The Rise of the Catio Space: Purrfect Protection for our Feline Family
Cats are like marmite. Either you love them or you hate them. But, seeing as you are reading this, we are going to assume you cannot get enough of those tiny terrorists.
Yes, it has long been established that, while dogs have owners, cats do indeed have ‘staff’! And anyone who has woken up far too early with a paw, tail or loud “meow” in their face will know this to be true. And woe betide you forget to feed them!
Similarly, servants… sorry, ‘cat parents’ who haven’t gone to the trouble of having a cat flap installed in their house will know the frustrations: cat meows at the door; you open the door; cat walks away looking disinterested. Five minutes later, cat is back, at the same door, meowing. Repeat ad nauseam
But, what if we told you there is a remedy for a variety of cat-related ‘pawblems’? Maybe it is time to invest in a catio.
“Let Meowt!” — What in Furry Heavens is a Catio?
Simply, a catio can be broken into two words: Cat Patio. This is an enclosed outdoor space used for kitty leisure-time, any time of the day or night. It acts as an annex to your home, with a flap entrance through a window or wall, allowing the freedom and stimulation of the great outdoors!
Constructed of a sturdy wood or metal frame and wire-fencing surround, a catio can easily be designed to fit in with the house and surrounding gardens. And it can be weatherproofed too! Protecting moggy against the changing British weather.
But before going further, we feel it's only right that we address something big in the British sensibility. Many Britons believe our cats should be allowed to roam freely outdoors. And you may well be one of them! This is understandable, given what our cats are used to. That and the independent nature of felines. But let’s just take a moment to consider the argument in favour of the catio. It may be enough to re-frame the whole concept in your mind.
Paws For Thought: The Benefit of a Catio
Let’s start with safety. Allowing your cat outside unsupervised for long periods of time holds many issues. Dangers lurk in the outside world, especially when you’re a tiny fur baby. Cats are no match for a fox or badger, or a human with a violent streak.
Sadly, missing cats are all too common throughout the nation. Not to mention injuries and accompanying costly Vet bills! Even if you have pet insurance, no doubt they can put your premiums up. Especially if your cat develops a virus or ongoing illness as a result of some nighttime wander. Cats can get TB from badgers, don’t you know.
But aside from pet-safety, the local wildlife will benefit too. As Alan Breslauer, cat dad and owner of the wonderful Custom Catios in Los Angeles notes:
“One of the arguments for a catio has nothing to do with the cat at all. It’s to do with the environment. They’re labelled one of the 100 most invasive species on the planet.”
Cats kill an estimated 55 million birds each year in the UK. Given their natural instinct to hunt, we cannot blame them. But we can do something that will both protect them and the local flora and fauna. Whilst also providing the purr-worthy stimulation of outdoor space!
And, you avoid the risk of getting an undesirable ‘gift’ from your thoughtful friend.
Key Catio Benefits
- Provides a safe, enriching environment for felines
- Added territory reduces disputes between pets
- Removes risk of virus, fleas and injury
- Protect other indigenous wildlife
- Outdoor litter box! No unpleasant odours inside
But aside from these arguments, there is even more to a catio. Owners with more than one cat have reported better feline relations, and less fights! With more territory to explore, life becomes more chilled. Stimulation and excitement comes from the enriching outdoor environment, not from tension spats.
In fact, the addition of a catio can do wonders for your cat’s personality altogether! Whether you have one cat or more, the extra space and buzz of the outdoors builds confidence.
Cynthia Chomos, owner of Catio Spaces in west coast Seattle, has seen this first hand. For a Maine Coon named Carter, his catio space turned his life around. Noted by his cat-mom as a super shy cat, two months after installation, Cynthia received a wonderful update:
“She said ‘Carter is so much more confident, he does not bolt when people come through the door, he holds his space! And I can credit it to the catio… it changed his personality for the better.’"
And if that isn’t enough to move you, just think; the litter box can be moved outside! Meaning no more stinky indoor kitty litter trailed around the house.
Sweetening the deal even further, Alan Breslauer has also discovered that a catio can actually improve the sleep of humans too!
How, you ask?
“Having a catio allows the cats to go outside and be stimulated all night long. Especially in the early morning, when the world is waking up, the birds are out and it’s just turning daylight, with all those noises. Cats just love that. It will improve human’s sleep for sure.”
We all know the benefits of a rest for the brain, and how harrowing it is to have the disrupted. Rest assured, this news alone is enough to convert many cat-lovers to catio-life.
There are a host of reasons as to why a catio would be great for you, and for your cat. But, as ‘Catio Queen’ Cynthia puts it, “cats rely on us for their wellbeing. And we don’t allow our dogs or our children to roam freely outdoors. So why are we allowing cats?”
A Furry London Tail
We’ve heard a lot of talk from our American furiends, but there are catio tales to tell in England too!
James Bowen, author of the famous autobiographical book ‘A Streetcat Named Bob’ found the catio the perfect solution for his cat. And their backstory is beautiful!
In a heartwarming ‘true tail’ of feline friendship, ginger tomcat Bob adopted the then homeless James whilst he was out busking in London. James that is, Bob cannot play guitar! But, amazingly, he can act.
The pair naturally captivated the hearts of the public. A book and two films later, James had his own place and Bob had become a house cat. But knowing him as an outdoor adventurer, James wanted Bob to have both safety and freedom to roam. And this is what the humble catio gave him.
Building That ‘Paw-some’ Space
By now you’re completely sold on the joy of owning a catio, right? But if you still think it a ridiculous notion, or a fad, well done for making it this far! Hopefully we can turn you with the pleasure of creating a new aesthetic space for you and your cat to enjoy!
