A Catio also known as a “cat patio,” or “cat porch” is a type of enclosure or patio specifically designed for cats. It is typically a screened-in area that allows cats to enjoy the outdoors while remaining safe and protected from predators and other hazards.
Catios can be attached to a house or apartment, or be freestanding structures. They can be simple or as elaborate as your budget allows, and can include features such as climbing structures, scratching posts, and even plants.
One of my biggest concerns about keeping cats indoors was that my cats would miss out on the stimulation, exercise, and enjoyment of cats allowed to roam freely outdoors. I then came across cat patios or catios, and this changed everything. I think they are the perfect solution for letting my cats get some fresh air safely and enjoyably whilst keeping the local wildlife safe too.
My cats love their catio. So, let’s delve into the amazing world of cat patios, starting with what is a catio, who can have a catio and the benefits of catios for indoor cats.
What is a Catio?
A catio is an outdoor cat enclosure that lets your cat explore its surroundings whilst staying safe. They come in all shapes and sizes and range from a little box on your windowsill to a full-blown (mini) replica of the Taj Mahal. Really.
Whatever design you choose, the idea is the same. Catios work like a cat pen, allowing your cat to be outdoors without worrying about predators, traffic, or getting lost. The larger ones normally include things to climb up on, plants to hide under, toys, and even a seat if you’d like! There’s normally a bit of shelter for them to cool off or stay dry in, a water supply (for all that running and playing they’ll be doing), and possibly a litter tray.
Why Should I Get a Catio for my Indoor Cat?
You only have to watch an episode of David Attenborough with wild cats to know that felines need space to roam and hunt. Whilst most of our moggies don’t need the Serengeti, cats will benefit from a little time outdoors if you are able to create it for them.
There are many reasons why you may want to consider getting a catio for your indoor cat.
Health and Wellness
I firmly believe it is up to us, as their owners, to provide our indoor cats with the stimulation they lose by not being able to go outdoors. Otherwise, we risk our indoor cats becoming bored or stressed. A catio can provide stimulation in a controlled environment, which can promote better physical and mental health for your cat.
Unfortunately, indoor cats can be more at risk of obesity and diabetes, due to lack of exercise. A catio can provide a space for indoor cats to climb, run around and play (probably with a scrap of wrapping paper if your cat is anything like mine). This incidental exercise can help to prevent these health issues.
Catios can provide a way for indoor cats to safely interact with nature, such as watching birds and insects, which can be very enriching for them. Furthermore, cat patios can also give indoor cats an opportunity to experience sunshine, fresh air, and exposure to natural daylight, which can be beneficial for their physical and mental well-being.
Cats that roam freely outdoors are at risk of being harmed by predators, being run over, or getting in a fight with your neighbor’s cat. A catio provides a safe and protected environment for your cat to enjoy the outdoors without these risks. Catios also provide safety for your local wildlife and stops them bringing home any unwanted “presents” in the morning.
Increased Quality of Life
By providing your cat with a catio, you are increasing the quality of life for your cat, by giving them access to the outdoors and providing them with a more stimulating environment.
By providing your cat with a catio, and therefore enriching their life, you may see a decrease in problem behaviors such as scratching, spraying and excessive vocalization.
What Are The Different Types of Catios?
Catios come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, each with their own unique features and benefits.
Each of these types of catio has its own advantages and the right choice will depend upon your individual circumstances, your budget and the needs of your cat and your cat.
In addition to these types of catios below, there is also the option of having cat tunnels, cat runs and cat fencing. I’ve written more about the different types of catios here and in other pages on my website.
Some of the most common types include:
Also known as cat window boxes are catios that attach to a window or door and provide a screened-in area that allows your cat to be outside in a small “window box” whilst remaining safe and protected. They are popular in apartments or small homes where there is little to no outdoor space.
If you’ve got a balcony this is a great solution to keeping your cat safe. It is great for cats living in apartments. You can easily make your balcony cat-proof by adding a cat enclosure, or mesh so that there is no risk of your cat jumping or falling off.
A porch catio or patio catio would work well if you’re after a fixed structure attached to your house. They’re spacious, and your cats can often enter it through a cat flap or cat tunnel from your home. They can be built on your patio or deck.
