A catio is a safe outdoor cat enclosure in your garden, on your balcony or any outdoor area where cats can exercise and enjoy the sunshine, without any worry that they get into trouble or hurt themselves. Kind of like a cat patio.
So, we've answered the question 'What is a catio?', but how do you decide which catio to choose, and how do you make it as entertaining as possible?
Is it cruel to keep a cat in a catio?
No, not if it's done in the right way. While some people might argue that it's better not to give cats who are not able to roam freely the taste of outdoor life, there is no evidence to suggest that this would make them more unhappy than never going outside at all. In fact, giving cats a safe outdoor space with plenty of entertainment and stimulation can be highly beneficial for both their physical and mental health.
With that being said, you should make sure your cats have enough space. Always provide water and shade, and ideally a litter box. Don't leave your cat unsupervised for long periods of time, and regularly check the catio to make sure it's safe.
Why should you get a catio?
Traditionally, outdoor enclosures have mainly been used for high value breeds, or older and injured cats, but there are a number of reasons why you would want to get a catio for your pet. Ultimately, it all boils down to that you want them to be happy outdoors, without the worry.
Keep cats safe
The main benefit of a catio is the possibility to keep cats safe from dangers that appear in an outdoor environment. Freely roaming outdoor cats have a much shorter life expectancy than indoor cats, mainly due to injuries and accidents. Here are some main safety benefits of outdoor cat enclosures:
- Prevents cats from running out into busy roads and getting hit by cars
- Stops cats from getting into fights with other cats, dogs and larger animals in the neighbourhood
- Keeps cats safe from cat nappers and others who might not have the best intentions
- Allows you to stop your pets from eating things they shouldn't
- Lets you to control how high they climb and where they play, minimising the risk of injuries
Provide fresh air for indoor cats
While you might want to be able to control the way your cat enjoys the great outdoors, providing them with some sunshine and exercise can be highly beneficial to their health.
Some cat parents choose to take their cats for walks on a lead, but if you don't get your pet used to this early on in their lives, convincing them to heel by your side in a harness can be difficult.
A catio on the other hand will provide you with the possibility of spending time together outside without any stress or worry. For indoor cats who are not used to roam freely, you don't need a large space, just being able to climb and play in the fresh air will be a stimulating experience that will keep them happy and healthy.
Keep neighbours happy
Not all people are cat lovers, and cats roaming freely can sometimes annoy neighbours by leaving mess in the children's sand pit, chasing song birds away from the bird feeders or making the dog bark at an inconvenient hour.
While you as a cat owner might not think anything off it, slight annoyance can in the long run lead to contentment, and you wouldn't want your cats to be the cause of a neighbourhood fight.
Separates them if one is in season
When male cats get a sniff of an unneutered female cat on heat, there is very little that can stop them from following their natural instincts. Cats can travel long distances to find a mate, which can make them encounter all sorts of dangers. If you know that there is a female cat in season around, it's good to keep your male cat in a safe space, so you know he won't run away or get into trouble.
Similarly, if you've got an unneutered female cat, but don't want her to have unplanned kittens, the best way to prevent this and keep her safe is to keep her indoors. If she's used to being outside in the fresh air though, being held up in the house can be stressful for both of you. By giving your cat her own catio, she can still feel the wind in her fur, but you can keep an eye on her and make sure you keep your cat safe.
Protecting wildlife in your garden
There's no way around it, cats are predators, and even if you think your cat wouldn't hurt a fly, once the opportunity arises and the instinct kicks in, your cat will go in for the kill.
Cats do pose a threat to the wildlife in your garden, be it rodents or small birds, and in the long run free roaming cats can affect the ecosystem. If you want to keep your cat outdoors, but don't want them to kill for fun, the best thing you can do is to provide them with an outdoor enclosure where they are kept at a safe distance from wildlife, while still enjoying the great outdoors.
Where can you put your catio?
The garden is the most obvious place to put a catio, either freestanding or attached to your house or a window. You can get a portable catio that can be moved around the garden, but for safety and comfort it's better to invest in a solid cat run that will withstand all types of weather.
If you live in a flat and have a balcony or a roof terrace, you can get custom catios for smaller spaces. Omlet's Balcony Cat Run is a great solution, but you can also build a catio specific to your building.
Which catio should you get?
If you've got the skills and knowledge required to build a catio yourself there are lots of images and building plans online that might help. Building a catio yourself allows you to create the exact cat enclosure you want, but it will require a substantial amount of work and money.
A better option would be to get an outdoor cat enclosure that has been created just for that purpose, like Omlet's catios. These super safe cat enclosures have been used by cat owners for many years, and guarantee both safety and ease of use. You can place it anywhere in your garden, and even connect it to your house.
The other advantage over a DIY run is that it requires virtually no maintenance. No painting, repairing mesh or repairing rotten wood panels.
If you live in a flat and want to give your cat some fresh air, a balcony catio is a great alternative.
What can you add to your catio?
Once you've got your cat enclosure set up, you have the fun activity ahead to accessorise it with useful, fun and stimulating things that will make your pets' time in the catio more exciting. Here are some things you might want to consider.
Outdoor cat tree
A cat tree that is designed for outdoor use is a great addition to any catio. The Omlet Freestyle Outdoor Cat Tree is a completely customisable solution that has been designed for both the Omlet Catio and DIY cat runs. It's available with a wide range of accessories so you can create a custom catio playground for your cats.
The core of the Freestyle is a vertical pole that you attach to your run, to which you can attach steps, platforms, scratching posts and cosy spots like dens and hammocks with easy to use brackets. You can also connect two or more poles together with bridges and ramps. This is a great way for your cat to get exercise while also having a really good time.
An Outdoor Cat Tree is the perfect addition to your catio, giving your cats the chance to exercise and play.
If you want your cats to have a safe outdoor space every day of the year, it's a good idea to invest in some covers to attach to the run. Omlet has custom made run covers that attach to the roof or side of the run with handy bungee hooks. You can choose clear covers that let the sun in, or heavy duty once that provide shade on warm days. Or you can go for a combination of the two to give your feline friend the choice!
Cat shelves are another good way of using the vertical, often unused space in your run. Omlet's fabric shelves fasten securely to the side of the catio, and give your feline friends the opportunity to climb up and enjoy fresh air and sunshine from a soft hammock-style spot.
Porch and partitions
If you're worried your cat might slip through your legs and run off as soon as you open the door to the catio, it's a good idea to add a two door security system. Omlet has got a brilliant cat run porch solution that allows you close one door behind you before you open the next.
Another way of upgrading catio spaces is to add partitions. They are perfect if you want to slowly introduce two cats to each other on neutral ground where they can see and sniff each other, but not actually have to get too close.
Omlet's Cat Shelves easily fasten to the side of your catio, and gives your cat a space to sunbathe.
Connect to your house or window
If you want to give your cat access to their catio without you having to let them in and out every time, you can create solutions to connect it to your house. You could do this by adding a meshed tunnel from a window. There are pre-made kits for this that you might want to check out if you're building a catio.
Another possibility would be to place the cat enclosure close enough to your house that your cat can move between inside and outside via an open door or window. Just make sure the catio is securely fastened to the house so that your pet won't be able to escape.