Catios are enclosed structures attached to a house or building either directly or via an enclosed walkway.
They are structures typically made from wood and wire fencing, and they can be bought or built in various sizes and shapes depending on your cat’s requirements and the available space.
Catios do not have foundations, closed walls, or proper roofs, so are they classified as buildings that may require planning permission?
Check the specific building regulations of your city before building a catio. Catios that typically require planning permission fall into one or more of the following categories:
- Over 8 ft tall
- Cover over half your yard
- In the front yard
- Near a boundary
- Raised or suspended
- In a conservation area
Catios are becoming more and more popular. However, a catio is still a relatively new concept, and as such, there are no specific building regulations for them.
So how do you decide if you need planning permission to build a catio? This article will discuss some guidelines based on the building requirements for patios, sheds, and conservatories.
Building Next To A Public Road
You will need planning permission for your catio if you want to build it next to a public road. Depending on the design and exact position of the catio, it can create blind spots for motorists.
There are rules on how close to a road you can build, and your catio may contravene these rules.
Additionally, catios that are next to a road are often visible from the road, and your neighbors may consider it to be an eyesore and complain to the city officials.
Building In Your Front Yard
You will need planning permission for your catio if you want to build it in your front yard. Front yards are always adjacent to public roads, so catios built here are can interfere with motorists.
However, the biggest problem in this scenario is the catio’s visibility to your neighbors. You can get reported to the council or your community’s homeowner’s association if your grass grows a few inches too high.
Imagine what they will say about a giant cage. To be fair, it’s not just pettiness that leads them to report these types of issues.
As caged-off structures, catios are not always beautiful and can detract from the curb appeal of the neighborhood, influencing house sales.
Building A Big Catio
You will need planning permission for your catio if it exceeds a certain floor area or height. Big catios have to be structurally stable.
You would never compromise your cat’s safety by building an unstable catio, but the city council may need proof that it will be well-built.
Big catios are also more visible to neighbors. There are restrictions on the width and height of additional structures.
There are also restrictions on what percentage of your yard can be covered by buildings. We will discuss these restrictions in a later section.
Building Near A Boundary
You will need planning permission for your catio if you are going to build it near a boundary. Buildings have to be a specific distance from a boundary line.
Catios built near boundary lines can overshadow your neighbor’s property and cause disputes.
Building Suspended Catios Or Raised Catios
You will need planning permission for your catio if you are going to suspend it from the side of the house or build it on a raised platform, such as a deck.
There are no specific rules about suspended catios, but there are rules for balconies.
As suspended catios are like small balconies for your cat, it is logical to assume you will need planning permission for these structures.
Careful design is required to make a suspended catio a safe structure.
Additionally, the installation of a suspended catio cannot compromise the structural integrity of the building to which it is attached.
Raised catios include those built on stilts as well as those built on decks. If a deck already exists, you may not need to get planning permission unless your catio falls into another category that requires permission.
Raised catios also require careful design.
Building In Conservation Areas Or On Historical Properties
You will need planning permission for your catio if you live in an area designated for conservation or an area classed as historical.
In the United Kingdom, there are many historical buildings and houses. The laws governing these properties are strict, even controlling the materials, colors, and designs of new houses or additions to existing houses.
The designation of conservation areas ensures the protection of significant environmental and historical areas.
Strict rules exist for the design and construction of houses in these areas. Any small change to your house or property may contravene these strict rules and result in heavy penalties.
Installing Water And Electricity
You will need planning permission for your catio if you plan to install electricity or water.
These are not typical catio features, but you should be aware that if you want to install a convenient faucet or lighting in your catio, you will need permission.
Where You Live
The country, city, and neighborhood you live in will determine when you need permission to build a catio. Planning permission for catios seems to be a bigger issue in the United Kingdom.
There are many cases in the United Kingdom of people having to take down their catios because they did not get approval to build them.
The rules for building additional structures, such as catios, are similar across the country. However, there can minor differences between states, counties, cities, and homeowner’s associations, so it is always wise to check.
Planning permission regulations are complicated and can change, so you will need to keep checking to ensure your catio does not violate any of the rules.
Some Size Guidelines
These sizes are guidelines based on a number of different public sources, including city websites and stories of catios torn down due to planning permission violations.
Even if your catio does not require planning permission, it is advisable to get this in writing from your city council.
Catios taller than 8 ft (2.5 m) will need to be approved. To avoid the necessity of applying for permission to build your catio, make sure you keep its height under 8 ft. Catios also cannot be taller than your house.
In the UK, they talk about curtilage. Curtilage is the area of your property, excluding your house. You cannot build on more than 50% of your curtilage, and it includes any existing outside structures, such as sheds and decks.
The dimensions of a catio that does not require planning permission will depend on where you put it in your yard.
A catio connected to the house via and enclosed walkway may follow different rules than a catio attached directly to the house.
A catio on the side of your house may have different rules compared to a catio in your back yard.
