Catios: DIY Catio Plans and Catio Design Ideas

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As many of you know, I choose to let Charlie and Trigg outside in our fenced in backyard.  Whether or not to let your cat outside, can be a hard choice for some.  If you feel that your cat needs to spend time outdoors just as much as you do, then you might consider a catio, which is a great solution for those on the fence (and even those that have indoor only cats). Even house cats love to lounge in the sun and feel the breeze of the chill wind through their fur. But how do you make sure they are safe outside considering that they are not used to defending themselves from cars, other animals outside, or even other people? The answer is installing a catio. A catio a patio for cats that is closed with special fencing so that your cat will be safely kept inside.

Can you build your own catio?

Yes, you most certainly can if you have some experience with building outdoor furniture and fencing. Ultimately, a catio can be just as large as you want it to be and you can make it fit specifically in your house. You have to measure the area where you want the catio to be and then make a well-documented plan so that you know what materials to buy.

On the other hand, if you do not want to build your own catio, there are builders that specialize in catios whom you can call. But even in this case, you have to know what type of catio you want to build and maybe even have a design ready. This will make the entire process much easier for the builders, but also for yourself.

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Catio safety measures

Building a catio will be fairly simple, but there are some key aspects you have to keep in mind in terms of safety. You can read more about how to build a safe catio here, but here are some notable takeouts:

The fencing in the catio is extremely important – it has to be large-weaved enough to prevent the cat from getting out, but still allow proper air flow inside the catio.
The catio must have proper fencing on the entire surface. There should be no interruptions to the fencing because the cat could try to escape through there and end up getting hurt.

The upper part of the catio should be made out of a solid waterproof material so that it protects the cat from any unforeseen changes in weather it may encounter.

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The main parts of a catio

Catios come in many shapes and sizes, but all of them include some basic elements. Here are the main parts of all catios:

The cage made out of fencing – All catios have a fence exterior which is tailored to fit the space where they are installed. There are even catios for balconies, which can either be the entire balcony closed up with catio panels, or a cage-type catio placed on the balcony or terrace.

The entrance to the catio – For catios that communicate with the house through a window or a door, the entrance will be that, but for other cage-type catios, you have to build an entrance. This is typically made out of the fence and it features a solid lock system. Another option for outdoor catios is to connect them with the house though a catio tunnel. The cat gets out of the house and goes through the tunnel to get inside the catio.

The ledges and stairs inside the catio – Once the cat is inside, it will has to sit and lounge on ledges that you install. You can experiment with these, all in the line of safety of course, and build a true amusement park for your cat in the catio by using stairs and indoor tunnels to connect the ledges.

Lounging Areas inside the catio – Your cat will most certainly enjoy playing in the catio, but it also needs a cat bed to sit on and relax inside. You get to decide where to put it.

Play Stations inside the catio – Depending on how large you want your catio to be, you can also put in toys, scratchers and cat trees in the catio for your cat’s enjoyment.

Food and Water Areas inside the catio – These are especially necessary in catios that are placed outside and that do not communicate with the house. If your cat does not have access to food and water by going back inside the house, then it is crucial that you supply it inside the catio.

Litter Box Area inside the catio – This is a must for catios that do not communicate with the house. If your cat is going to spend time inside the catio and enjoy it, it needs to have a litter box present, otherwise it will become distressed.

Catio Design Ideas

Now that you know everything a catio must feature, it’s time to see some actual catio models. We hope that these will serve as inspiration for your catio project. Here are some DIY catio design ideas you can actually use:

The Window Box Catio

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This is the simplest type of catio available, but your cat is guaranteed to love it. It is box-shaped and made out of catio fencing with a waterproof roof.

This is a type of catio that you can install in front of a window so that your cat can watch the birds outside in perfect safety.

For this type of catio, you will not have space for a lot of toys and you will not need to put in a litter box because it communicates directly to your house window and your cat can go inside whenever it pleases.

As for food and water, these are optional for the window box catio. Here you can find the pdf catio plans for this type of catio in three different sizes.

The Window Haven Catio

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The window haven catio brings an instant boost in space and options. It is also made to be connected to a house window, it also features a waterproof roof, but it offers much more space inside for your cat.

The window connects to a ledge, where your cat can sit on, which connects to several other ledges in the catio, placed higher and lower than the one at the entrance.

This catio model does also features an outside entrance for you, so that you can go inside if you need to get your cat or clean up the catio. The litter box is optional because your cat can run inside the house to its regular litter box, but placing some food and water might be a good idea.

You have plenty of space to install toys in this catio model, so you can experiment all you want. Here you can find the catio plan in pdf and this model comes in two different sizes, so you can go with the maxi version and create a true cat haven.

The Extra Large Catio – The Sanctuary

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This catio model is the deluxe version of a catio, which your furry companion is simply going to love. It features a main entrance though the window, which is connected to a ledge system leading to large lounging space, where you can even place a cat bed.

It continues down to another generous ledge, where it can jump to the floor from. The entrance ledge is also connected to a system of upper ledges so that your cat has plenty of space to explore. The sanctuary model also features a door where you can enter the catio and spend time with your kitty.

You even have space to put in a chair and a table for yourself so that the catio is a lounge space for both you and your cat. For this model, you have plenty of space to install all kinds of toys and scratchers for your cat to enjoy.

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The litterbox is not strictly necessary because the cat can go inside the house whenever it needs, but considering how much time it is going to spend in there, placing a litter box might be a good idea. The same goes for food and water.

