My Indoor Cat

DIY Catio Plans to Build a Cheap Cat Patio

DIY catio

As cat enthusiasts, we know how important it is for our furry friends to satisfy their urge to explore and experience the outdoors. While some cats can safely roam free, others need to be kept indoors for their safety. This is where catios come into play, providing a safe and stimulating outdoor
environment for your cat to enjoy.

The cost of purchasing a premade catio however, can be prohibitive for many cat owners. Fortunately, plenty of DIY catio plans can be built for a fraction of the cost. In this article, we’ll share our top picks for DIY catios that are affordable and easy to build, so you can create a safe and comfortable outdoor space for your feline companion without breaking the bank.

What is a Catio?

A catio is a cat patio or outdoor cat enclosure attached to your home. It is usually found near a door opening or window that gives your cat easy access to its space. The beauty of a catio is that it can be filled with toys, scratching posts, and perches that will keep cats happy for hours. In addition, they can get some fresh air and enjoy the local wildlife, all in the safety of an outdoor enclosure.

Cats love outdoor enrichment and if you are handy with tools, building a DIY catio is an affordable option for an outdoor cat enclosure. You can experiment with a DIY catio according to the number of cats you have, the space available in your backyard, and your budget.

Things To Consider Before Building a DIY Catio

diy catio ideas

First and foremost, when you decide to build a catio, you need to consider the characteristics of your cat. All cats have unique personalities and preferences. The catio will be their space, and as much as you want it to look good, it should also be a space they’d enjoy.

So whether you have a feisty feline who loves to climb and perch up high, or a lounging sunbather who would love nothing more than a hammock, will significantly influence the size, design, and features of your outdoor cat enclosure. Once you have these basics in mind, you then have to consider the factors that will determine if your DIY catio ideas can be carried out.

Placement of Your DIY Catio

The placement of your catio is integral to the DIY project. Not only do you have to consider the access points, but you also have to keep in mind the sunlight, surroundings, and foundation. Cats love the sun but also require adequate shade to prevent heat exhaustion. You need to find a spot that can provide both or ensure that you include shade cloth in your design to provide a shaded area.

The whole point of outdoor cat enclosures is that you want your cat to enjoy the outdoors while still being safe. This is why catio spaces should have a great view of the outdoors, not just indoor play areas. Cats must be able to see what’s happening around them, get fresh air, and see other animals outside.

Lastly, you want to ensure that the catio fits into the aesthetic of your home and is in an area where it feels like an extension of your home and not an afterthought. Alternatively, you can create a separate backyard catio within an outdoor garden area that doesn’t connect to the main home. The downside with this is you need to place your cat in the catio at your convenience, rather than the cat choosing to use the catio themselves.

There are pros and cons to both, so consider which would work best for your circumstances.

What to Build Your Catio With

Once you know where to place your cat enclosure, it’s time to determine the materials you need to build a catio. There are several options available that can suit anyone’s budget. Before you aim for the cheapest options, you must carefully consider your environment and cat. Buying less durable material may mean you have to replace it more often, particularly if your catio is out in the weather, or your cat is an active climber.

You need to strike a balance between affordability and durability. Common materials used in DIY catios include wire mesh, PVC pipes, hardware cloth, garden fencing, metal fencing, and roof rafters. You will also need to consider the tools and accessories you require, like measuring tape, wire cutters, zip ties, a staple gun, gloves, gate hardware etc.

Consider what you’ve got around the house to begin with, or what you could collect from second hand stores and recycle centers. If you live near a park or forest, a large fallen branch can be positioned as a way to climb within the catio. If you are on a budget, get your creative thinking cap on, with your cat in mind!

DIY catio cheap

Access for Cats

If you are attaching the catio to your home, choose how and where your cats will access their space. Most people have catios built outside a door or window that they can easily open for their cats.

It is also essential to have a way for your cat to access the area even if you are not around. Consider a pet door that leads from your home directly
into the catio. A cat tunnel is also a great idea for your cat to escape to their sanctuary! This way, your cat has easy access to the catio whenever it wants and won’t pester you to let it out.

Access for Humans

Whether you have a large cat enclosure, a small catio, or a window box catio, you also need to be able to access the area easily. A DIY catio is handy here because you can add it to your design. A catio door that humans can easily access will allow you to clean out the litter box and keep the catio tidy.

