How to build a custom patio for your cat

The great outdoors (even if it’s just your backyard) is filled with exciting experiences for your cat, such as new sights, sounds and smells to keep them entertained. However, these new experiences can come with increased risks for your cat, like moving vehicles and roaming predators. A cat patio (or “catio”) is a great way to provide your feline friend with a safe, enclosed environment to enjoy the fresh air. Here are some thoughts to help you build your own.

Best locations for your catio

If you already have a deck or patio, this can be a great starting point. It’s much easier to modify an existing pergola, or to enclose the empty space under a deck, than to build something from scratch. The ideal location should allow your cat to enter the enclosure on their own, via a cat door installed in a screen door or window, for example. It could also be a simple and cozy window box, just large enough for your cat to lounge in the sun.

Photo credit Jessica Benson - ER veterinarian

Planning your custom patio

Cats love climbing and feel safer on higher ground. Even a small catio can be enjoyable if it’s high enough and filled with vertical shelves and perches. If you want to join your cat inside their outdoor space, you can build a larger enclosure of 6 ft. to 10 ft. per side, allowing enough room for some human-sized outdoor furniture and home décor.

Photo credit Jessica Benson - ER veterinarian

Building materials for your outdoor cat enclosure

Even if it’s made from leftover materials, a catio should be sturdy, both to keep your cat inside and to keep uninvited guests out. A basic structure can be built out of lumber and covered in wire mesh (which is more durable than screening). The wire can simply be stapled in place, using a staple gun.

Unless your catio is already resting on a finished floor surface (like an existing deck), make sure to include a floor to prevent animals from digging tunnels or having to clean muddy prints inside your house. Bricks, paving stones and wood are all great options. If you want your custom patio to be enjoyable all year long, consider building a permanent roof using clear polycarbonate sheets to keep the snow and rain away.

Make it fun!

Photo credit Jessica Benson - ER veterinarian

Once your catio is built, it’s time to fill it with fun things! Shelves are a must, to provide your cat with enjoyable views and climbing spots. If the enclosure is in direct sunlight, include some shade like a bench, cat shelter or a stretched piece of cloth. Having a water bowl or fountain is important, though you may want to avoid food to keep rodents and critters away. As a finishing touch, throw in some of your cat’s favourite toys, a scratching post and a few cat-safe plants, like catnip, basil or grass.

"Once the warm weather hits, our clowder spend almost every minute possible outside! They love being able to patrol the neighborhood squirrel population and enjoy soaking up the sunshine. We love it too, for a project that only took about a day we’ve gotten so much joy out of it" -  Jessica Benson - ER veterinarian


Let your veterinarian know

Even if a catio keeps your cat safe from cars and predators, being outdoors still exposes them to unseen dangers like parasites and diseases. Ask your veterinarian about vaccines and parasite protection to keep your cat healthy.