Happy cats are cats that are not bored and have access to scratching posts, catwalks and an enclosed outdoor area. Cats with such amenities tend to be less aggressive and less destructive. Spaces that provide this type of environment for cats are known as catios. The idea is to enable cat owners to provide their furry feline children the opportunity to exercise and spend time outside without having to worry about them running away or being attacked by predators like the neighbor’s dog.

A catio is a completely screened-in-patio created from existing space or added to the side of a house, deck, shed or garage. A catio can also be a completely freestanding structure. As reported on Cleveland.com by freelance real estate writer Jill Sell in a story titled “Make your cat crazy in love with your house or it will drive you crazy,” she points out that non-cat loving potential home buyers may steer clear of properties with a catio, but cat owners will love it. Then again, another advantage to a catio is the fact that the interior of the house is much less likely to have damage like clawed woodwork or soiled carpets.

Although catio kits are available for purchase, custom built catios may be preferable as they can be designed to match the individual requirements of each home. One must also take into consideration potential local zoning laws and/or homeowners’ association rules. Moreover, one must factor-in the time and cost of building a catio as well as considering whether it will be self-built or built by a professional contractor. Costs can get as high as thousands of dollars, but do not need to be expensive with some costing less than $100. Materials including hardware cloth, heavy-duty screening, shelves and wood polls can be utilized to craft outdoor enclosures or indoor catwalks. It all depends on the type of environment you want to create and the number of cats.

American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) member Ilona Rodan, DVM, DABVP, said, “Providing vertical space is so important for cats. Not only does it increase overall space available in the home, but it allows the cat to monitor the environment from a safe space up high. In multiple cat households, it allows cats to have space away from others when they want.” Dr. Rodan also cautions against building catwalks in a stairway or hallway because this creates an opportunity for cats to jump upon one another, particularly cats they don’t get along with.

A catio is a great and safe way to allow cats’ access to their natural environment as long as weather conditions are ideal. You want to avoid letting your cat(s) out when it is extremely hot or cold out, when it is storming or snowing.