So, how do you go about creating one? What costs are involved? Perhaps you are worried about the space required?
The great news is you needn’t have tons of square footage to make space for your fluffy playmates. In fact, the sky is the limit, really!
Alan Breslauer has the first of our ‘top tips’ for catio spaces. His rule of thumb is to “generally try to go high and thin, so they can go vertical but be on the perimeter the whole time”.
This is great for people with limited space, and is also the feline fantasy. Vertical space gives multiple cats the opportunity to establish their own hierarchy, with the top-cat lounging higher up in the enclosure. They also love to “hang out on the perimeter, because they want to see the action. The squirrels, birds, and bugs…the trees and bushes.”
Yes it seems that our friends across the pond are far more switched on when it comes to catio-life! It is little wonder. With coyotes and mountain lions common in many areas, this is now a common backyard staple for pet lovers across the country. Giving pet owners total peace of mind, and the saving millions of smaller animals from a feline demise.
Cynthia turned her hand to building catios after the adoption of her ginger tabby Serena. Her natural inclination toward protecting her new family member inspired her to build her first catio. Now Serena can feel the ‘wind in her whiskers’ any time, and is the proud prowler of four catios—including one with a cute water fountain!
Since this first flirtation, she has designed countless catio spaces for cat families across Seattle. Including a stunning enclosure for two furry friends named Rosemary and Boots, who just happen to live on a houseboat...
There sure are a heap of wild and wonderful possibilities to explore if you decide to build one of your own. No space is too small, or difficult! And many designs are very affordable. All you need to do is dream. Like a cat having a sunny catnap.
One of Cynthia’s most notable clients is now the proud owner of a "colourful cat menagerie", complete with 70 feet of ‘catwalk’ tunnels linking four separate catio spaces. This inspiring ‘habi-cat’ is a testament to creating a piece of live-able art in your garden. No matter how big or small.
Honestly, go wild with it! We’ve seen catios decorated for Halloween, or to support a favourite sports team. We’ve also seen balconies and window box extensions that allow cats to grab some alone time, lay in the sun and watch the birds, or snooze in the shade.
As Cynthia notes, something which separates our canines from our felines “they need their cat cave too, to get away… territory is everything to a cat”.
Given the amount of time we have all been spending at home recently, this might come in handy for us humans too!
Starting From Scratch (post)
Yes, there are plenty of stateside catio designers giving oodles of inspiration. And they are often well versed in cat language too! Alan of Custom Catios has worked with a number of cat behaviourists and enthusiasts, including the famous Jackson Galaxy.
On his hit show ‘Cat vs. Dog’, Jackson provided the excellent tip of making a ‘cat superhighway’ through their co-opted build. This is a sloping walkway that spans the perimeter of the catio from top to bottom—giving more room for movement. A great idea if you have two or more cats.
As Alan explains, more space means “the cat has to be able to go in two directions, so they don’t have to push through each other. This diminishes conflict”.
He also notes there is a “necessity for stability” when building your catio, “Everything has to be rock solid”. This is essential for cats to feel safe in their environment. And this also stretches to the mesh fencing. Well-secured, industrial strength mesh ensures no holes can be found to get in or out!
It is very important to consider the materials you are using. If you need assistance, there are a few reputable companies that can offer guidance and services, such as ProtectaPet. You can also ensure your cat is safe from the elements by weatherproofing your catio during autumn and winter.
After that, it’s really yours to have fun with. There are spaces of all sizes and shapes that have been suitably fitted to protect and enrich a cat’s life! And the addition of cat grass and other feline friendly plants adds depth and interest.
Relish creating your own space, and take into account your surroundings, design and home décor. Something Cynthia knows only too well from her work.
“Rather than unsightly wire cages attached to your house, they can be designed with wood framing, flooring and they can be decorated with seating and rugs, it can become an outdoor garden room, for cats and their humans.”
Happy Cats Make Happy Homes
Catios are relatively new to the UK market, but we think they’re here to stay! Cat parents spend so much time fretting about their beloved feline when they leave the house.
Building an outdoor space that is both safe and enriching is a no-brainer. And with a variety of DIY Catio plans available on Cynthia’s website — not to mention Clear Catio Covers supplied by yours truly — it needn’t cost a paw and a claw! (we’re copyrighting that)
Just remember these top tips when creating your catio.
- Think vertically. Cats love to climb, and this is also a way they can assert their hierarchy if you have more than one cat
- Build using sturdy materials, and think plastic coverings weatherproof your catio and protect against the elements
- Be sure to have a catio filled with sunny and shady patches for lounging and play
- Furnish your catio with rugs, cushions, toys, and plants like cat grass.
- Plants are very stimulating for both humans and pets, and there are a variety of cat-safe plants available
And the final word from the lovely Cynthia Chomos is, have fun with it!
“It’s a fun creative project…our pets are important family members, and we are all seeking to create a home environment that supports all the family members. Including our cats.”
We can just hear those tiny meowths across the country crying:
“Get building servant!”
We're really grateful you stuck around until the end. This article was written and researched by our fiercely talented roving reporter and fellow feline fanatic Clementine Lloyd. She is the tuna to our bowl, the... litter to our box... and has spent many a joyous hour chuckling away to herself whilst dreaming up a caboodle of kitty-based quips and cracks for us all to relish and revel in.
And now we've run out of alliterations, all that remains is to thank Cynthia Chomos, the 'Catio Queen' of Catio Spaces, Seattle and Alan Breslauer, the 'Catio Guy' of Custom Catios, Los Angeles, for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak with us about the wonderful world of catios.
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