5/31/2022 | By Kari Smith

You want your precious feline to be happy as well as safe and healthy. Letting him wander outside makes him happy, but it comes with downsides. With a “catio” – a sort of “cat patio” – you and your kitty can have the best of both worlds.

Never heard of a catio? You are not alone, but catios are becoming increasingly popular for cat owners. Read on to find out how a catio could be a great outdoor solution to keep your curious kitty stimulated, happy, and safe.

What is a catio?

A catio is an outdoor enclosure that gives your cat access to the indoors through a cat door, which can be mounted in a window, door, or exterior wall. The range of cat patio types is as diverse as cat owners are. They can be simple or luxurious, and range in design from window boxes and tunnels to full-sized screened-in sanctuaries that provide space for human seating as well. Flooring can be grass or dirt, wood or composite decking, pavers, or artificial turf. They usually include a variety of shelves, perches, and scratching posts.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of limiting a cat to indoor and secure outdoor areas are important.

Wildlife dangers

cat on a patio, with a chipmunk safely on the other side of the glass. photo by Susan Sheldon, Dreamstime. A "catio" can help you keep your kitty safe and healthy while protecting wildlife. Use these ideas to create your pet's personal cat patio.

Free roaming cats can be a danger to wildlife. Songbirds, lizards, rabbits, squirrels, voles, and other small mammals are at risk from outdoor cat attacks. Although some of these seem like nuisance pests, they play important roles in our environment and ecosystem. A recent study found that house cats killed anywhere between 14.2 to 38.9 prey per 100 acres, per year. That averages out to about 3.5 prey each month per cat.

The Audubon Society reported that domestic cats kill 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds a year, just in the lower 48 states of the U.S. Considering the staggering global decline in bird populations, keeping your cat indoors is one significant way you can help.

On the flip side, roaming cats outdoors can fall prey to wildlife such as stray dogs, coyotes – or even other aggressive cats.

Exposure to other cats

Interaction with other outdoor cats can lead to exposure to feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus, distemper, rabies, and many other diseases. In addition, outdoor cats can pass fleas, ear mites, worms, and other undesirable nuisances. Unfixed animals can also become pregnant, causing unwanted litters of kittens.

Related: 8 houseplants that are safe for cats

Other benefits

  • Bored cats can be destructive cats. Cats who are bored or anxious may begin to fight with other pets in the home, have litter box issues, or scratch, soil, or destroy household furnishings.
  • A larger catio will give your cat the space to run, jump, and get some exercise. Given that obesity can cause serious health issues in cats, this could be an added benefit for an otherwise sedentary cat.

What type of catio is right for you?

cat in a simple screen catio. photo by Petrarichili, Dreamstime. A "catio" can help you keep your kitty safe and healthy while protecting wildlife. Use these ideas to create your pet's personal cat patio.

The design of your catio is limited only by your imagination – and somewhat by your home and budget. Whether you choose to DYI from purchased plans or your own imagination, or purchase a premade catio, the details are up to you. Your catio can be the size of a dog crate outside of a condo window, or a fully screened-in porch on a home. Whatever design you choose, be sure your catio is escape proof and protected from the elements.

Be creative about what you put into your catio. You may want to leave food and water indoors, as these can attract insects or vermin. Leaving a litter box in a larger catio should discourage a cat from leaving waste in other areas of the structure. Include scratching posts, boxes and shelves to climb on, perhaps even a basket with a cozy blanket for basking in the sunshine.

Make sure that your catio accesses a safe and quiet space for your kitty. If the catio faces a neighbor’s yard with a dog that barks incessantly, this is likely to be stressful for the cat, which may defeat its purpose.

Will my cat like or use his cat patio?

If your cat has always been an indoor cat, it may take some time for him to get used to the concept of going outside. Offering treats or catnip may be a good way to coax your cat into the space for the first time. Never force your cat into the space; rather, allow him to discover the space on his own. It may take some time, but be patient! Soon enough, your kitty will be enjoying a warm nap in the sun and purring gratefully!

Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith