If you want to let your cat outside safely, usually installing a catio is a great way for them to enjoy the great outdoors without too much worry. Check out the DIY catio plans and design ideas on this page to find one that suits you.
As many of you know, I let Charlie and Trigg outside in our fenced-in backyard. But, whether or not to let your cat outside can be a hard choice for some.
If you feel your cat needs to spend time outdoors just as much as you do, you might consider a catio, which is an excellent solution for those on the fence (and even those with 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 ensure they are safe outside, considering that they are not used to defending themselves from cars, other animals, or even other people? The answer is installing a catio.
What Is a Catio?
A catio is a patio for cats that is closed with special fencing so your cat will be safely kept inside. It is an excellent way of letting your cat enjoy the outdoors without you having to worry about their safety. It also means that as natural predators, cats can enjoy the outdoors without bringing any prey into your home.
Build Your Catio
Yes, you most certainly can if you have experience building outdoor furniture and fencing. Ultimately, a DIY catio can be just as large as you want it to be, and you can make it fit precisely in your house. First, 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 DIY cat enclosure, some builders specialize in catios whom you can call. But even in this case, you must 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 and yourself.
How to Build a Catio:
Catio safety measures Building a catio will be pretty simple, but there are some key aspects you must keep in mind regarding safety. You can read more about how to build a safe catio here, but here are some notable takeouts.
The time it takes to build your catio will depend entirely on your experience with DIY, and the scale of the project you're taking on, including how many components you're adding.
A small window box catio could be assembled in a couple of hours by any cat owner who is handy with power tools and a spirit level, but then you will likely need to add a couple of coats of paint to the catio to not only make it look attractive but to help protect it from decay.
Larger structures will take more time, although they aren't the most complicated of projects to build. You could put one together in a day, although if you aren't comfortable with homemade structures then hiring a handyman to do it for a small commission once you have everything you need might make more sense.
Once you've completed the first step of the project and planned your build, you need to consider the materials list and also the tools you'll need. If you're buying a ready-to-build structure then you will likely just need a power drill with screw bits and possibly a hammer, but if you're sourcing your own lumber you'll need a saw to cut pieces to length. A miter saw will make this much easier if you have one or can borrow one.
The obvious first choice when making your DIY catio plans is in the lumber you'll want to use to make the frame. Cedar is the best choice because it's highly durable, resistant to weather, and looks great. However, some people prefer pine or other cheaper materials, but they will need more maintenance and care over time.
The fencing in the DIY outdoor cat enclosure is essential - it has to be large-weaved enough to prevent the cat from getting out but still allow proper airflow inside the catio.
The catio must have adequate 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 of a solid waterproof material to protect the cat from any unforeseen changes in weather it may encounter.
You also need to ensure it is adequately secured to the unit, so adding a couple of roof rafters to fix the top of the catio is a good idea.
Finally, don't forget the most basic materials – screws! Ensure you've got the right length to fix each piece together correctly.
DIY Catio Plan
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 is made out of fencing - All catios have a fenced 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. You'll also need to plan an entrance.
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 features a solid lock system. Another option for outdoor catios is to connect them with the house through 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 have to sit and lounge on the shelves you install. You can experiment with these, all in the line of safety, and build a proper 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 enjoy playing in it, but it also needs a cat bed to sit on and relax inside. You get to decide where to put it. You will also probably want shelves where your cat can unwind too, platforms where your felines can sit and soak up the sun.
Play Stations inside the catio - Depending on how large you want your catio to be, you can also put toys, scratchers, and cat trees in the catio for your cat's enjoyment.
Food and Water Areas inside the catio - These are essential for catios 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, you must 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.
Building the catio door
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 a gate. This is typically made out of the fence and features a solid lock system. Make sure that when you build it, you use a solid latch that is easy to lock and unlock for humans but not for your pets.
Another option for outdoor catios is to connect them with the house through a catio tunnel. The cat gets out of the house and goes through the Tunnel to get inside the catio.
Building the catio shelves
Once the cat is inside, it will have to sit and lounge on ledges that you install. You can experiment with these, all in the line of safety, and build an actual amusement park for your cat in the catio by using stairs and indoor tunnels to connect the ledges.
Make sure that any shelves you build are secured in multiple places and that the lumber you use is thick enough to support your cat's weight once it has been secured in place.
Fitting the catio braces
The braces can be different elements. For example, if you're building a cage that rests on the ground, the braces are what you'll use to attach the catio frame to your home or to solidify the structure in the joints. For window box catios, you'd use braces to hold the box up, so there needs to be enough of them to hold your cat's weight.
Catio frame structure
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 use: Top 3 Amazing Plans to check out:
Catio Design Ideas
The Window Box Catio
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 type of catio 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 it 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
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 room inside for your cat.
The window connects to a ledge, which your cat can sit on, which connects to several other shelves in the catio, placed higher and lower than the one at the entrance.
This catio model also features an outside entrance to 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 with 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
This catio model is the deluxe version of a catio, which your furry companion will love. It features the main entrance through the window, which is connected to a ledge system leading to an ample 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 shelves 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 so that the catio is a lounge space for you and your cat. Finally, for this model, you have plenty of room to install all kinds of toys and scratchers for your cat to enjoy.
