So you want to build your own DIY catio huh?
You’ve check out the range of pre-made catio kits and decided you want something a bit more custom made for your space and cat?
Or perhaps you just prefer building things yourself instead of buying flat pack kits?
Either way, this post will help you to build your own DIY cat enclosure.
What is a Catio?
Cats naturally prefer the outdoors as they have access to fresh air, the sights and sounds of nature, and plenty of room to roam.
However, there are many outdoor dangers for your kitty – getting lost, getting hit by vehicles, pesticides and poisons, dogs or other larger predators – as well as the dangers that your cat poses to birds, squirrels, and other local wildlife.
By building a catio, you can offer your cat a safe, healthy outdoor experience, full of the kind of environmental enrichment that all cats need.
A catio is also a good idea if you have more than one cat.
Cats are solitary animals and naturally territorial – they may get along well enough and learn to share space with other cats, but all cats benefit from alone time and larger territory.
With access to a catio, your cats can find quality alone time and expand their territory.
By restricting an outdoor cat’s access to a catio, you can greatly reduce vet bills by avoiding the occurrence of cat fights and diseases typical of outdoor cats.
If a catio sounds like a good fit for you and your furry friend, then read below for more information on these kitty friendly enclosures.
Should You Build Your Own DIY Catio?
When deciding to add a catio to your home, there are a few things to consider.
The first decision to make is whether to DIY catio or purchase a pre-fabricated catio kit.
If you have some basic carpentry skills and would like to save some money, DIY is a good route to go.
Building your own catio is also a great way to recycle materials – you can use an old dog crate or other wooden materials you have on hand in building your catio.
If you don’t have the time to build a catio from scratch, you can always purchase a pre-made catio or an easy-to-assemble catio kit.
Prefabricated catios will be more expensive, but they save you time and are perfect for those who have little DIY or carpentry experience.
Designing Your Own DIY Catio
Once you decide on DIY or purchasing, the next thing to consider is making sure you design your catio to suit your cat – it is for them after all, so it’s important that it fits his personality so he enjoys spending time there!
A senior cat’s needs are much different than that of an energetic kitty.
If you have an older cat, you will want to construct a catio with low shelves and comfy, shaded spots for rest while a catio for a kitten can have high shelves, ramps and tunnels, and plenty of toys for stimulation.
Does your cat enjoy hidden spaces and the confining corners of boxes? If so, you can create corners, boxes, and low lying shelves for him to burrow in inside his catio.
Tall perches and multiple shelves of varying height are perfect for cats that love to observe from high places.
With the interior design of your catio in mind, now consider the type of home you have: apartment, house, large yard, and/or balcony.
The type of catio to build and where to place it depends largely on the kind of space you have available.
Following are a few examples of the most popular catio styles, the skill level required if you decide to DIY, and the home type that they are best suited for.
DIY Window Box Catio
A good, easy option for most home owners is a window box catio.
This is a catio that attaches to (or underneath) a window of your house. They are compact and can be taken off and easily reinstalled in case you move.
To build a window box catio, you will need metal fencing, wood for constructing the frame and flooring (consider using cedar, plywood, or pallet wood), and any decorations and/or toys you would like to add.
A window box catio requires basic carpentry skills – you will be constructing a rectangular box frame with flooring; you can use a staple gun to apply the metal wiring around the sides and top to keep kitty from escaping.
If you live in a climate that has snow and cold weather, you may want to consider constructing the roof out of wood as well (instead of metal wiring) to keep your cat warm and dry.
Depending on how many stylistic aspects you would like to add to your catio (paint/staining, carpeting, toys), you should be able to construct the window box catio for under $100.
DIY Balcony Catio
If you live in an apartment and have a balcony you can create an easy balcony catio for less than $50.
All you need is some metal fencing and zip ties; attach the fencing to enclose your balcony and you can create a screened in balcony for you and your cats to enjoy together.
Add some kitty stairs and cat friendly plants to perfect this apartment friendly catio!
DIY Wire Cubed Wall Catio
A wire cubed wall catio is another easy and inexpensive option. All you need to construct one of these is pliers, wire cutters, zip ties, and cubed wire storage (purchased from Target or Amazon).
Instead of assembling the wire panels into a storage unit, you can configure the panels into a catio of any shape you choose. Follow the instructions on the box of how to attach the panels and reinforce each joint with zip ties.
The great thing about building a catio from this material is that you can create a very unique design and its simple to change it if you like – all you need to do is cut the zip ties and take apart the joints and rearrange!
For $100 of material you can design a catio of many different styles.
DIY Freestanding Catio
If you have a large yard or outdoor area, you can considering building a freestanding catio.
These catios can be any size – from a small catio perfect for one kitten to massive structures for multiple cats and space for you as well.
The bigger the structure and the more shelves and other features you decide to add, the more time consuming, more expensive, and more skill will be involved in the construction process.
To build one of these, you will need lumber, wire fencing, hammer and nails. The larger the structure, the more materials you will need so the price will fluctuate depending on size.
Before building any type of catio, it is important to consider how your cat will access it.
Doors, Tunnels & Access
If you choose to build a larger, freestanding catio away from your house, you will need to create an outdoor cat tunnel that leads from the catio to your house, which your cat can access through a pet door.
With window box catios, kitty can access the enclosure through the window, but keep in mind that you will have to keep the window open while he is using it.
The easiest way to create access for kitty is to buy and install a pet door.
If your structure is large enough, you should consider adding a door for yourself as well.
