6 tips when planning a catio

Every cat parent will know that cats love exploring the outdoors and live out their hunting instincts. The sad reality these days is that it is too dangerous for our cats to be outside unsupervised. And that is why a catio (cat patio), or cat enclosure, is a great answer to any cat’s fantasies.

When you have a catio, your cats can experience nature, enjoy the fresh air, lie in the sun or climb ‘trees’ as they wish, and you don’t have to worry so much about their safety.

Beneficial for cats

According to Wendy Wilson, behaviourist and senior lecturer at COAPE International, catios are very beneficial for indoor cats and they give cats the opportunity to be outside but still be safe. “Cats spend an average of 15 out of the 24 hours a day asleep, and the majority of this sleeping is done during the day, as they are most active at dusk, through the night and into the dawn. They love to curl up to nap somewhere nice and warm, so a sunny spot in a catio is ideal.”

And that is the main reason why more and more cat owners are building catios. But, before you start planning, take a look at these six tips.

1. Location

Where on the property you build the catio might be more important than you think. Keep in mind that your cat needs both sun and shade in the enclosure. The enclosure also needs fresh air and an area protected from wind. So, build the catio in an area that provides both sun and shade, and protection against the elements. A good idea is a catio attached to the house where there is a window, which will give her easy access to the catio, and you can choose when you want to open or close the window.

2. Safety

The reason why you want a catio is so that your cat can be outside and safe. Therefore, the keyword is safety. Firstly, your cat shouldn’t be able to escape from the enclosure. “Your catio has to be 100% cat-proof, so choose a mesh that your cat can’t squeeze through – you will be surprised how small they can make themselves!” advises Wendy. At the same time, you don’t want other cats or animals entering the catio, especially if they can harm your cat. Also, animals shouldn’t be able to dig a hole underneath the catio to enter or exit either.

Another safety aspect is workmanship. You don’t want any sharp edges from mesh or nails to stick out somewhere and possibly hurt your cat. And of course, the structure needs to be sturdy, as you don’t want it to collapse while your cat is inside.

3. Floor

Although you would maybe like the look of the catio to fit in with the rest of your home’s design, consider what is the best for your cat. “If you can make your cat enclosure using natural ground as a base, all the better, as this will allow your cat to ‘hunt’ any insects in the grass and also eat the grass at times – it acts as a natural aid to digestion,” recommends Wendy.

4. Hiding places

Cats love places where they can hide and curl up and sleep in. Your cat will also need a hiding place in case of rain. But please, don’t leave your cat unattended for extended periods in the catio – anything can happen while she is out there.

5. Activities

While you’re at it, you might as well include activities in the catio that will stimulate her physically and mentally. Build interesting staircases, puzzles and resting areas in the catio. “Resting areas in higher places will allow your cat to survey all that is going on,” suggests Wendy. “Ideally, a tree or piece of tree in the catio will encourage her to climb and scratch and will provide lots of high areas where she can sit and be able to see everything happening.”

If you have a senior cat, build a ramp for her to reach the higher places, instead of a staircase. A ramp is a good idea, as you might not think about it now, but your cat will age and then a ramp will be a better option for her.

6. Water and litterboxes

Even if the catio is built on natural ground, you will have to include one litterbox for each cat. “Just because your cat is now ‘outside’, if she normally toilets in a litterbox, she needs one there too,” advises Wendy. Fresh water must always be available, and the water and litterbox shouldn’t be close to each other. Keep this in mind when you plan the catio.

DIY or contractors

Once you know what you want the catio to look like, your next question will be whether you want to do it yourself, or get contractors to do it. This will most probably depend on your level of skill and your budget. Whatever you choose – happy planning!

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