It's a beautiful day, and you're relaxing on your patio, but one thing's missing: your BFF (Best Feline Friend, that is!). Learning how to build a catio (cat + patio) for your indoor pet can give her a taste of being outside in a safe, controlled environment. A DIY catio allows you to customize the outdoor enclosure to fit your kitty's specific needs.
Why a Catio?
Many cats love the great outdoors, but allowing your cat to roam freely outside isn't without potential hazards. The many benefits to keeping your cat indoors as explained by Pet Health Network include a longer life span, a reduction in viral infection (including feline leukemia) and less of a chance of injury due to vehicles, poisons and other animals.
In addition to keeping your furry friend out of harm's way, an outdoor cat enclosure protects wildlife like rabbits and songbirds from your cat, who views these creatures as prey. Outdoor enclosures are an excellent alternative for providing enrichment and stimulation for an indoor cat, and that's where catios come in.
What to Look For in a Catio
When looking to either purchase or build a catio (sometimes referred to as a cattery), you'll need to choose wisely in order to keep your kitty safe. Clairmont Animal Hospital lists important points to consider when building and using the finished enclosure:
- Safe and sturdy materials
- Securely attached components
- Protection from the elements, such as wind and rain
- Access to a bowl of fresh water
- Space for a small litter box for extended stays
- Amenities, such as some cat toys to bat around
- Always remember to have a collar and ID on your cat in case she does manage to get out, so she can be identified and brought back to you.
If you're going to learn how to build a catio, pay close attention to the screen you purchase. It should be tightly woven so that your cat can't claw or bite her way out of the enclosure, and so that unwanted animals and bugs can't get in. Some people enclose their entire yard with cat-proof netting, notes Best Friends, but you'll need to build a smaller enclosure if you have limited outdoor space.
How to Build a DIY Catio
If you're short on lawn, are lacking in power tools or want a temporary outdoor enclosure, this DIY catio is a great option. The pet-resistant screen attaches with hook and loop fasteners to the underside of a sturdy table, and the bottom of the screen is tucked under the table legs and secured with wooden slats that provide weight and structure to the enclosure while it's sitting on a flat surface. The flap door entryway allows for easy access, no matter your cat's size.
What You'll Need
- A folding banquet or card table
- Pet-resistant, heavy-duty nylon screen
- A hot glue gun and glue sticks
- Self-stick, heavy-duty, hook and loop fastener strip
- Three wooden slats, each as long as the distance between the legs of the table and approximately ¾" x 2" thick.
How to Build It
Attach the hook and loop strips to the bottom edges of the tabletop, then hot glue a strip along one edge of the heavy-duty screen. (Hot glue only is needed on the screen.) The glue is important because the adhesive on the strips isn't strong enough to keep it secured to the screen.
Wrap the screen around the table legs, securing it to the hook and loop strip that is affixed to the table. The spot where the two ends of the screen meet forms the cat flap door — the ideal place for the door is at one end of the table. Place the hook and loop fastener strip on the screen edges where the two ends meet to create the flap door. If the two ends don't meet, stitch or hot glue together two or three more screen pieces to add length.
Once the screen is securely attached to the tabletop, tuck the bottom edges under the table legs, folding the corners so that the screen lays flat. Cut the wooden slats so they fit between the table legs. Next, using hot glue, attach the slats to the screen where the screen meets the ground on all sides except the flap door end.
Your catio is now ready for a cat! She may be hesitant at first, so be patient as she explores her new surroundings. Whether elaborate or simple, a DIY catio is a terrific space where your kitty can join you for picnics on the patio. Happy lounging!
Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in Care.com, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.