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11 DIY Outdoor Cat Enclosures (Catio Plans) – Easy & Free (With Pictures)

cat patio outdoors

If you have an adventurous kitty with a love for the great outdoors, it isn’t always safe to just open the door and let them roam. But maybe you want your cat to hang out with you when you’re outside enjoying some fresh air. Cat enclosures, or catios, enable you to give your cat outdoor access while keeping them healthy and safe.

Catios can have everything that your cat needs. You can include litter boxes, beds, toys, and scratching posts to give cats an entertaining break from the inside of the house without sacrificing their comfort. To teach you how to build a catio while saving time and money, we gathered DIY catio plans that you can make and customize today. With the right tools and materials, you can construct the catio of your cat’s dreams.

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The 11 DIY Outdoor Cat Enclosures (Catio Plans)

1. Great Outdoors Catio

Materials Wire mesh, deck paint, 2x4s, metal roof panels, screws, staples
Tools Air stapler, drill, saw, measuring tape, ladder
Difficulty Level Easy

This wire mesh catio is a large space that can be occupied by several cats at once. It holds two cat trees and a mounted catwalk. There’s even a separate box for bird watching. This catio was built by amateur carpenters, so you can easily construct something simpler with even the slightest bit of know-how.


2. Outdoor Cat Living Space

Materials Pine boards, plywood sheathing, fence panels, deck screws, corner braces, outdoor carpet, safety hasp, padlock, plastic roof panels, stain, spray paint, cat door
Tools Drill, saw, wire cutter, tape measure, staple gun, microfiber cloth, sandpaper, ladder
Difficulty Level Moderate

This lean-to-style cat enclosure is not difficult to make but may take a bit of work. All the materials used can easily be found at your local hardware store. The base of the catio is a skid so the enclosure isn’t sitting directly on the ground. This keeps your cat’s floor, which is covered in outdoor carpeting, from getting saturated with moisture. The interior of the enclosure holds a real tree limb that can serve as a climbing or scratching post.


3. Chicken Wire Catio

Materials 2x3s, chicken wire, screws, hinges, latch, 1x3s, scrap plywood, railroad ties, tree branches, L-brackets, cat door
Tools Hand drill, chop saw, skill saw, staple gun, staple gun compressor
Difficulty Level Easy

This chicken wire catio can be made smaller or larger depending on how much space you have. Your lawn or patio serves as the catio floor, so you can save time and effort not having to construct one. The entire enclosure rests on railroad ties to give it a secure foundation. Decorative plants can be hung on hooks attached to the support beams if desired.


4. Budget-Friendly Catio

Materials Garden stakes, wildlife netting, U-frame stakes, zip ties
Tools None
Difficulty Level Easy

If you want to build a catio that won’t break the bank, try this easy plan that can give your cat safe access to the outdoors for as little as $50. No tools are required. Just use the garden stakes as fence posts and wildlife netting as the barrier. Secure everything with zip ties and U-frame stakes. This is a good option for areas that don’t get much snow or ice in the winter, as the netting won’t hold up under the weight of them.


5. Two-Story Window Catio

Materials Roll roofing, plywood, trim boards, trim pads, screen stiles, bracket legs, diagonal braces, screen rails
Tools Ladder, pencil, tape measure, paintbrushes, miter saw, drill, jigsaw, staple gun, utility knife, scissors, caulk gun, circular saw, hammer, chisel, level, clamps, paddle bit
Difficulty Level Moderate to Difficult

This window catio should take an estimated 2 days to complete, depending on your skill level. If you’re a beginner, it may take longer. Building the frame of this free catio plan may be the easy part, but holding it in place and attaching it to the window could be more challenging. The catio is accessed through an open window and has a shelf in the middle to give your cat two-story perching options. The frame can be painted to match the exterior of your home so it resembles original architecture.


6. IKEA Shelf Catio

Materials 1x3s, IKEA shelves, chicken wire, door hinges, door bolts, doorknob, wood screws, siding screws
Tools Drill, staple gun, wire cutters
Difficulty Level Easy

This easy IKEA shelf catio can be built to your desired size. For a bigger catio, more shelves can be added. It’s enclosed with chicken wire and gives your cat a chance to get exercise by jumping from shelf to shelf. The door on this free catio plan is not meant to be opened when cats are inside. It’s for emergency access outdoors if necessary. Sliding locks secure the door when cats are using the catio. Add toys, beds, and a litter box for the ultimate cat hangout spot.


7. Easy DIY Cat Enclosure

Materials Galvanized mesh, wood, cedar planks, galvanized screws, deck hardware
Tools Drill, staple gun, staple gun compressor
Difficulty Level Easy

This easy DIY cat enclosure was constructed in the garden of a backyard. Tunnels connect it to a cat door in the window of the house. If you’d rather not get that involved, you can just build the cat enclosure outside with the shelves at window level so your cat can enter it. The size of the catio can be customized to your specifications.


8. Thrifty Cool Cat Catio

Materials Wood window, plywood, runners, paint, wire screen, hinges, gate hardware, tree branches, screws
Tools Drill, saw, staple gun
Difficulty Level Moderate

This thrifty catio was made for under $50 using repurposed materials. It can be moved easily using a dolly so you can change your cat’s hangout location. It can also be set up permanently outside a window or door so your cat can access it directly from the house. While an old sash window is used for the roof, you can choose whatever material you like instead. Just be sure to install it on a slope to let moisture and debris fall off.


