Outdoor Catio Ideas: What You Need to Know

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White cat enjoying time in an outdoor catio or cattery

A catio is an outdoor enclosure for cats. Cats love to spend time in the fresh air and watch birds, bugs, and other animals. And a catio — sometimes referred to as a cattery — provides a way for an indoor cat to enjoy the outdoors without the danger of being attacked by another animal, struck by a car, lost, or stolen. Outdoor catio ideas are wide-ranging. Catios can be made with a variety of materials and constructed in a range of shapes and sizes. They can be free-standing or attached to a house or garage, inexpensive or higher end, plain or fancy, bought or built.

What to know about catios

There are several things to consider when building a DIY catio or buying one:

  • Although you can build a catio that is low to the ground, cleaning and spending time in the catio yourself will be much easier if it’s built to human height. Plus, most cats love being up high, so you can provide structures for your cat to climb and perch on.
  • If your cat enters the catio through a window, it will need to have a door to the outside, so you can access it for cleaning, maintenance, and possible emergency care of your pet.
  • An outdoor catio will need a top — not necessarily a roof but something to keep the cats in and everything else out. Chain link, hardware cloth, or even strong shade cloth, securely attached to the sides, should suffice.
  • The catio will need a firm base (hardware cloth at least) on the floor to keep the right animals in and the wrong animals out.
  • You should put a litter box in the catio. Some cats will use it; others will use the great outdoors. But even if your cat doesn’t consistently use the litter box in the catio, make sure one is available. The box will need to be sheltered, either with a hood or with some boards or shelves, so it doesn’t get wet in inclement weather.
  • Provide enough food and water. Again, you’ll need to shelter the food and water area. If you have ant or bug problems, look into bug-proof food dishes. If your cat spends a lot of time in the catio, keep in mind that an outdoor cat needs more food to keep warm during chilly weather.
  • Allow for extremes in the weather. Make sure the catio has a shady area, so your kitty doesn’t get too hot in the summer. If your winters are cold, provide access to a heated room or garage; don’t leave your cat out in a stand-alone structure in very cold weather.
  • You can enrich the catio environment by providing logs or posts for scratching. Hang bird feeders nearby (but not in the catio), or plant a tray of grass for your kitty to frolic in. Be creative! You can make the catio a nice place for your cat to hang out and a pleasant place for you to visit.

More information about outdoor cat enclosures

Here are some useful websites for outdoor catio ideas: 

  • Catio Spaces has lots of photos and helpful information about different kinds of outdoor cat enclosures.
  • If you want to build from a kit, you can order a kit for a catio from C&D Pet Products.
  • If building a catio is too ambitious a project for you, check out the many alternatives offered by Kittywalk Systems, a company that sells innovative cat enclosures and modular units that can be put together in a variety of configurations.

Alternative outdoor catio ideas

If you have a fenced yard, you might also consider “cat fencing” — netting that attaches to standard fences to prevent escapes and intrusions. Check out Cat Fence In. Another type of cat fencing is Purrfect Fence.