Walk in Catios
These are catios that are large enough for us humans to walk into and enjoy the space with our cats.
These are catios that have multiple levels, providing cats with more space to explore and play.
These catios are built based on the unique needs and preferences of the cat owner and can include features such as plants, furniture and litter trays. Go check our our Custom Catio Builder Directory page.
If you are handy with the tools or know somebody that is, you can build your own catio to suit you and your cat’s needs.
As the name suggests, these are not fixed structures and you are able to take them from one place to another. Outdoor cat playpens are great for people with RVs wishing to travel with their cats or who may have shared outdoor spaces.
How Do I Know What Catio is Best for Me and My Cat?
That depends on your set-up, how many cats you have, and how active they are. A porch catio or a custom catio would work best if you have a large outdoor space and/or multiple cats. If you live in an apartment, a window or balcony catio would do the job.
When choosing a catio, there are several factors to consider to ensure you choose the best option for you and your cat. Ultimately, the best catio for you and your cat is the one that meets your cat’s needs, fits your budget and is easy for you to maintain.
Here are some things to consider when buying or building a catio:
The size of your catio will depend upon the number of cats you have, their sizes and the amount of space you have available for a catio. Make sure you choose a catio that is large enough for your cat to move around in, even if it’s a cat window box.
Think about how you want your cat to access the catio. Some catios have a door that connects to the catio, while others use a ramp, cat tunnel or stairs.
Do you want your cat to be able to come and go as they please or will you control their access? Consider which option will be easiest for your cat to use.
Also consider human access, if you’ve put plants or a litter tray in them, how easy is it for you to access to water the plants or change the litter? Do you want to be able to access the catio to interact with your cats?
Cat patios can be made from a variety of materials, such as wood, wire mesh, PVC piping, plastic and fabric. Make sure your catio is made of durable and safe materials that can withstand the elements and will not harm your cat if they happen to ingest any part of it.
Choose a catio design that will suit you cat’s needs and preferences. If your cat likes to climb, include climbing structures and scratching posts.
If your cat likes to sunbathe, give them a hammock and some natural light.
You can find catio plans online like these inexpensive ones on etsy to help with your design. Don’t forget whatever the design, it needs to be safe and within your budget.
Catios can range from $100 to thousands of dollars. Consider your budget and choose a catio that is within your price range. There are many different types of catios available, so you should be able to find one that fits your budget.
How Big Should a Catio Be?
A catio can be as small as a cat window box, which can provide a safe and comfortable spot for your cat to enjoy the outdoors, to a large, custom-built structure that can be as big as your house. If you have multiple cats, you’ll need to provide enough space for all of them to have their own space within the catio.
The size of your catio will depend upon the number of cats you have and their individual needs and preferences. A general rule of thumb is to provide at least 18 square feet (1.67m3) per cat. This will ensure that your cat has enough room to move around comfortably and engage in natural behaviors such as climbing, scratching and lounging.
If you can, make sure it is tall enough to accommodate a cat tree as cats love vertical play. A catio that is at least 6 feet tall (1.8m) can accommodate cat trees, sitting areas, and other vertical play options. If you want to join your cat consider an 8-foot (2.4m) catio.
Where space permits, your catio should be large enough to provide your cat with plenty of room to move around comfortably and engage in natural behaviors.
What Should I Put in My Catio?
Your catio can be outfitted with a variety of features to provide your cats with a safe and stimulating environment. Here are some suggestions you can include in your catio, I’m sure you will think of plenty more:
Cats have a natural urge to scratch, so providing a scratching post in your catio will give your cat a place to exercise this behavior. And maybe you will get lucky and they will stop doing this on your sofa!
I remember my vet telling me how much cats love vertical play, which is why they love things like cat trees and cat wall tunnels and shelves. Cats love to climb, so if you are building a larger catio, include structures such as shelves, ledges, and ramps will give them the opportunity to explore different heights and vantage points.
Consider providing comfortable and cozy lounging areas for your cat to relax and sleep in, such as a cat bed or hammock or shelf.