It will also allow easy maintenance, so you can move things around and add new accessories over time to keep it interesting for your pet.

Shade and Roofing

Shade and roofing are necessary for a DIY cat enclosure. You want to ensure your cat or cats are safe from predators and harsh weather conditions.
This is particularly important if you live in warmer climates and experience higher temperatures. You don’t want your cats to climb out of the enclosure, either.

Cats are incredible escape artists, so you must secure the catio roof. A waterproof roof is also a good idea if your catio is not in a sheltered area.

Flooring vs Open Ground

Building your own catio allows you to choose between natural, open ground, and actual flooring choices like grass, gravel, or paving stones. The choice ultimately depends on the placement of your catio and the environmental conditions.

Grass won’t do well in shady spots but will thrive in sunny areas and require little maintenance. The bare, open ground can be an interesting texture for cats, but you might have to deal with dirty paws in the house when they eventually come in. Cats can also dig, and inturn, dig out of the catio.

In addition, you’ll most likely have to deal with muddy patches when it rains. Fortunately, a DIY catio means you can provide your feline friend with multiple flooring options. This will keep things interesting and allow them to experience a bit of everything.

However, if you are constructing the catio on an existing foundation like a deck, there might not be an immediate need for flooring. The good news is that you can see if your cat minds the existing flooring or if you have to introduce another option. Things like astroturf, carpets, and gravel can be easily incorporated.

Repurposing Materials

A great way to save money when building your catio is to use materials you already have lying around the house. You might not think you have anything useful, but you will be surprised at how many materials can be repurposed.

For example, PVC pipes can make a pretty effective catio frame, and they are pretty durable in outdoor conditions, lasting longer than a wooden frame.

Old shelves at home can also be repurposed and used as perches for your cats, and you can make a DIY scratching post with old pieces of rope and a pipe or branch. All in all, repurposing materials is a great way to save money and get creative!

Cat Friendly Plants

Cats, for the most part, love plants, and having plants in your catio will keep them out of your neighbor’s garden! It’s important to note that some plants are toxic to cats, so make sure you source cat friendly plants for the catio.

Some of the plants to avoid are daffodils, lilies, tulips, hyacinths, and irises. Your cats will enjoy having marigolds, wheat grass, and colorful flowers like Gerbera daisies and Impatiens. You can also sneak in some herbs like rosemary and thyme that cats love and use them in the kitchen!

Extra Enrichment Items

Enrichment items for your cat are a vital part of a cat enclosure. To keep them busy, it’s important to have things like cat trees, scratching posts, and cat perches. Tree branches also make excellent perches or provide something for them to climb. Introducing exciting ways for them to feed, like food balls and puzzle feeders, is also a great option instead of using regular food bowls.

Cat enrichment items are lovely additions to your catio, but what you add will depend on how much space you have to play around with. After all, you don’t want to overcrowd the catio and restrict the cat’s movement. Once you have considered all these factors, you should have a better understanding
of the structure you want to build and the materials to use.

In the next section, we’ll talk about some of the most popular do-it-yourself cat enclosures made from different materials. This should help you choose the best option for your budget and cat. It also helps to draw inspiration from others, there might be something you’ve not yet thought of that your cat would love!

Types of DIY Catios You Can Build

DIY catio for apartment balcony

With a DIY catio, you can build a cat enclosure regardless of the various limiting factors, such as available space, the cat’s preferences, safety requirements, etc. It gives your cat everything it needs and keeps cats safe from the dangers of cars, predators, and other cats. Here are some of the best DIY catio plans that suit different homes and cats.

Catios for Apartments and Balconies

Living in an apartment can often mean having limited space for building a catio, particularly if you have a small floor plan and lack a balcony. However, the availability of space does not limit your options for designing a catio that meets your cat’s needs. With some creativity, you can construct an incredible catio on your balcony, ensuring it is easily accessible from your balcony door or window.

To ensure your cat’s safety, use sturdy framing and adequate catio fencing to prevent them from escaping. Although vertical space may be restricted, this does not mean you cannot create a fantastic catio for your feline friend to enjoy the outdoors and breathe fresh air without causing any issues with your neighbors.

