or the more sinister version…
  • …cats being stolen as ‘live bait’ in order to train fighting dogs. I began all this a bit tongue in cheek until the power of google and the good old Daily Mail introduced me to ‘cat coursing
  • Cats that are stolen, killed and eaten (not sure how culturally relevant this one is for England but worth adding for fearmongering purposes anyway)
  • Puddles of antifreeze/de-icer – apparently cats like this stuff (though I’m certainly not putting it to the test), but even if a cat just steps in the stuff then licks their paw – it can potentially cause fatal kidney failure
  • Suffocation by cat collars on fences / trees / outside-collar-attracting-structures
  • Exposure to weather – sun, wind, rain causing heatstroke/ hypothermia

I’m sure there are more but I’m already thoroughly depressed and the thing is, our Lyla-cat was quite happy in her old garden. It was small and sheltered and she could just about squeeze under the gate to go and waddle about in the cul-de-sac if she wanted to – but most of the time she didn’t. She could climb up the fence and sit on the shed or extension roof if it was sunny – but she’d then have problems climbing back down again (cue angry NOW face). There were a few scary nights waiting up until 2am for her to sheepishly return and worries about the neighbours’ massive moody cat – but in the two years we’ve had her nothing terrible happened.

Then we moved at the start of winter and she’s been a happy indoor cat for the past five (admittedly cold and miserable) months and it’s time to figure out what to do! Some sites recommend doing a risk assessment of your new area (e.g. main roads, neighbours, nearby bully cats, cat-flap facilities, nature of cat, groups of evil people etc. etc.) but I’m still sat here twiddling my thumbs. The truth is, I do think it is in a cat’s nature to go outside, be independent and explore their own territory. However, I also know that Lyla-cat isn’t street-savvy, she’s not agile enough to evade evil (people / animals / wizards). I dearly wish she was a rough and ready Thomas O’Malley alley cat able to take care of herself – but she’s not. It would also break my heart if she disappeared one day and didn’t come home.

For the past week we’ve been taking her outside daily on her cat harness and lead – which luckily for us she enjoys having on. Walking a cat, is not the same as walking a dog – but she does look cute.

Walkies for Lyla-cat!

However, she now incessantly miaows at the back door and is slowly driving me insane. There’s only one thing for it. I’m going to have to build a catio; an outside cat run for a safe way to let your indoor cats get a bit of sunshine. Now then; where’s the blog for building the world’s greatest (and cheapest) outdoor cat enclosure? Oh google I love you. To be continued…

Rachel (The Cat Whiskerer)

See littlebigcat for a very pro-indoor-cat website with some very pro-outdoor-cat commenting!