Catios & Cat Enclosures for Indoor Cats

Written by Small Door's medical experts

A ‘catio’, also known as a cat patio or cat enclosure, is a great way to solve the indoor/outdoor dilemma that many cat owners experience. Catios provide important enrichment to indoor cats, allowing them to observe and experience the outdoors and all of its sights, smells and sounds, without some of the dangers associated with being an outdoor cat.

What is a Catio?

A catio is an enclosed outdoor area that lets your cat enjoy some time outside, but keeps them safe from cars and predators (and keeps wildlife safe from them!) They’re often described as the ‘best of both worlds’.

There are many design options – from small window box type catios to large, garden-shed or aviary type designs. Some may choose to make their catio an extension of their home, with the entrance one of their windows, so the cat may come and go in and ‘outdoors’ at their leisure.

Why are Catios Useful?

Just like us, cats need plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy. Outdoor cats get lots of this while roaming and exploring, but indoor cats often suffer from a chronic under-stimulation and can become bored, sedentary and even anxious if we do not provide options to keep them mentally and physically entertained.

When cats don’t get enough exercise and stimulation, they can often become disruptive and display unwanted behaviors, such as hyperactivity at night, scratching at unwanted surfaces, or play aggression.

For some cats, a catio may help to provide much-needed enrichment through all the smells and sights of the outdoors, while keeping them safe.

Do Indoor Cats Need a Catio?

Indoor cats do not necessarily need a catio, as long as you provide sufficient stimulation, toys and other enrichment opportunities for them inside, but for those who have plenty of outdoor space, a catio is something you could consider.

Catios can provide important enrichment to indoor cats, allowing them to observe and experience the outdoors and all of its sights, smells and sounds, without some of the dangers associated with being an outdoor cat.

What Should You Consider When Building a Catio?

Two of the most important considerations for catios are safety and security. They need to be constructed so that your cat cannot escape, other animals cannot get in, as well as being constructed of materials that cannot hurt them (such as sharp wire fencing).

What Should You Include in a Catio?

Depending on your catio’s planned size, some ideas to help you make this an appealing space for your cat include:

  • Areas to scratch

  • Elevated surfaces from which to observe

  • An area for privacy for your cat to take a nap or observe the world incognito

A branched tree limb can double as both a climbing surface as well as a place to scratch, alternatively you can place purchased cat trees in your catio that can be multi-functional.

Remember that a catio doesn’t need to be elaborate. You can often build one yourself with a wooden frame, galvanized wire and some fabric mesh for sun protection. Alternatively, there are a number of ‘prefab’ options available, such as this one, that you could turn into a catio.

If you have the space, you could even make the catio large enough for you to hang out in with your pet and enjoy the space together!

Where Can I Find Out More about Catios?

Catio Spaces is a great website for design inspiration or to purchase design plans for a DIY project.

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