If you want to keep your cat and native wildlife safe, keeping it indoors is your best bet. A free-roaming cat is at risk of injury or illness and poses a threat to small animals like rodents, birds, and reptiles.
A catio is an ideal compromise. Catios are enclosed outdoor patios for indoor cats that offer a place for them to play and explore in the outdoors for enrichment, but without giving them free roam of your neighborhood. Find out more about catios and whether your cat should have one.
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How Does It Work?
A catio is an outdoor cat enclosure or cat patio that provides a safe outdoor space for your cat to explore. This option allows cats to be outside for enrichment without putting them or wildlife at risk. Because catios have screens, cats can enjoy the smells, sounds, and sights of the outdoors while staying protected from the dangers.
Think of a catio like a zoo enclosure or similar structure. It can be a variety of sizes and designs, depending on your needs, and can be a fun space for stimulation for your cat. Most catios are made of wood or metal with screens or mesh that allow your cat to survey the area. Some catios attach to your home, so your cat can go in and out as it pleases. Others are disconnected and have an entry and exit point, so you have to take your cat to it.
The 4 Different Types of a Catio
Catios can range from simple to elaborate, depending on the space you have available. Some are attached to your home, while others are freestanding in the backyard. You can also buy or make your own catio.
1. Window Catio
A window catio hangs on the first-floor window in your home and may just be the window box or a larger space that reaches the ground. Then, all you have to do is open the window for the cat to get outside and come in whenever it wants.
2. Porch Catio
A porch catio is like a miniature screened-in porch for your cat. Typically built on a deck or patio, the porch catio has a solid base and may be any height that fits. Porch catios offer extra space to include perches or trees for more enrichment.
3. Balcony Catio
If you live in an apartment, you can turn part of your balcony or fire escape into a catio. Like the porch catio, this can be any size that fits and gives your cat room to play and climb. Just make sure you have enough space left to enjoy the balcony yourself or use the fire escape to leave in an emergency.
4. Portable Catios
A portable catio is a freestanding outdoor enclosure that can be placed in your yard. You can easily move the catio or disassemble it to take it with you to a new location. The biggest benefit of a portable catio is that you can make it as big and elaborate as you want! The key is including a two-door escape-proof entry point to prevent your cat from getting out since the catio doesn’t attach directly to your home.
Where Is It Used?
Catios may be used in the city, country, or suburbs—basically, anywhere you have a cat that wants to be outside but shouldn’t. Even if you have a big house, cats benefit from spending some of the time outdoors and enjoying nature and exploring, even if it’s not safe for them. Rather than subjecting your cat to dangers like other cats, diseases, injuries, and large wildlife, you can give it an opportunity to enjoy time outside behind the safety of a screen.
The 5 Advantages of a Catio
There are numerous advantages to a catio, including:
Cats are designed to explore, climb, and leap. A catio gives an indoor cat an opportunity to get in touch with the wild and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors.
Outdoor cats are vulnerable to many dangers, including getting hit by a car, getting a disease, fighting with cats or other animals, being poisoned, or getting lost. Having a catio gives them all the benefits of the outdoors without the risk.
3. Wildlife Safety
Cats left to roam can damage the local ecosystem by killing birds and other wildlife, technically making them an invasive species. Catios engage your cat’s hunting instincts when it stalks or chases prey, but it can’t access it through the screen.
4. Separation from Housemates
If you have multiple cats or cats and dogs in your household, a catio offers an isolated space for your cat to spend time alone and get its energy out without worrying about conflict with housemates.
5. Neighborhood Harmony
A loose cat may be fine to you, but your neighbors may not feel the same way. Catios avoid conflicts between neighbors by ensuring that your cat stays on your property and doesn’t use the neighbor’s garden or children’s sandbox as a litter box.
The 3 Disadvantages of a Catio
A well-constructed catio poses very few disadvantages.
1. Does Not Deter Insects
Fencing and mesh won’t stop insects, which means your cat may still get bitten by mosquitoes or catch fleas.
2. Does Not Prevent the Spread of Disease
Your cat can also get respiratory infections from other cats in the neighborhood.
3. Questionable Construction
A poorly constructed catio can have gaps that allow cats to escape or exposed wire or nails that can cause injury. It’s important that your catio is completely escape-proof and made of solid materials in good condition. If you choose to DIY your catio, make sure you check it for possible injuries or escape points.
Most of these disadvantages can be avoided with some preventative measures. For example, only use the catio when the insect activity is low. You should also avoid keeping your cat in a catio when the sun and heat are intense or if it’s extremely cold or damp outside.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I know if my cat would like a catio?
Catios are excellent for cats that are curious or playful. Cats can get rid of excess energy and explore their space. If a cat is shy or timid, it may still enjoy a catio with hiding spaces and coves that help it feel more secure.
Are catios good for senior cats?
Cats of any age can benefit from a catio. If you have a senior cat, just be mindful of the enrichment you provide inside, such as perches that have ladders and ramps or plenty of lounge areas to give your cat a rest.
How long does a cat take to get used to a catio?
Each cat is unique, but cats typically adjust to a catio in just a few weeks. The more toys, perches, and rest areas you provide, the more comfortable your cat will be. Be sure to include things you know your cat likes, and if it’s big enough, spend some time playing with your cat inside to get it more comfortable.
Some of our favorite catios that you can buy are from Habitat Haven. Habitat Haven has been providing happy and safe outdoor enjoyment to pets worldwide since 2003. Their outdoor cat enclosures, “cat runs”, or “Catios”, are strong, durable, and tastefully designed. Habitat Haven is recommended by veterinarians throughout North America as the best way to keep pets safe outdoors!
If your cat enjoys being outdoors, the best way to balance its primal instincts with safety is with a catio. As an enrichment option, catios are highly versatile—you can use a small window catio or opt for a massive outdoor space for your cat, depending on your needs. Whichever you choose, make sure you outfit it with everything your cat needs to have fun and relax in the great outdoors.
Featured Image Credit: SariMe, Shutterstock