Cat patios or catios, as they have now become known, have many benefits.
All the research that you have done up to now has convinced you of the positive impact that catios can have on the well-being of your cat.
Now you need to know if you have enough space for a catio, and what size catio you should install.
A logical starting size for a catio is 2 ft wide, 3 ft long, and 2 ft high. Install a larger catio if you have the money, space, or multiple cats. Cats love climbing, so you can build up even if you can’t build outward. Your cat’s age, personality, breed, and health will influence the size of the catio you should install.
The answer to your question of how big a catio should be is: it all depends.
But this answer is not helpful. In this article, we provide a practical minimum catio size and then discuss all the factors you need to consider and balance when deciding if you can or should choose a bigger size.
Where To Start?
The size of the most basic catio should be sufficient enough to provide an outside area where your cat can go to enjoy a bit of nature; watch the local birdlife, feel a breeze, nap in the sun, etc.
Therefore, the minimum size of your catio should accommodate the size of your cat with some room to spare.
Anything smaller than this will not be worthwhile, and your cat will get just as much benefit from a bed placed in front of an open and meshed-off window.
To determine the minimum size for your catio, use your cat as a measuring tape!
For the approximate minimum width of the catio, measure the length of your cat from their nose to the tip of their tail. The length of the catio should be one and a half times the width.
The height of the catio should allow your cat to stand with its tail in the air but without touching the top of the catio.
These dimensions allow your cat to easily enter their catio and provides space for them to stretch out, lie down, turn around, and take a few steps outside without having to crouch or crawl.
If we use these logical but admittedly unscientific measurements, we can generalize and say that a good starting size for your catio would be 2 feet in width, 3 feet in length, and 2 feet in height.
However, you need to remember that it is the smallest size a functional and worthwhile catio can be, but it is not necessarily the size that it should be.
There is no maximum recommended size for your catio. Some people have even turned their whole yard into a catio!
Bigger catios allow your cat to move, climb, and play in a less restricted way instead of just observing their surroundings. If the catio is big enough, then you can even join your cat in their catio.
Now that we have established some catio size parameters (2x3x2 ft up to the size of your yard), we can discuss what you need to consider for anything in between.
The size of your catio should not exceed the size of your budget. Catios don’t have to be massive, but they do need to be well built.
Good construction with good materials helps ensure that your catio is secure and will last a long time (catios are outside structures exposed to weathering).
Additionally, you want to consider the quality of the contents of your catio. There is no point in having a big enclosed area and no money to make it enjoyable for your cat.
Set your catio budget and then find a balance between quality and size.
Location And Available Space
Choose a location for your catio before you choose a size. Your catio should have access to the house, a good ratio of sun to shade, and a stimulating view.
Once you have come to a decision on the most appropriate spot, look at what size catio will fit well there.
If you have fairly limited ground space, you can increase the size of your catio by building vertically.
Cats are climbers, so if you equip a tall and narrow catio with steps, ramps, perches, or shelves, it will still be an excellent outdoor environment to provide your cat with entertainment and exercise.
If you live in an apartment with no yard, your catio size options will be more limited. You could install a small catio outside one of your windows.
Alternatively, if you have two windows that are relatively near to each other and on the same wall, you could look at installing a catio that extends from one window to the other, although you should probably not increase the width or height too much above the minimum.
If you live in an apartment above the ground floor, or you want to install a catio that attaches to the second floor of your house, you should set aside a portion of your budget for the professional installation of your catio.
This may mean having a smaller catio, but at least there won’t be any unfortunate accidents!
A balcony can be a great place to build a catio. You can section a portion of your balcony off for the catio and, because the balcony acts as a solid foundation, you can then build vertically for more space.
You can also convert the entire balcony into a catio, which you can share with your cat.
If you already have a screened-off porch or patio, then making a few modifications and spending a small amount of money can convert it into a safe and spacious catio that you and your cat can enjoy together.
What Size Catio Best Suits Your Cat?
All cats are different, so you need to think about what size catio would be ideal for each cat.
Breed and personality
You can use the typical characteristics of your cat’s breed as a guideline for the size of the catio you need. Certain breeds of cats are laidback and require smaller living areas.