Make sure there are places your cat can hide in so that they feel safe and can watch their prey in peace.
Providing a variety of toys will help to keep your cat entertained and mentally stimulated. This could include puzzle feeders, balls, and interactive toys. Hanging toys such as little birdies they can bat, or balls are a great way to get them moving and interacting.
Although I think that watching the outside world will probably provide them with the best stimulation.
Cat Safe Plants
You can add plants to the catio to make it feel like the outdoors and provide your cat with some natural enrichment as well as giving them a sense of privacy. Cat grass is also a great option here.
When choosing plants, you need to check they’re not poisonous to cats. Hibiscus, boston fern, spider plants, and bamboo palms are all good options. Learn more in my article on cat safe plants.
Water and Food
This could be a personal preference. I prefer not to feed my cats in their catio as they have a set routine and I don’t want to disrupt it. I do include fresh water. You may prefer to include fresh food and water in their catio.
Shelter from the Elements
If your catio is outdoors and going to be used in different weather conditions, make sure you include shelter. This could be a covered area or a small house to protect your cat from the elements. Adding a roof your outdoor catio is always a good idea.
If your cat is unable to get to their normal litter tray, add a litter box inside the catio, and introduce your cat to this.
Lastly, don’t forget the welcome to our catio sign, like this one I found on etsy.
Should I Put a Litter Box in my Catio?
As mentioned above, it is not necessary to have a litter box in a catio, if they have access to their regular one. But it can be useful to include a litter box or tray, especially if your cat will be spending a significant amount of time in the catio.
Depending upon the situation you may decide to move one of your litter trays into the catio. Having a litter box in the catio will give your cat a designated place to go to the bathroom, which can be especially helpful if they are not yet litter trained or if they have a preference to go outside. Additionally, it will prevent them from using other areas in the catio as a toilet.
It is important to note that the litter box should be cleaned regularly and the litter changed as needed to maintain a clean and hygienic environment. Also, if you put a litter box in the catio make sure it is in a quiet and private area, as cats prefer privacy when using the toilet.
The general rule for the number of litter boxes required is one tray per cat + 1 extra. They don’t need to be all in the catio, just available to the cats in their home.
Can a Cat Live in a Catio Full Time?
A catio is a great option for providing an indoor cat with access to the outdoors, however, I don’t recommend your cat lives in a catio full-time. Indoor cats have evolved to live with us, and need the companionship and interaction of their human family to thrive.
Cats need to be able to come and go from their catio as they please, and they should have access to the inside of your home.
A catio, no matter how big and well-equipped, will not provide the same level of mental and physical stimulation as the inside of your house or a large outdoor area. It’s no substitute for regular interaction with their human family.
A catio is a great addition to an indoor cat’s environment, but it should not be their only living space, its important to continue spending quality time with them inside the house.
Do Cats Like Catios?
Cat’s can be unpredictable, and being honest, not all cats will necessarily enjoy a catio. However, my cats love their catio, George climbs the mesh like he’s a monkey chasing after an insect and Jeff loves lounging around on the cat tree watching the world go by. Like Jeff and George, many cats do enjoy having access to the outdoors in a safe and controlled environment.
It is important to note that introducing your cat to a catio can be a process. It may take some time for your cat to get used to it. My advice is to take it slowly and at your cats own pace.
My cats were hesitant to go into their catio at first, but with patience and positive reinforcement (cat treats), they got over their caution (food usually overcomes caution with George!) and came to enjoy it. It’s important to be patient and observe your cat’s behavior and adapt the catio to their needs.
It’s also important to make sure that your catio is designed to meet their needs and preferences. For example, if your cat likes to climb and scratch, it would be a good idea to include climbing structures and scratching posts in the catio, where possible.
Can I Build a DIY Catio?
If you are handy with the tools building a catio can be a fun DIY project, and there are many resources available to help you plan and construct one.
Before you start building, you’ll need to determine the size and design of your catio, taking into account the space you have available and needs of your cat. You’ll also need to consider the materials you’ll use and whether you’ll need any special tools or equipment.
