Open the Outdoors to Your Cat with Catio Spaces


Cats live longer and healthier when kept indoors, and so do their nemesis birds and small animals. But being outside provides stimulation and intrigue for your cats. A catio – or cat-patio – creates an outdoor space for kitty to enjoy that keeps them safe from cars, predators and other hazards.

1.Types of Catios: Windows, Walkways, Balconies & Houses

Cat laying in diy catio for cats.

So what is a catio anyway? Simply put, a catio is an enclosed structure that provides a safe confined space for your cat to be outdoors without escaping. They may be built of wood and wire more like a porch or a chicken coop, or of metal panels more like an outdoor cat cage. Catios that attach to your home have a base, three sides and a roof, while freestanding ones have all four sides and are covered. Many catios can be removed and stored during cold winter months and set back up when the weather warms.


Catios are flexible spaces, so no matter whether you’re in an upper floor apartment, a rural home, an attached home or townhouse, condo, or even an RV, there are many types of cat enclosures you can DIY or have built. There are even catio kits of common designs you can use to make building easier.


A catio might be as small as an exterior window box just large enough for a single cat to nap in, or it might be as large as a human-sized screened porch with room for you and your cats to relax outdoors. The size of your catio depends on your available space, configuration, and budget.


What all catio types have in common is a cat door from the interior of your home to the enclosed outdoor space. The cat door can be installed in a window, door or wall to allow kitty to go between the indoors and the catio at will, or allow you to close off the exit when you want to keep your cat indoors.


Convert a Patio into a Catio

The origin of the word catio – creating a patio for your cat – can be seen in this first type of catio, made by enclosing a portion of an existing patio or outdoor space against your home to create a playground and nap spot that’s the cat’s meow. Sometimes resembling a chicken coop, this kind of catio is installed on the ground either attached to your home’s exterior wall or out in the yard connected via an enclosed walkway.


Cat patios are typically made of wood and wire with a roof to protect from sun and moisture, but some higher end ones may also use metal, shingles, siding and other materials to match the look of your home or create a more permanent structure. Catios can be installed over grass (just remember you’ll still have to trim it), an existing concrete or stone patio, or on a deck, or you can build a floor that kitty prefers, such as artificial grass or outdoor carpet.


Turn a Window into an Outdoor Cat Condo or Catio Entrance


If you live in a condo or apartment that doesn’t open to the ground floor, this style of catio is a great option. A window box catio is essentially an outdoor perch mounted on the exterior of a window, giving kitty some fresh air and sunshine as well as a high perch to survey their domain. Your cat jumps up to the window on the inside of your place, then exits through a cat door in the window out to the catio. You can use plexiglass for the roof and base if you want kitty to be able to look up and down, or add a soft cat bed to make a cozy spot.


It’s also possible to install two or more window box catios from different windows on your home and connect them, or to connect a window box catio to a larger outdoor catio structure with a walkway.


Cat Walkways Along Your House or RV for Kitty to Roam


You’ve heard of catwalks in theatre above the stage: narrow walkways for tech crew to install, adjust, and operate lights, speakers, curtains and sets. The same concept applies here with a catio walkway, except it is enclosed on all four sides so kitty can walk along it but not jump out of it. Walkways can go around your home from one window to another, change elevation, or be a closed circuit that returns to a single entrance/exit.


This style of catio is also sometimes called a cat run because the longer length and changes in elevation provide a form of exercise for kitty to explore, jump, walk and run. Some cats even play hide-and-go-seek along a cat walkway, providing mental as well as physical stimulation.


Cat parents who travel with their feline furbaby have installed catio walkways onto their RVs or campers to use when the mobile home is stationary. As you set up your awning and hook up your water and electric, attach the catio or open the interior door to a permanently affixed one. Now when you’re enjoying the stars and fresh air, kitty can, too, without getting lost or being vulnerable to wild animals.


2.Enclose a Balcony to Create an Outdoor Catio Space

Cat laying on catio balcony enclosure

Another easy way to add a catio in the city or an apartment is by closing an existing balcony to make it safe for kitties to enjoy. The existing floor and sides of the balcony are already useful as an enclosure; you just have to make it cat-friendly.


To convert a balcony to a catio, you just need to enclose the front between the balusters and above the railing and add a roof if your balcony doesn’t already have one. You and your cat can enter the catio through your balcony door, or you can opt to add a cat door to allow kitty to go in and out without begging you to open the main door.


Maintaining and Using Your Catio

As with any toy or item you’d use with your pet, their safety comes first. Here are some tips for building and maintaining a safe and fun catio for your kitty:


  • Be sure to use pet-friendly paints, stains and building materials.
  • Counter-sink any nails or screws and cover the edges of wire so there aren’t any sharp points or edges.
  • Make sure there is access to shade.
  • Use a pet-friendly screen or wire that can’t be torn or pushed through.
  • Frequently check the structure for holes or evidence of wear and make repairs as needed.
  • Always supervise your kitty when using their catio.
  • Make sure the perches and climbing spaces are appropriately sized for kitty.
  • Wipe down surfaces to keep them clean.
  • Use flea and tick prevention products on your cats. Even though the catio keeps your cat inside, it doesn’t keep the bugs out.


Catios are great for your cat in many ways. Inactive cats can gain weight that leads to health problems and bored kitties can develop behavioral issues. A catio helps your cat exercise and have a stimulating, changing environment to occupy their curious minds. They’ll be fascinated by bugs, birds and passers-by and enjoy the variety of smells and weather changes that the outdoors brings.


How Much Will it Cost to Build a DIY Catio

Depending on the size of catio you’re planning and whether you’re building it yourself as a DIY project, purchasing a pre-designed kit, or hiring a professional, catios can range from between a few hundred to several thousand dollars for large custom spaces.


If you’re planning to build your own catio enclosure, budget $200-$600 in materials, depending on size, plus the time to build it. There are some free catio building plans available, or you can purchase step-by-step catio plans from around $40-70.


The construction skills needed to build a catio are mostly entry level: cutting wood and wire and attaching them together. You’ll need access to a saw, hammer, drill, and a level or t-square. Installing a cat door into a window, door, or wall to allow access to the catio is a bit harder, but still within reach of most people who are handy with tools, especially if you purchase one and follow the directions on the product.


If you have a larger budget, consider a pre-designed catio enclosure kit that comes with everything you need already cut to size and ready to assemble.


You can also hire a professional to build a custom catio for your feline family. Depending on your budget, you can get quite fancy with built in perches, climbing runs, trees, water features, and special napping hammocks or beds. Larger catios can have human furniture as well, to spend time with your cat in the fresh air and sunshine. These can be built as more permanent fixtures for your home and yard.


Don’t Forget Cats Need Access to a Litter Box from a Catio

With smaller catios such as window boxes, walkways, and cat-sized enclosures, there’s no need to add a litter box as long as kitty can freely exit and access their indoor toilet whenever they need it. With larger catios that include food, water, and other features, you may consider adding a litter box to the design so that kitty doesn’t have to travel far to toilet and to allow your cat to stay in their outdoor enclosure for longer time periods without coming insdie.


Try one of these ARM & HAMMER™ cat litters for excellent odor-control, easy clean-up, and cat-friendly formulas.



For additional tips and tricks to create a fun environment for you and your kitties, check out these articles:

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