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DIY ‘Catios’: How to Create the Perfect Cat Patio

By Christy True
published: June 17, 2022 - updated: June 29, 2022 • 3 min. read
Cats in an enclosure on a tree

Key Takeaways

  • A way to safely provide your cat access to the outdoors, without worrying about losing them, is by building a cat patio or “catio.”
  • People have created their own DIY catios with materials from a hardware store, while others buy a kit or have a professional build one.
  • Some basic features a catio should have include fencing, toys, platforms for perching or climbing, and plants that are safe for cats.

The increasing awareness about the dangers to outdoor cats and the damage they do to the bird populations have some cat parents thinking about how to provide their cats access to the outdoors without letting them roam. Some cat parents have even taken to walking their cats on a leash.

Another way to safely provide your cat access to the outdoors is by building a cat patio or “catio.” A catio is an enclosed outdoor space where cats can hang out and keep themselves entertained by watching squirrels and birds without getting into trouble or running off. Catios are just another way people are “catifying” their homes.

Celebrity cat expert Jackson Galaxy says that an enclosed space on your existing patio or balcony can offer all the stimulation of the outdoors with the protection of the indoors. He suggests adding vertical spaces, wooden scratching objects, and grasses like catnip to create a cozy outdoor space where your cat will also benefit from fresh air and vitamin D.

Some companies such as Wayfair and Amazon sell entire catios, but they can be spendy, ranging from $400-$800. You can also buy kits with plans and a shopping list for the materials you need to put it together. A few construction companies have also added catios as a service you can purchase. Many cat parents have made creating a catio a fun home project and customize them in many ways.

What are the elements of an ideal catio? 

Catios can be full of different stimulating or relaxing elements for cats. Some creative cat parents add features that are also appealing to humans, such as art or a small table and chairs. The ideal catio will be safe, functional, and aesthetically pleasing.

Catios don’t need to take up lots of space. Many apartment or condo dwellers have created appealing feline hangouts on their deck or balcony.

Here are some features that Jackson Galaxy says make an ideal catio:

  • A solid structure – Most importantly, you want your catio to be safe. Whether you use wood or steel, make sure the frame is solid and can withstand any weather.
  • Fencing – the fence material should be made of a thick gauge of wire and spaced so that your cat’s head will not fit between cables. If the catio is set on dirt, the fencing should extend below the ground so raccoons or other critters can’t burrow under. You will need the enclosure to be surrounded, including the roof or ceiling, to keep your cat from escaping or predators from getting in.
  • Resting spots – you’ll want to provide a few places for your cat to perch, some in the sun and some in the shade. At least one should be up high for a good vantage point of those pesky squirrels.
  • Climbing opportunities – Cats love to climb, and it’s ideal exercise for them, so be sure to incorporate towers, ledges, ramps, or a cat tree.
  • Hiding places – Cats feel more secure when they have a place to hide. This could be as simple as a box, a hollowed-out log, or tunnels.
  • Other features – Some pet parents add items such as a litter box, small pool or water dish, a bird feeder (on the outside!), lights, and a webcam.
Protect your pet

Some DIY catios we love

Here are some catio ideas to inspire you.

From Catio_Living on Instagram, this catio is outfitted with lights, making for a beautiful night scene.

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A post shared by Catio Living (@catio_living)

From Catio Inspiration on Instagram, a large catio with lots of space and features to climb on.

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A post shared by Your Home, Catified? (@catio_inspiration)

Even if you live in an apartment or condo, you can still create a small catio on a balcony or porch as Instagram user northshorebengal illustrates.

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A post shared by Anna du Bois (@northshorebengal)

Elwing Works, a company in Bend, Ore., builds custom catios for clients. Watch a cat enjoying one of their creations

Catio Guy, who builts catios in the LA area, created this catio with an ocean theme, complete with art, furniture and plants.

Christy True and Tomas
By Christy True

Christy has been writing about pets for Healthy Paws for 28 dog years. She also coordinates media requests. A background in journalism may be why she enjoys writing about offbeat animal studies and the latest viral pet trends. She has been owned by several dogs, and she volunteers with a local dog rescue. Outside of work, she can usually be found sliding down a mountain near her home in Bend, Ore.

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