There are many tutorials and guides available online that can help you with the planning and construction of your catio. You can also buy DIY catio plans online from places like Catio Spaces which are a great help. These resources include detailed instructions, diagrams and lists of materials and tools you’ll need.
Here is a video I found which shows a simple catio being built for a stray cat who had kittens. He provides a list of materials within the video, so grab a pen and paper to jot these down:
Here are a few things to consider before building a catio:
- Do you have the right tools and materials to hand?
- Do you have the space to build your catio?
- Are you going to need any help during construction?
- Where will you be putting the catio? Will it have sufficient ventilation?
- Make sure your catio is secure, so that your cats can’t escape and just as importantly other animals can’t get in and harm your cats.
- Make sure your catio is safe, with no sharp edges, or toxic materials that could cause injury to your cat
- Make sure your catio has plenty of shade, especially if exposed to direct sunlight
Keep in mind that building a catio can be a significant undertaking, and it may be more challenging than you expect. If you’re not comfortable with the project, or if you don’t have the necessary tools or skills, its probably best to hire a professional to build it for you. Check out our page with catio builders on it.
Overall, building a catio yourself can be fun and rewarding project, but it does require planning, research, and some level of skill.
Frequently Asked Questions About Catios
Here are some frequently asked questions about catios:
How Much does a Catio Cost?
The cost of a catio can vary widely depending on the size, materials used, and features included. A basic, small catio can cost a few hundred dollars, while a larger, more elaborate catio can cost several thousands of dollars.
How Big Should a Catio Be?
Cats need at least 18 square feet inside a catio. To accommodate cat trees, sitting areas and other vertical play options, a height of 6 feet is recommended. If you want to stand up in the catio with your cat, consider a 7 to 8 foot height.
What Should I Put in a Catio?
A catio aims to keep your cat active (both mentally and physically) and to offer them an outdoor space. It would be best if you tried to give them plenty of things to climb, jump off and walk on. Hanging toys, such as little birdies they can bat, are also a great way to get them moving and interacting.
Are Catios Good For Cats?
Catios are good for cats. They help enrich cats lives, give them outdoor exposure, keep cats and wildlife safe from harm. Fill your catio with hiding boxes, play toys, scratching poles and your cats favorite bed and you will most likely find your cat loves the time spent in the catio.
How Do I Keep my Cat Safe in a Catio?
To keep your cat safe in a catio, make sure the enclosure is secure and escape-proof. Additionally, ensure that the catio is free from potential hazards such as sharp edges, toxic plants, heat or cold and other such hazards.
Can a Catio be Attached to an Existing Window or Door?
Yes, a catio can be attached to an existing window or door, but it’s important to ensure that the structure is secure and stable that you are attaching it to.
Can a Catio be used for Multiple Cats?
Absolutely, a catio can be used for multiple cats, but its important to make sure there is enough space and feature to accommodate them all.
How Do I Train my Cat to Use a Catio?
You can train your cat to use a catio by gradually introducing them to the space and encouraging them to explore it with treats and toys. Slow and steady wins this race!
What Kind of Flooring is Best for a Catio?
The best flooring for a catio is a non-slip surface that is easy to clean, such as concrete, decking, a rubber mat or even grass.
How Can I make my Catio More Interesting for my Cat?
You can make your catio more interesting for your cat by adding climbing structures, scratching posts, toys and plants. You can also place a bird feeder or water feature to attract wildlife outside the catio but within sight.
Can I Build a Catio Myself?
Yes, you can built a catio yourself if you are handy with the tools. There are many tutorials and plans available online to guide you through the process.
Do I Need Planning Permission Before Getting a Catio?
Freestanding catios do not require planning permission. If you are custom designing a catio that will be fixed to your home or fence, we suggest you check with your local council for any rules, guidelines or instructions.
I think that a catio is a great addition to your home and lifestyle if you have indoor cats. It can provide a safe and stimulating environment for your cat, and can help to improve their physical and mental well-being. It also protects your local wildlife.
A catio gives you peace of mind that your cat is safe, and can be a great area you enjoy sharing!
I’m an indoor cat convert and created My Indoor Cat to help other indoor cat owners make the best choices for their cats and kittens.