Looking for a simple DIY catio idea? Floppycats reader and Facebook enthusiast, Joel, posted a photo of his catification project on our Facebook page, and I asked him if he would be so kind as to share it on the site. Here's how he did it! Thanks to Joel for taking the time to do this write-up!
Why You Might Want a DIY Catio Idea
One of the things that Ragdoll owners (or any indoor only cat owner) might regret is not letting your fur-baby enjoy the outdoor experiences of bird watching, bug chasing, and stretching out in the warm sunshine for a sun-bath.
Allowing your Ragdoll to roam free outdoors is a risky proposition since most Ragdolls are very passive and not very good at defending themselves from dogs, foxes, coyotes, raptors and other outdoor hazards.
But there is a relatively simple and easy way to let your cats enjoy the outside portion of their little world without endangering themselves.
Our two Ragdolls Leo and Shelby loved to spend time at the various window perches I installed around our house. After watching how much they enjoyed this activity, I decided to put my handyman skills to good use and build them a small outdoor enclosure they could access from a convenient window in our kitchen.
Where to Source Inspiration
I had seen a few catio pictures from various Floppycatters members in the past, but when I saw the fantastic enclosure built by Margret Henderson’s husband for their cats I just had to try building something for ours!
How would you accomplish this you ask? Build your kitties a catio!
A catio is a small (or as big as you want) enclosure connected to your home so your cats can go out into the enclosure and feel like they are outside while being protected from all the hazards that letting them roam free would entail.
A catio is normally built using a wooden frame covered in wire fencing or chicken wire. If you want to keep nasty mosquitoes and fleas off your kitties while they are out on a catio you can add a covering of fine screen around the outside of the wire fencing to keep these pests out.
Our catio is a simple 48 inch long by 24 inch wide box that is mounted on a cantilevered frame outside our kitchen window.
Our catio first build
NOTE: My first build attempt used pressure treated wood. I have since learned that the chemical used in the pressure treating is very poisonous and could be harmful to animals. I have since COMPLETELY rebuilt my catio using plain, UNTREATED wood.
While keeping up with things at Floppycats – I saw the article about toxic air-fresheners. I checked into pressure treated wood and discovered that the chemical used to pressure-treat wood is HIGHLY toxic.
I would not want to expose Leo and Shelby to any harmful chemicals so I had to re-do some of my construction and use just PLAIN – untreated wood. Once I had gotten past that little setback I had our two catios done in about a week.
The first thing I needed to do was find some examples of other cat owners catio designs and maybe some plans with materials and dimensions that I could copy for my own design.
Luckily other Floppycatters on Facebook had already been posting pics of their own catios. I saw lots of great catio installations but really liked Margret Henderson’s the best. I could not build something as nice as Margaret’s but I was inspired to create something within my budget and carpentry skill set.
I also found quite a few plans for building them on-line. One good example for on-line building plans is at CATIO SPACES and if you use Catio Spaces Code "FLOPPYCATS" it helps out Jenny with no extra cost to you.
They have some great designs for DIY folks like me.
What I decided on was to create two small window catios that would measure 48 inches long, 24 inches wide, and 32 inches high. I would use pressure treated wood so it would resist insects and water damage while being outside (THIS TURNED OUT TO BE AN ERROR – more on that in a minute) and cheap wire fencing that was good and stiff instead of chicken wire so it would give the structure some strength.
I would then wrap the outside of the wire fence with fine screen to keep mosquitoes, flies, bees, and other pests out of the catio and also prevent them from coming right into the house.
The cats would need a doorway to go out – so bugs would be able to come right in. I have medium carpentry skills, and lots of tools (I’m a guy after all :P) so I was confident I could create something suitable
I drew my own set of plans on some grid paper and headed out to Lowes to purchase supplies.
The floor is a single piece of Birchwood ply that has been painted with deck stain to protect the plywood from warping in wet weather. The frame is built from square 1 X 1 inch wood lumber.
The outside fencing is standard heavy duty chicken wire type fencing used for building outside animal enclosures like you would for goats, chickens, or rabbits. It is not the thin hex shaped fence, but the heavy square wire type.
There is a layer of fine hole screening sandwiched between the wood frame pieces and the heavy outside wire fence to keep bugs out of the enclosure and out of the house. The cats can see out very well while the mosquitoes, flies, bees, etc. are kept out. Below are a few pics of the construction in my work shop:
I had lots of fun building these two small catios.
Here are a few pics of the progress in my basement:
The materials used were all simple and available at any Lowes or Home depot. For the floor I used a single 48 x 24 inch of ½ inch birch plywood that was waterproofed with deck sealer and allowed to dry thoroughly.
I prevent any contact with kitty paws by using a piece of green outdoor carpet to completely cover the floor and give the cats something soft to lay on. The frame is built from 1 x 1 square stick lumber. I use stainless steel screws throughout to prevent rusting. There are cheap little metal corner braces at each corner to make the stick frame rigid.
The roof is made from tinted plastic corrugated sheeting used by farmers for chicken coops and outdoor sheds. Its lightweight and allows some light to pass through to make the inside of the catio bright and cheery.
The roof panel is cut so that there is a 1 inch overlap on all four sides to keep water off the inside when it rains. The floor is lined with green outdoor carpet made from 100 % recycled water bottles. It dries quickly after getting wet and has no unpleasant odor.
I used plastic mosquito screen around the outside of the wire fence to seal the box from bugs.
Since my catios are small and removable, I mounted them in front of two of our kitchen windows. The catios are mounted on a cantilevered frame just like an AC unit and allow the catio box to be removed for winter storage.
Once I completed the box structure and attached the screen, chicken wire, and put the roof on, I looked online to see how to best attach the catio to the side of house. I found a simple picture online of a small catio attached in a similar way and copied that design. It is basically the same as supporting an AC unit outside the window:
You can see in these pics how they are mounted on side of house. The opening in the catio wire fence lines up with the lower half of the double-hung window. The cats jump up to the window perch board, then walk straight out onto the catio.
To seal the catio box to the window frame and keep bugs out – I used ¾ inch foam pipe insulation. It’s cheap, soft, and easily cut to length to fit around the edge of the catio. The soft foam smushes in between the catio and window frame to create a tight seal. This has worked very well so far and only very rarely does a bug sneak in to our house.
The catio box is held to the cantilevered frame with two short stainless steel screws so they are easily removable for storage in winter. This keeps them from sitting all winter in wet snow and warping the floor of the catio.
For the inside carpeting I used a green outdoor carpet available at any Lowes or Home depot. It’s cheap and completely waterproof.
Now I have two cute little outdoor spaces that Leo and Shelby can enjoy the outdoors at our home safely. It was not difficult to build and could be accomplished by any handy person with basic carpentry skills and some tools.
How do they like it?
Check it out!
Now both Leo and Shelby can safely enjoy outdoor time any day its not too hot or rainy. They can access the catio right through the kitchen window. The opening of the catio is sealed to the window frame with simple ¾ inch foam pipe insulation. So if your handy or have a husband or family member who is, let your kitties get a taste of the outdoors with your very own catio !
Read more about Ragdoll cat Leo:
Do you have a catio for your cat?