9. PVC Pipe Catio

Materials PVC pipes, PVC elbows, PVC tees, garden fencing, cable ties, plastic roof panel, area rug, door hinge, swivel hasps, hinges
Tools PVC cutter
Difficulty Level Moderate

This catio is made with PVC pipes for versatility. PVC doesn’t rot, so it’s ideal for use outdoors. It’s also lightweight enough for you to easily move the enclosure once it’s built. Before the winter months, PVC can be dismantled and stored away until you’re ready to assemble it again. You can assemble this catio outside of a window for your cat to have anytime access. It can also be set up to be free-standing in another area of the yard or property.


10. Wire Cat Enclosure

Materials Wire storage kits, plastic ties, tarp, outdoor carpet
Tools Pliers, gloves
Difficulty Level Easy

Made from wire storage kits, this easy catio can be built using materials with a total cost of less than $100. The kits are fastened together to create the enclosure so you can determine the best size for your cats. One downside is that there is no protection from the elements. You can use a tarp or drop sheet to cover the top when necessary or install something more permanent if you wish. Outdoor carpeting is used as the floor. You can also use plastic grass or bare ground. Just make sure the walls don’t have gaps between them and the floor where your cat can escape.


11. Outdoor Cat Cage

Materials Wooden shelving unit, wire cage fence, lumber, hinges, door latch, cat door, screws, outdoor carpet
Tools Drill, staple gun, wire cutters
Difficulty Level Moderate

This outdoor cat cage can be attached to the house and will hold multiple cats at once. This enclosure is large. It’s ideal for multi-cat households or cat rescues that want to give their cats outdoor hangout options. This specific plan was built to house feral cats as a way to keep them safe from coyotes overnight.

Things to Consider When Building a Catio

Catios provide many benefits to cats but keeping a few things in mind before you get started on one of our suggested plans will ensure that your cat gets the most out of the space.

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Your Cat’s Age

If you have a kitten or young, active cat, they will likely want to explore and climb. Shelves of varying heights can provide the mental and physical stimulation that active cats need. They can play, burn calories, and feel adventurous while staying safe. Senior cats or those with health issues may not be able to explore or jump easily. You can add ramps or stairs to the shelves to give cats easier access to them or install the shelves low to the ground. If your cat likes to lounge, your catio doesn’t need to have many twists and turns.

cat sleeping on the patio
Image Credit: hapibu, Pixabay

Sun and Shade

Cats typically love to lounge in warm, sunny spots, but it’s important to make sure your cat has an option to get out of the sun if they want to. Consider the sun in your yard and how it moves throughout the day. If your catio gets direct sunlight without any shade, either move the catio to a different spot or cover the roof with tarps or sun-blocking panels.

Low and High Perches

When your cat is relaxing, do they prefer to be under tables or hidden away in small areas? Do they enjoy climbing on things and observing the world around them? If your cat likes to stay close to the ground, a small catio filled with low shelves and cat condos will make them feel secure. If they like to perch up high, adding high shelves for jumping will be best.

Access

When thinking about how to make a catio, consider how you’d like your cat to access the enclosure. Near a door or window in your home can give your cat instant access and is the safest option, so they are never outdoors without being enclosed. Cat doors can also be installed in windows, doors, and walls so you don’t have to leave them open all the time. If you’d like a catio that is farther away from your home, you can attach a cat tunnel from the cat door to the opening to keep your cat safe as they travel to it. It also satisfies their desire to wander.

tabby cat uses cat door
Image Credit: Julie Vader, Shutterstock

Size

No matter how much space you have to work with, there is a catio that you can build. The best part about building your own enclosure is that you can customize it to fit your needs. If you have a small area, consider making the catio stretch up vertically, giving your cat room to jump and climb. If you can’t build a catio that tall, consider a window box. That way, no ground space is covered.

Foundation

The foundation of the catio should be level. Uneven ground can give cats chances to escape. It can also mean your catio is not supported correctly. This can cause injuries to cats inside if it comes tumbling down and could cause your cats to flee. Be sure your catio is securely attached to the ground and/or the house.

Views

Your cat is using a catio to get a different view from the inside of the house. Try to look around from their viewpoint before deciding on the location for it. A view of birds and other wildlife is ideal. Views of the garden or family members outside will also keep cats happy and entertained.

outdoor cat enclosure
Image Credit: SariMe, Shutterstock

What Should I Put in My Catio?

Cats can enjoy nearly anything that you can think of in their catio. Try different things, and swap them out once in a while to keep your cat from getting bored. Here are a few suggestions:

There are various ways that you can decorate your catio to reflect your personality and taste. Have fun with it, and make it something that you enjoy looking at as much as your cat enjoys using it.

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Conclusion

As you can see, learning how to build a catio might not be as difficult as you thought! With the right materials and tools, you can quickly be on your way to designing a catio that your cat will love. There are so many designs to choose from, so you’re bound to find one that works for you. You can customize the catio to your specific cat’s needs and get as creative as you want.


Featured Image Credit by: TheCats, Shutterstock

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