This will allow you access to clean up if kitty makes a mess and rearrange or add new toys or structures.
Maybe even consider adding a chair or bench for yourself to sit and enjoy quality time with your cat while he is inside his catio!
How to Build Your DIY Catio: Step by Step
First up, watch these videos for some inspiration and tips on building your own catio:
Here’s all the information you need to build a custom catio for your feline buddy:
1) Choose the Location
You cannot build a catio just anywhere; there are multiple factors that need to be considered to make sure it is the right fit for your cat and won’t cause any problem for you as well. Here they are:
- Strong Foundation – Just like any other structure, the strength of a catio lies in its foundation. While it is common knowledge, it is worth emphasizing that you should choose a leveled ground to build a strong foundation.
- Ease of Access – While you can build a free-standing catio, experts recommend keeping an outdoor cat enclosure connected to house to make it easy for your feline friend to access it. For this, you can either install a cat door in a door, window, or wall or, if the enclosure is not attached to your house, build a cat tunnel from the house to the catio.
- Sunlight – Since cats love sunlight and really enjoy lying in the sun, it is recommended to choose a sunny spot for the catio. If that’s not possible, make sure that a part of it gets sunlight for a few hours, at least.
- Shade – To avoid the risk of heat exhaustion, it is important that the catio also has a shaded area. This can be done by either using shade cloth or installing cubbyholes or a cat house. An ideal catio is one that provides both sunlight and shade.
- Views – If you have a pet cat, you must know that cats regularly need stimulations from their environment to stay healthy and happy. This is why cat experts place a huge emphasis on environmental enrichment. To make sure the catio you are building offers everything a cat wants from its environment, choose a location that provides outside views, so your pet can enjoy watching birds, other animals, and family activities in the garden.
2) Select the Style and Size of Catio
From a small cat window box to the large sanctuary catio, a cat enclosure can be built in a variety of styles and sizes.
The style and size you choose to build largely depends on the available space and your budget.
Evaluate your available outdoor space or decide how much space you want to dedicate to the catio.
This plays the key role in determining the style of enclosure you are going to build.
For example, if you only have a small surface area, you can maximize it by adding add multiple perches and platforms, as cats love vertical spaces.
But, if you have a backyard, you can build a large outdoor cat run with lots of activities for cat and perhaps, seating for yourself too.
Another factor that you need to consider while figuring out the style of cat enclosure is your cat’s personality.
Does it like to jump and rest on high spaces or it prefers to hide in the tight spaces or under the furniture?
Depending on what your cat loves to do the most, you can decide if you should pay more attention to maximizing the vertical space or focus more on creating closed spaces in the enclosure.
3) Buy Building Materials
Catios can be built using a variety of materials. Here, we are enlisting the options that are easily available, will ensure a strong and durable cat space, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg:
- Wood framing lumber
- Roof – wire mesh and clear polycarbonate are the best roofing materials for cat enclosures.
- Floor – depending on the space and your preferences, you can either choose a single type of floor or incorporate a few different materials to provide multiple textures to your cat. You can choose from grass, pavers, bricks, decking material, or flagstone.
- Wire – go for a 16 gauge fencing wire or a vinyl-coated wire in black or blue color to make the catio durable and escape-proof.
- Shelves – tight-knot cedar is considered the best choice for shelves, both horizontal and vertical.
- Perches – use ¾” exterior grade plywood to make perches where cats can sleep, nap, or simply lie down. You can also cover the perches with carpet, for extra comfort.
4) Construct Your Catio (step by step directions)
- Measure and note down the dimensions of the area you are going to build the catio. To avoid any mistake, it is advised to measure at least twice before cutting.
- Cut two cedar wood boards, as per the dimensions, for the front and back wall of the cat enclosure.
- Drill two pilot holes, slightly smaller than the screw, near the end of the wood boards. The holes should be at least an inch’s distance from the edges and evenly spaced.
- Follow the same procedure for the two side walls.
- Join the pieces of lumber with the screws, wherever needed.
- Build a door or entrance by joining three wood pieces and attach them to one side of the catio structure.
- Attach the wire mesh to all the walls, from the outside, leaving the entrance. Lock the mesh in place with the staples.
- Assemble the catio frame by joining all the four walls together with screws.
- Make the roof of the catio by placing the plywood sheet(s) on top of the frame and securing it into the place with screws. You can also place roof panels or shingles for extra protection from water/rain.
- Attach the door or tunnel into the space left for it. If using a door, make sure to secure the hinges tightly.
- Use the remaining cedar wood boards to make platforms and perches inside the catio.
This is just a basic outdoor cat enclosure plan.
Consider your cat’s personality and what activities it enjoys the most to decorate the catio from inside.
Remember, the key is to make it a place that provides constant stimulation to your feline companion as it loves spending time there.
Your imagination and the budget are your only limitations when it comes to decorating a cat habitat.
An outdoor cat run or enclosure is meant to be a haven for your cat.
Ideally, it should offer everything your cat loves doing; from toys and activities to views, fresh air, and sunlight.
However, the space you have and your budget play crucial roles in determining the kind of enclosure you build for your feline friend, so it is better to sort out these two things first as it will give you an idea about how you should go ahead with the project.
Big or small, catios are a lovely addition to your home. Your cats will gain healthy, outdoor stimulation and your neighbors will thank you for keeping your kitty off their lawn.
No matter the style or size you chose in building your catio, your kitty will be perfectly content to catch some fresh air and a few sun rays.