Catio Craze: Outdoor Enclosures for Cool Cats

| Christy Caplan CVT

Catios are a great way to provide your cat with outdoor activity without the risks. Here are reasons your cat needs one and how to get started on making your own.


Your cat’s natural instinct is to spend time outside. Since most pet cats are kept indoors, some pet owners buy harnesses for their cats to take them on daily walks. Others have catios.

What Is a Catio?

A catio is a ‘cat patio’ that allows your felines to safely spend time outdoors. This cat enclosure is for a window, deck, patio, or yard and can be designed in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Thanks to the catio, your cat can be outside – unsupervised and safe – while you’re doing yard work or inside cleaning the house. The catio gives your cat the outdoor experience without the health risks or hassle. It also allows your cat to enjoy nature (birds, squirrels, and neighboring cats) in an escape-proof outdoor enclosure.

Many cat owners build a catio themselves, but hiring a contractor is fine as well – it all depends on your budget. They can be as simplex or complex as you’d like, but make sure they’re locked up at night to avoid unwelcome guests.

They can also be an extension of a porch, window, or garden. Many pet owners even install a doggy door, so their cat has access to the catio whenever it’s open. Outdoor cat swings can also be added if space allows, and most have a cat tree or a hammock. 

How to Prep for a Catio

There are many different types, ranging from small window catios to enclosed balconies. However, safety is more important than size.

Before You Begin

Do you want your catio to be shabby or chic? What’s your budget? The most important step is checking local building codes and talking with your HOA or property manager before you start to avoid breaking any rules and putting an end to your cat’s catio dreams.

Why Your Cat Needs a Catio

Catios protect cats from outdoor dangers (like other cats), and the streets aren’t safe for roaming felines! Cats also prey on wildlife and between 1.3 and 4 million birds are killed every year by free-roaming cats. So, a catio isn’t just protection for your favorite furball; it’s a consideration for the local wildlife community!

Location Matters

Ideally, the best location for a catio is a spot where your cat can enjoy the outdoors without losing sight of you. The location should also offer areas of sunlight and shade, so your cat can sunbathe or cool, based on their preference.

Catio Catification

Is your cat a tree dweller or more of a bush dweller? Are they a senior or a younger kitty that loves jumping up on the countertops? Use your cat’s personality to dictate what customizations are added to their cat.

If your cat enjoys jumping, you can customize their catio with lounging shelves, ramps, climbing poles, hammocks, and other feline enrichment tools. Add a bird feeder for ‘bird tv’ and your cats will be distracted for hours.

The Pet Door

An integral part of the catio is the pet door. If you plan to use a window as an access point, replace the bug screen with a piece of clear plexiglass. Pet owners can cut an opening directly into the plexiglass to install the pet door. The plexiglass should be about 1/4 inch thick. The large cat door from PetSafe can be used in this scenario.

Another option is the wall pet door, but this involves cutting a hole through your exterior door. This is best left to a handyman or professional and not ideal for someone that rents their home.

Outside Litter Box Ideas

Having a litter box is a good idea for the catio. If you decide not to, your feline friend may use the floor of their catio instead. A covered litter box is the best option to keep the elements out and give your pet some privacy.

Catio Design Examples

Some catio plans are listed in Etsy shops and others can be purchased and built from scratch. You can also just use your imagination and put up a hammock on the porch and enclose the space.

The following examples demonstrate the types of plans available:    

Catios Solve Indoor Multi-Cat Problems

Cats are territorial and your cats may be struggling to live peacefully in the same house. Most felines want alone time, and a catio offers more territory and reduces conflicts and behavioral problems with other cats and dogs.

Cats Need Pet Insurance Too

Pet care costs are on the rise and curious cats need protection.

AKC Pet Insurance offers Accident and Illness coverage (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company) that allows you to focus more on the health of your pet and less on costly veterinary bills. Policies also include the industry’s best pre-existing condition coverage after 365 days of continuous coverage*. Click here for a quote and protect your pet and budget today.

*Not available in all states.

Christy Caplan CVT

Christy is a writer, editor, blogger, chicken keeper, and storyteller. She uses her knowledge as a certified veterinary technician to inform animal lovers on health and wellness topics. Christy's Standard Dachshund and Beagle mix are the inspiration behind her writing portfolio and essays.


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