SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA — “Catios” are just what you think they be … patios for cats — outdoor enclosures which keep frisky felines safe from cars and other various hazards of the outside world, including coyotes and mountain lions in these parts. They keep native birds, reptiles and rodents safe also.
Patty Walters of Santa Cruz built one attached to her house so that her three cats, Hugh, Mimi and Peaches, can enter it through both her bedroom and bathroom windows. They hang out on wooden decks which overlook her backyard with connecting tunnels covered in wire mesh.
“They race across it and bask in the sun,” Walters said. “I’m a protective parent. I want my cats and the wildlife safe.”
Her backyard catio is just a part of the upcoming Santa Cruz County Catio Tour 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The event is organized by the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter, Native Animal Rescue and also the Santa Cruz Bird Club. Though admission is free, donations are appreciated.
More than 10 local catios of many different styles ans tones will be on exhibit during the self-guided tour. The aim is to show catios as a truly successful way to protect cats from predators and to keep cats from being predators themselves.
“I think a lot of people aren’t aware of the impact their cats might have,” said Jen Walker, the shelter’s programs and development manager. “Cats might bring you a bird or lizard once a week, but those could be just one of many kills and there are many other cats.”
“We want to keep our pets out of the food chain,” Walker said. “To be responsible pet owners, we really need to be mindful.”
She said the shelter has seen and received reports of more cats who are injured and killed by wildlife, (and by people,) in recent years. As the urban lines creeps more into wildlands, people and animals increasingly must share the same spaces.
“I’ve bumped into an opossum on the hot tub and a raccoon on the deck. If I lived a few blocks up, I’d worry about mountain lions,” Walters said. “I wouldn’t want my cats to meet them.”
At 7 p.m. on Thursday, there will be an information session at the Animal Shelter in Live Oak on how people can coexist with wildlife. Rebecca Dmytryk of Wildlife Emergency Services and Tai Moses, a local nature writer and author of “Zooburbia,” are scheduled to speak.
The tour promotes catios as something cat owners can very easily install. Walters built hers with the help of family and friends for $300, and she wants to expand it so that it reaches the ground later this year.
“When I go to someone’s house, I’m looking at all corners and eyeing at all the different ways they could bump out for a cat,” she said.
There are catio kits for simple window boxes, and contractors may create screen patio playgrounds. The tour features both big and small catios.