If There Are No Defined Rules, Should You Take A Chance?
You should not take any chances with planning permission, even though there are no catio-specific rules. In this situation, it is definitely better to ask for permission rather than trying to get forgiveness.
In the United Kingdom, there are several stories of owners having to dismantle their catios because they did not get planning permission.
The cost of these catios ranged between $3,500 and $13,500! They owners were also responsible for the cost of the dismantling.
In addition to being instructed to tear down your catio, the council may impose a fine. This fine can be heavier if you live in a conservation area or historical property.
The repercussions of building a catio without planning permission may not be as immediate as a fine and a directive to tear it down. I
f you build it in your back yard and no one sees it or complains, it may only become an issue if you decide to sell your house.
The sale of a house can fall through if any of the buildings or structures did not receive planning approval.
Another problem associated with building a catio without planning permission is homeowner’s insurance.
If you build a catio against the city’s or other regulations, you can void your homeowner’s insurance; this is also a problem you will only discover when it’s too late.
If you build a catio without planning permission and the officials discover this, it may be harder for you to obtain approval after the fact, even if you follow all the rules the second time.
How Do You Apply For Planning Permission?
It may be quite a process to apply for planning permission, but as we have just discussed, it is worth it. The ease with which you can obtain approval for your catio depends on the efficiency of your governing bodies.
You can visit your county or city website and search for permits. The website should also provide instructions on how to apply for the permits.
Alternatively, you can call or email the county or city offices. If they tell you that you don’t need planning permission, ask them for this in writing.
When you are ready to apply for planning permission (i.e., you know how to do it), you will need to draw up your catio plans. Submit these plans with the completed forms.
You may also need to provide a motivational letter. In the letter, you will inform them that you have spoken to your neighbors (we discuss the benefits of this in a later section), and you will also explain the benefits of the catio to your cat and the neighborhood.
Do not give up if your planning permission gets denied initially!
If they told you why they denied your application, then work on getting those points changed. If they did not give you a reason for their decision, then ask them for one.
Approval might be a small re-design away.
Permission From Landlords
If you stay in a house or apartment that you do not own, your landlord will also need to give you permission to build a catio.
Your landlord may even need to be the one submitting the application for planning permission.
Landlords need to be involved because you are making changes to their property. Depending on the terms of your lease agreement, the landlord may get fined for an incorrectly installed catio.
You need to conduct your research before you approach your landlord about installing a catio. Inform your landlord of the benefits the catio will have for your cat.
And show them examples of what catios can look like; they aren’t all purely functional; some are very pretty.
Also, let them know that you are happy to do the work to obtain planning permission if they are too busy to do this themselves.
Permission From Neighbors And Homeowners Associations
Asking for permission from your neighbors and homeowner’s associations is vital. You may think that your catio is not their business because it’s on your property, but neighbors can be difficult.
The stories of people having to take down their catios all cite complaining neighbors as the reason the officials were involved.
So, why do neighbors complain about catios? As mentioned previously, not all catios are pretty, and if your catio is visible, it can influence the sale of your neighbor’s house.
This is not only true for catios in your front yard, which reduce the curb appeal. Catios in your back yard may be visible from your neighbor’s back yard.
Additionally, a larger catio or a catio built onto a balcony may affect your neighbor’s view.
Let your neighbors know that you would like to build a catio. Give them the details of its size, shape, and location.
Inform them of the benefits a catio has for an indoor cat; you just want to give your cat the best life possible.
Some people even host open house events so that their neighbors can come and hear about potential alterations to their property while drinking tea and eating cake.
When you have given them the details, you should ask what their concerns are and try to address these.
If they are concerned that the catio will be unsightly, then discuss the materials you will be using, what will be visible to them, and how you plan to make it pretty.
You can put plants in the catio and even cover portions of the fencing in a nice creeper, provided it does not interfere with the light into the catio.
Inform them that you intend to check with the city or county if you need planning permission and, if you do, you will meet all the requirements of the officials to ensure that the catio is compliant.
You don’t want to fight with your neighbors. It can make things very uncomfortable.
When you decide to build a catio, you will need to check the rules and regulations governing your county, city, and neighborhood.
There are guidelines you can use to determine if you need planning permission, but it is safest to ask an official.
Ideally, you should ask for written confirmation that no permission is needed.
Catios that will probably need planning permission are those that are taller that 8 ft and cover more than half your yard; catios in your front yard, a conservation area, or near a boundary; and catios that are raised or suspended.
The consequences of not obtaining planning permission include fines, directives to remove the catio, failed house sales, voided homeowner’s insurance, and resistance when trying to get retroactive approval or approval for a new catio.
If you stay in a house or apartment that you do not own, your landlord will need to give you permission to build a catio.
Asking your neighbors for permission can make them more open to the idea and less likely to complain to officials, especially if you explain the benefits a catio will have for them.
Don’t give up if your plans initially get denied. The benefits that a catio has for your cat are worth the time and effort of pursuing planning permission.