Easy DIY Catio Attached to House

If you own your home, your imagination in the limit when it comes to building a catio attached to the exterior of your home. From a simple outdoor cat enclosure, to exterior wall tunnels leading back to a cat window box at another place on your home, the possibilities are endless! To keep it simple though, there are some places you can find easy DIY catio ideas:

DIY Window Catio

A window box catio is also a great way to build a small catio. These catios can be built outside your cat’s favorite window, which they can access via a cat door or the open window. Window-box catios are a great option if you don’t want your catio to interfere with your main entrances. There are also great designs that include building a cat tunnel for your cat to explore safely when outside.

  • Catio Spaces has a range of DIY Catio Plans, with prices starting at $24.99 per plan
  • Check out Our Tiny Homestead who build a cat tunnel from a window to a large exterior catio

Porch Catios

Cat enclosures on porches are probably the most common type of cat enclosure. They are easy to build, and you can save money by using the structure of your porch. You can use the house wall as the back wall of the catio and fence or screen the other three sides to keep your cats inside.

The roof is already accounted for as well. Some people use part of their porch as a catio, while others use the whole thing.

  • Fundamentally Feline built a catio off their porch which includes tree branches and cat friendly plants

Freestanding Catio

A freestanding catio is entirely separate from the main house. It is not attached to any door or window frame and stands by itself in the great outdoors that is your yard. This is a larger catio project, but it is ideal if you have multiple cats or one that loves roaming around. You will have to create a cat tunnel that runs from your home to the outdoor cat enclosure to ensure your cat is safe as it walks to and from its outdoor sanctuary.

You can find free catio plans and videos online that will show you exactly how to build these catios. Building your own catio doesn’t take much; you just need a solid plan and some DIY know-how.

  • Find 100% free DIY Catio Plans online at My Outdoor Plans
  • Chirpy Cats has built onto their catio over time and now has a huge play system for her cats

Frequently Asked Questions About DIY Catio Building

catio ideas diy

How much does it cost to build a catio?

The cost of your catio will depend on various factors, including what materials you can repurpose and what you need to purchase. On average, you can expect to spend at least $300 on your DIY catio project. Still, this is much cheaper than hiring a contractor or buying a premade catio structure, which could cost more money.

Are cats happy in catios?

Yes, most cats thoroughly enjoy having a designated space to explore and indulge their curiosity. Not only does it allow them to bask in the sunlight, but it also lets them burn off excess energy before heading back indoors.

Will cats dig out of a catio?

Indeed, cats are naturally curious and may be inclined to dig their way out of a catio. To ensure this doesn’t happen, it’s important to build a strong frame for the enclosure. This will keep your cat safely contained within the catio and prevent other animals from gaining access.

What is the best floor for a catio?

Choosing the ideal flooring for your catio will largely depend on its location and the type of flooring already in place. If you opt for wood flooring, it’s important to ensure that it can withstand outdoor conditions and is resistant to insects.

Do catios need roofs?

Absolutely. Catios require roofs to provide protection from the elements. This ensures your cat has adequate shelter and shade from rain, snow, and other weather conditions.

Can I put a litter box in a catio?

Definitely! Placing a litter box in your catio is a great idea, as it will provide your cat with a convenient and accessible spot to take care of its business.

Is chicken wire strong enough for a catio?

Chicken wire is not recommended for constructing a cat enclosure, as it is not strong enough and tends to rust over time. Moreover, the jagged edges left after cutting the wire pose a risk of injury to humans and cats.

How do you predator-proof a catio?

It is crucial to predator-proof your catio if you live in an area prone to predators such as coyotes or bears. This means ensuring your catio’s frame is strong enough to keep predators from breaking in. One effective method is to combine a solid frame with wire mesh fencing to create a safe and secure outdoor cat shelter that is impervious to predators.

Enjoy Crafting Your DIY Catio

Building a DIY catio is a great way to save money and give your cat a safe, exciting place to be outside. With a bit of creativity and some basic tools, you can construct a catio that is tailored to your cat’s needs and your budget. Don’t forget to give your cat plenty of vertical space for climbing and perching. This is important for your cat’s enjoyment.

Whether you choose a simple or complex design, your cat deserves a place to explore the great outdoors safely. So why not start planning your DIY catio project today? With so many plans available, you’re sure to find one that perfectly suits your home, your cat, and your budget!

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