There is no question that allowing cats to free-roam outdoors can significantly shorten their lives. While outdoors, a cat must contend with traffic, not-so-nice neighbors, pests and disease, and wild animals - even predators in some areas. These are just some of the reasons that many cat parents choose to keep their cats indoors. But did you know that there are also several benefits to providing your cat with access to the outdoors?
Cats that spend time outdoors tend to have lower stress levels, healthier weights and reduced “bad” behaviors indoors. But when allowed to free-roam they risk a shorter lifespan, and can even have an impact on local wildlife if allowed to hunt for birds or other small animals. A catio is an excellent solution that allows cats to enjoy all the positive aspects of being outside while protecting them (and the local wildlife!) from harm. Catios are fully-enclosed structures for your cat that are placed outside. The structure is typically built of a mesh or screen material that allows the cat to experience all of the sights and sounds of the outdoors from safely inside their cat enclosure.
Catios come in a variety of styles and sizes depending on your needs and preferences. When selecting the best catio for your cat, there are a number of factors that might influence your final decision. This could be anything from cost to appearance - or a combination of factors - but no matter what you are looking for there is a solution out there for you!
Pre-Made Catio or Playpen
If you are looking for the most affordable catio, then you can find a number of pre-built catios and cat playpens in online marketplaces such as Wayfair, Amazon, or Walmart. These types of catios are typically fully-assembled and just need to be set in place when you get them home, making them ready for use nearly immediately! Others may require some minor assembly, but this is typically similar to the type of assembly you might expect for a new piece of furniture. There are many different styles and designs available that include perches and sheltered areas to provide your cat with a variety of places to lounge. However, most are limited in size, typically made of low-quality materials, and are not customizable.
Traditional Catio Built by Handyman
If you live in a particularly cat-friendly city, then you might find a local catio builder that can design and build a catio right on-site. The added benefit of a catio-specific builder is that they often have the ability to think like a cat and design a catio that will be interesting for your cat - they might even be able to include interesting elements like scratching poles and climbing trees.
If there isn’t a specialty builder in your area, you’re not completely out of luck! A local well-regarded handyman would surely be happy to build a catio to your specifications. While some may not be able to think like a cat, any experienced handyman should have the skills required for building this type of structure.
A catio builder or handyman can work on-site from beginning to end to create a custom fit catio. They handle the engineering and construction and can oftentimes create a catio that looks like an extension of the home. However, it is important to keep in mind that the materials, time, and labor can add up quickly making this option one of the more expensive ones!
DIY Catio from Plans
A quick internet search for a DIY catio will turn up several options for catio plans. If you enjoy working on DIY projects and are looking to save a little bit of money on construction, this option just might be for you! DIY catio plans generally include a materials list that takes the guesswork out of it, and step-by-step instructions guide you through the entire building process.
Of course, the additional cost of materials varies, so there is no set final cost for a DIY catio. Additionally, you might find that not all of the items called for on the materials list are available locally, which may cause you to substitute materials and also impact your budget and potentially the durability and longevity of the completed catio. Plans can be altered or customized, but doing so may result in unintended outcomes or additional materials, labor, and cost.
While a catio built from DIY plans can provide your cat with a larger space than a pre-built catio and might be less costly than one built by a catio builder or handyman, the length of time it takes to complete the catio is fully dependent on you and the time you have available to dedicate to the project. It is also important to think about what tools might be required and ensure that you have them available throughout the build.
DIY Catio from Scratch
If you consider yourself to be very handy, then you might even choose to design and build a catio completely from scratch - and may already have all of the necessary tools! This option would give you the freedom to create something that is totally customized to your needs and you can pick and choose the types of materials that you prefer. While you may certainly see some savings in labor and construction, you might find that the cost of materials is higher than anticipated by the end of the project. Additionally, if you are limited on time - planning, engineering, and building your own catio from scratch might take longer than expected to complete.
Modular Catio Enclosures
This alternative option is a hybrid of a pre-built catio and a DIY catio. They generally allow you to create a larger catio than a pre-made catio but are more affordable and easier to assemble and install than a custom-built traditional style catio. And bonus - their application tends to be more flexible so they can create really fun and enriching spaces for cats! Modular catios are fabricated in sections, or subassemblies, by the catio provider and then shipped directly to you for final assembly and installation. Separate components such as tunnels, bridges, or other add-ons can also be secured together, to the cat enclosure, or in between multiple enclosures to create the final catio design.
Some catio providers’ designs are more customizable than others depending on the materials used, but all usually have a variety of options so you can find the right combination of pieces for your space. These types of catios are great as “mix-and-match” pieces that allow for an infinite number of ways the pieces can be combined to create a one-of-a-kind catio!
Premium catio providers, such as Habitat Haven, even offer complimentary one-on-one expert design assistance for a completely custom catio solution when you aren’t able to find exactly what you envision or just aren’t sure where to start. They handle the design and engineering with your guidance and fabricate the pieces for DIY assembly and installation - no other modular catio provider offers the expertise and support that you find with Habitat Haven.
Catios come in all shapes, sizes, and styles with varying costs and assembly required. When determining which catio solution is best for you and your cats, beginning at the end can sometimes lead you to your starting point! It’s helpful to keep your final vision in mind and ask yourself some questions about how you might make that vision come to life:
What will the finished catio look like? How big will it be? Should it blend in with the home or do you prefer something more modern and minimal? How involved would you like to be in the designing, building, or installation processes? What is your budget?
If you are not quite sure where to start, Habitat Haven can help! They offer a wide range of pre-configured catio kits, but also offer “Build Your Own” solutions that allow you to pick and choose not only your catio’s dimensions but also which components and accessories you’d like to incorporate into your design. And of course, they are always happy to work with you on a custom design as well, no matter how simple or complicated.
Get started today!