Even domesticated animals need to get some clean, fresh air, but cat owners find themselves confronting a dilemma: No self-respecting cat will allow you to take it for a walk on a leash, but when allowed to roam free, they’re likely to get in a fight, pick up fleas or ticks, or bring back the lovely gift of a half-dead rodent.
So that’s why “catios” are quickly catching on across the nation. As you might guess from the name, a catio is like a patio for a cat—and often quite a bit more.
“A catio can give [cats] access to all that nature has to offer in your backyard while keeping them protected,” states David Murphy of TheCatCarpenter.com. “Cats stay safely inside but see, smell, and hear everything that’s going on outdoors.”
Seattle offers catio tours to help inspire cat lovers, or perhaps even entrepreneurs looking to grab a piece of this growing market.
“I’ve built over 50 catios in the Austin area over the past several years. This year I’ve seen a noticeable uptick in interest,” Murphy adds. “I’ve been working continuously just trying to keep up with demand.”
Catio design takes off
Catios “don’t need to look like a cage attached to the house,” suggests Cynthia Chomos of CatioSpaces.com, who’s built over 65 catios. She claims business has doubled in the past year. “They can be designed and painted to integrate with the home so that they’re aesthetically pleasing.”
Some are set up like mesh tunnels winding through the backyard, and include climbing structures and toys.
This outdoor amenity isn’t just for cats, either.
“Catios can also benefit their human owners, because they provide a place to enjoy nature,” states Chomos, who built herself a “catnap catio,” where she and her feline friends can bask in the sun together.
How to build your own catio:
If you’re going to take on this project yourself, treat it like any other real estate endeavor. A good location is everything. Where you build your catio should:
1. Be level and stable, whether it’s a window box, on your patio, or a stand-alone structure in your yard.
2. Make sure you have enough sun exposure. Cats love resting and napping in the sunshine!
3. It should be exposed to stimulation. This can be anything from squirrels and songbirds out in your yard to a place where your cats can survey what their human neighbors are up to.
If you have more than a mere window box’s worth of space, consider including these creature comforts:
- A covered litter box
- Cat-friendly plants
- Water fountains
- Shelves or branches for climbing
Are you tempted to try building one yourself? CatioSpaces.com sells blueprints (and Chomos donates a percentage of the proceeds to a different animal charity every quarter), which may be tailored to your needs. Maybe you have space for just a window box; perhaps you want something that blends in with the other areas of your home. Or you can just let your imagine run wild, like this Seattle catio below which is clearly rooting for the home team. Either way, there’s a catio for every singe cat and cat lover out there.