The litterbox is not strictly necessary because the cat can go inside the house whenever needed, but considering how much time it will be spent there, placing a litter box might be a good idea. The same goes for food and water.
After all the exercise your cat will be doing there, it will want to drink some water, and it is a good idea to have it there. Also, installing a cat fountain might be a nice touch because it can keep the water cold. 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
As far as catios go, you can't get any better than this. The outdoor oasis catio model is an actual adventure land for your cat. It offers a great cage outside, connected to your house through a tunnel. How amazing is that?
If you have a kitty door in your house, you can link the catio to the house via a tunnel made of catio fencing. The central part of the catio features a waterproof roof and the main entrance where you can go into the catio yourself.
The oasis catio is ideal for your ward, and your cat will love it. It offers enough space for you to install some furniture inside the catio so you can spend time with your cat outside.
It has ledge systems on the cage's upper, middle, and lower parts, 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.
Free catio plans – PDF download
Looking for some free PDFs to help you with your catio plan? Here are some catio ideas, starting with some window catio plans in various sizes:
- Window Box Catio Plans
- Window Haven Catio Plans
- Extra Large Sanctuary Catio Plans
- Outdoor Oasis Catio Plans
For this type of catio, you should put it in a litter box, as well as food and water. This will be your cat's new outdoor residence, so you can make it welcoming! Here is the pdf plan for this fantastic catio, which also comes in two different sizes. As you can see, there are so many great options for catios.
No longer does your cat have to look outside the window longingly; 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 the most? If you're setting up your catio, which one would you choose?
Tell us all about your catio adventures in the comments section below! If you want options for a whole yard, read our post on Containment Fences and Oscillot cat fence rollers. Then, shop CatioSpaces.com and use the promo code "FLOPPYCATS."
Reader Submitted Photos from the Haven Catio DIY Plan from Catio Spaces
Nancy submitted these gorgeous photos of her kitties enjoying the Haven Catio DIY Plan from Catio Spaces.
- Do you have photos of the building project?
No. I had this built by a painter that I had hired. I was away from the house while it was being built.
- What made you want to do a catio?
I wanted a safe area for the cats to enjoy being outside. We have hawks (that have grabbed and killed a chihuahua), coyotes, foxes, eagles, dogs, cars, etc.
- How did you decide on the design you wanted?
I wanted it to fit on my deck but still leave room for the grill and table, as I entertain a lot outside. The size mattered. I didn't want chicken wire and wanted it to blend into the house.
- Did you use a kit or do it yourself?
I bought catio plans online, and the painter I hired to stain the deck used those plans as a guide.
- Anything you would change about the current configuration?
I would have given more thought to ramps and platforms. Instead, I added a freestanding cat tree to make it easier for them to reach the upper level.
- Do your kitties seem to enjoy the catio?
They love it! There are bugs to eat, birds to watch in the nearby bushes, and great smells to breathe in. Plus, they like to join us out on the deck for parties.
- Any advice to a cat parent looking into a catio for their cats? Anything you wish you'd known before doing this?
Just think about where you are putting it. Mine is in the shade most of the day, so I opted for a transparent roof to let in more light. I also wanted to control when they could go out in it, so I just put it against a window and opened the window for them (and then closed it before dark when the bugs would come inside.)
One other thing that I'm glad I did was to add a door big enough for me so that I can get in there to sweep out leaves, sticks, etc., and also to be able to retrieve a stubborn cat that doesn't want to go back inside.
Catio Plan FAQs
How much does it cost to build a catio?
The cost of a catio can vary greatly depending on your chosen style and whether you're making it yourself or asking someone else to build it for you. The materials for a DIY catio can cost anywhere between $100 and $1000, with lumber prices fluctuating.
Expect to pay at least $300 if you're asking someone to build one for you, and if you want a completely custom one, then the price will likely be higher again, although you may find a cheaper option local to you.
What wood do I need to build a catio?
The best wood for a catio is cedar. It's strong, long-lasting, and durable. Of course, you should still treat it, but because it isn't absorbent, it won't warp under heavy rain, which will keep the structure solid and mean that you don't have to find a way to cover it during the winter.
You can use other woods or even a metal frame, but metal can rust, while other woods may need waterproofing and other treatments.
Are catios suitable for cats?
Catios are an excellent option for giving your cat extra room to explore and bask under the sun on a warm day. It's extra exercise, too, especially if you buy or build a larger one with plenty of stairs and shelves for your cat to climb.
Do cats like a catio?
Every cat is different, so there's no guarantee that your cat will like a catio, but many do. You can make it more appealing by adding play stations and places where the cat can rest and watch the world go by.
Is a catio worth it?
If you can afford the time and the money, a catio is usually a worthwhile addition to your home. It lets your cat enjoy the outdoors in a safe and comfortable space while you have peace of mind knowing they can't escape, attack small animals, or be attacked by larger ones.
Is it cruel to have a catio?
It is not considered cruel to have a catio. While some may argue that it could tease the cat if they have hunting instincts and see small animals outside the fencing, it's no different from an indoor cat having access to a window.
A catio allows your cat to enjoy the outdoors and extra space to roam while keeping the local wildlife safe. A catio would be cruel only if you confined them to the catio and didn't give them the freedom to get back indoors.