After all the exercise you cat will be doing in there, it is going to want to drink some water and it is a good idea to have it there for it. Installing a cat fountain might be a nice touch because it can keep the water cold at all times. Here is the plan for this type of catio in pdf and, like the others, it comes in two different sizes.

The Outdoor Oasis Catio + Tunnel

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As far as catios go, you simply can’t get any better than this. The outdoor oasis catio model is a true adventure land for your cat. It offers a very generous cage outside, which is connected to you house though a tunnel. How amazing is that?

If you have a kitty door in your house, you can link the catio to the house there via a tunnel made out of catio fencing. The main part of the catio features a waterproof rood and a main entrance where you can go into the catio yourself. The oasis catio is ideal for your ward and your cat is simply going to love it.

It offers enough space for you to install some furniture for yourself inside the catio so that you can spend time with your cat outside. It has ledge systems on the upper, middle and lower part of the cage and on the floor, your cat can enjoy sleeping in the grass. Optionally, you can install a flooring system if you do not want it to be directly on your lawn.

For this type of catio, you should put in a litter box, as well as food and water. This is going to be your cat’s new outdoor residence, so you can make it welcoming for it! Here is the pdf plan for this amazing catio, which also comes in two different sizes.

As you can see, there are so many amazing options out there for catios. No longer does your cat have to longingly look outside the window, now it can step outside in its very own catio and you can be assured that it is in a safe space where it will not be harmed in any way. Do you have a catio for your kitty? Which one of these models does it resemble to the most? If you’re only just setting up your catio, which one of these would you choose? Tell us all about your catio adventures in the comments section below!

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Comments (12)

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  1. SUPER FABULOUS & PAWESOME POST, Jenny honey! What great & fascinating info! TYSVM!! No catio here as we apartment dwell and it’s not possible to have one. But, I lurve all the amazing catio ideas and models shown! WOW! 🙂 <3

    BIg hugs & lots of love & purrs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3 <3 <3

      1. LOL…funny story about our “french balcony” (as advertised by the apt complex)…the most weight it can take is two or three flower pots. It’s a pathetic little faux balcony. My two regrets about living here is just one bathroom (!) and no real balcony. Other than that it’s really a lovely place to live. 🙂 <3

  2. Absolutely AWESOME article Jenny!!!

    I rent my house so building a catio onto the house was not an option for us. Instead, I used a kit to build an outdoor enclosure for FLUFFY. The steel frame clicks together and the netting is attached by cable ties (or velcro depending on the model). I chose the 1.8m model with cable ties. I also attached a shade sail over the roof and on one of the sides.

    Over 500 cable ties later and my fingers were very sore for a few weeks. I underestimated just how many cable ties would be needed to make it totally secure!!! But it was absolutely worth it…

    It would have been so much easier as a two-person job, but I’m fiercely independent and I like doing things myself. I was also grieving the loss of my dog so building the enclosure kept my mind occupied. As long as I was “problem-solving” the grief was not so overwhelming.

    I used a sharp pair of scissors and punched lots of tiny holes in the shade-cloth roof to allow the wind to vent through. I didn’t want the shade-cloth to act like a balloon and lift the enclosure up & away in a strong wind!!! The manufacturer recommended removing the shade-cloth in strong winds, but I prefer my way. The holes also allow some rain in (which I really like).

    I grow cat grass (Dactylis Glomerata) in the enclosure and Australian native violets. There is also a small amount of mint and some artificial palms. The gardener in me CRINGED at the artificial plants, but I didn’t want to risk Fluff’s health with dangerous plants. I also “weaved” a lot artificial vines and ferns through the back netting of the enclosure to create a dappled light effect. Then I clustered my real pot plants around the outside of the enclosure…

    I used lots of artificial turf pegs and hammered them over the bottom of the steel frame to anchor it into the ground. I also used different textures on the “floor” of the enclosure. There are some pavers, some bark chips, and some artificial turf. A chair, a cat scratcher and a small round cement topped table (which he loves!)

    For me, it’s very similar to building an aquarium. I started off with a square, empty “cage” (which FLUFF hated!) But once I added the shade-cloth roof and created the dappled light effect he became much more interested!!! Sometimes he likes to pose like the King of the Jungle on top of his cat scratcher, other times he likes to hide in the corner under the table and peer out. Sometimes he just lounges casually on his chair.

    The enclosure will never be “finished”. It’s an obsession of mine that brings both of us great joy.

    https://catnets.com.au/collections/premium-portable-enclosure/products/premium-portable-cat-enclosure-1-8m

    Catio Australia Portable

    Portable Catio Australia

    Portable Catio Australia 2

    1. thanks for sharing, pam! sorry about the loss of your dog. sounds like fluff has quite the space! i love the metaphor of the aquarium! do you have a photo or two to share? if you email them to me, I can add them to your comment =)

  3. PS: I should point out that I never leave FLUFF outside alone in the enclosure. I always supervise him. If it rains I bring him inside, and when a wasp flies in (like it did this morning) I bring him inside pronto!!! Mine is a portable enclosure, whereas a Catio is a more permanent structure. Portable enclosures are a terrific option for people who rent and I highly recommend them.

      1. Mine was AU $365 for 1.8m because I used the model with the cable ties. I think it looks a lot better, but it was also a lot more work. The ones that use velcro tabs to attach the net to the frame would be much easier & faster to erect & dismantle. They use that style at pet adoption days.

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