A Catio provides a safe environment for your cat to enjoy fresh air without
exposure to disease, poisoning by lawn fertilizers or anti freeze (a common cause of death for outdoor cats), cars, cruel children and adults, and predators.
Catios provide sunshine and fresh air, not just a view. You can even have a pet door from the house into the Catio; or you can install a pet door flap on a screen door like we show below. If you have multiple cats, make sure its big enough or has ledges inside it so they all have room to bird watch without territory fighting!
I did try using a rolling kennel like the one shown below, but my cats did not do well in it due to cage rage. This phenomenon did not happen with the Catio, because they decided when they went in and out of the Catio. The rolling kennel required them to be placed in it, and the door shut; they had no ability to go in and out at will. As a result, they felt trapped and began to fight. In Fiona's case, she started to slam herself into the sides of the kennel.
I have built 3 different catios and I have provided the finished pictures and the DIY instructions below.
Building a Catio out of wood and wire:
1. Determine a window or sliding screen door - or pet door embedded in an exterior wall - that the Catio will sit up against.
2. Pre-drill holes in the boards and posts to ensure the screws do not split the wood. I prefer wood boring screws to nails, because they hold the wood tighter together for many years; nails rust and wiggle loose over time.
3. Determine the height of the catio, and cut the 4 corner posts to the desired height and set the posts at the desired distance apart.
4. Using the drill and wood boring screws, connect the 2x4s to the posts in a square or rectangular shape, depending on what is desired in terms of length and depth.
5. Cut and attach the metal mesh or wire (I used chicken wire) with a heavy duty staple gun using staples at least 1/2". I stapled all along the length of the 2x4s, not just at the ends to ensure it held well. Don't forgot you need it over the top too!
6. Fill with soft blankes, towels or beds; pet stairs, toys, catnip plants. Don't forget to put out a bowl of water. In hot weather, if there is not a roof above it to create shade, you can drape a towel over the top (I found that worked better than a blanket, which tended to also drape down sides and block air flow).
7. Install screen door flap in screen door or window screen to allow cats easy access to and from the catio (unless you already have a pet door installed in the exterior wall the catio is up against)
8. Remember to check the wire or mesh on a regular basis to ensure areas have not come loose.
9. Anchor the catio to the exterior wall of the house with more wood boring screws; caulk around the holes. If this is not possible, use heavy bricks or stones all along the exterior of the Catio, to keep it braced tightly against the house and avoid cats getting out.
10. You may have to at first encourage your cats to go through the flap with treats or catnip; one of you outside sitting next to the catio, and one of you insides helping them into it works well.
Building a run using dog kennel parts
In this area, we wanted to make use of the previous owner's dog door which was only for a tiny dog (and so our dogs could not fit through). The dog door led to a raised deck and small dirt area that had a view of the pond and bird feeders, and also was underneath the Dogio roof cover we'd built (see our bonus DIY in this article below).
1. Assemble dog kennel, but don't use the bottom; simply attach the sides and top and 1 of the doors (the other door will remain off because that open space will be put up against the pet door/screen flap. Note: if stairs are required you will need to set those in place first as they likely won't fit through the kennel door (see Step 3 details).
2. Place the kennel up against the window or pet door; if there is a gap you will need to ensure the gap is filled with something the cats cannot chew, move or push to escape. Mine was able to fit with only a 1" gap, which was only enough for a toe to poke through! Frankly had it been more, since it was up against brick, I would have put the catio in another spot where a gap was not an issue to avoid cats getting out.
3. Install the pet door/pet flap. If you are installing it at a window that is high above the ground, you will need pet stairs inside the kennel leading from the flap to the ground, or they will not be able to jump back up and forwards at the same time to enter through the flap unless there is a very wide exterior window ledge; even then an older cat will likely fall and get hurt. I used stairs for both of these reasons.
4. Place heavy bricks or stones along the bottom edges all along the kennel to ensure it does not slide away from the window; alternatively, you can hammer the kennel sides lightly down into the space between the deck boards to hold it in place. If you don't have anything like this you can get "U" shaped stakes to hammer into the ground; the stake goes around the bottom "rung" of the kennel.
Building an enclosed patio for cats and/or for dogs to avoid skunks at night or a play/potty area if you do not have a fully fenced yard.
Note that in order for this to be safe for cats, you would have to add wire all the way up and attach it to the roof structure. If there is an escape hole they WILL find it.
Note: you will need to attach the to the house or it will not be stable. As you can see I attached it to the eaves.