Ragdolls, Maine Coons, British Shorthairs, and American Shorthairs are examples of laidback cat breeds.
In general, these breeds won’t make good use of a big catio even if they have one.
Bengals, Balinese, Cornish Rexes, and Chausies are examples of high energy breeds that need lots of space and stimulation.
If you have one or more of these cats, you will need to provide them with a big catio fitted with climbing and playing equipment.
If you can’t afford a big catio, or you don’t have space for a big catio, then look at a different breed or allow your cat to go outside.
Cats with high energy levels may become destructive if they don’t have enough space and stimulation to work off their energy. They are also likely to become unhappy and actively try to escape.
Each cat is different and won’t always conform to the breed stereotypes. You might have an American Shorthair with an inexhaustible amount of energy, or you might have a lazy Cornish Rex.
Your cat may be a mixture of different and unidentifiable breeds, so you can’t use the breed profiles to guide you about expected behavior and lifestyle requirements.
If you have an active cat, you need to provide them with more space for exercise.
You can maximize the use of the catio space by keeping the ground level mostly cleared for running and then fill the top areas with obstacle courses designed from perches, branches, and shelves.
If you have an inquisitive cat, then they need more space to explore. For cats that enjoy exploring, you can consider a maze-type catio with different, smaller sections connected by walkways.
If you have a relaxed or inactive cat, then they may just need a different place to sleep so you can build or buy a smaller catio.
To encourage your inactive cat to exercise, you can reduce the ground area and build up instead. Put comfortable beds higher up in the catio, so they have to climb to find a place to sleep.
If you have a scared cat, you might want to look at a taller catio because cats often feel safer when higher up.
If your cat prefers to climb and be high up, build more vertical space. Building higher increases the vertical space, but there is only so high you can build it.
If you increase the length, you also increase the vertical space, but you can keep the width relatively small.
If your cat prefers being on the ground, make sure there is enough ground area and ground toys or equipment to allow them to be active and entertained.
- Read more about Top 20 Catio Benefits to provide your cat with a safe place to explore the great outdoors.
If you have multiple cats, you will typically need a bigger catio, although the size does not need to increase proportionally.
With multiple cats, you also need to think about the way the cats interact, especially if the catio is their favorite place to spend the day. If your cats are friendly with each other, they will happily share a smaller space.
If they can’t stand each other, give them room enough that they can both be in the catio without being in each other’s space.
Young cats like to climb and relax on elevated shelves or beds, so give them vertical space. Older cats may struggle to climb and can easily fall and hurt themselves.
If you are building or buying a catio for an older cat, then increase the ground area of the catio.
You don’t have to avoid vertical height, but don’t put any perches too high up and give your cat ramps to climb instead of shelves.
Cats with disabilities
Cats with disabilities such as blindness or missing limbs should be kept in smaller or more controlled catios.
Minimize the vertical space and increase the ground area of the catios for these cats, unless they are particularly well adapted and enjoy climbing.
Cats with cerebellar hypoplasia (wobbly cats) don’t have very good balance and are nervous jumpers, although they may be happy to climb depending on the severity of their disease.
If you have one or more wobbly cats, horizontal catios are a better choice, so make sure the ground area is of a sufficient size to meet their requirements.
Some animal clinics attach catios to their hospitals, allowing recovering cats to have access to a controlled external environment. Some people foster recovering cats until they are well enough to be sent home.
Recovery catios should be big enough to accommodate multiple cats and allow them to move around and regain their strength.
However, they should also be small enough to restrict the cats’ activities so that they are less likely to overexert themselves.
Do You Need Permission To Build A Catio?
Before you choose what size catio to buy or build, you need to investigate the regulations and rules that govern your apartment building, housing estate, neighborhood, and city.
You might need approval from your city before you can install a big catio, particularly if it is over 8 feet high.
Catios that are attached to the side of apartment buildings may also need approval from the city.
In addition to city approval, you may need permission from your neighbors to build or buy a catio, especially if it will be visible to them.
People may complain about the catio being unsightly if you put it in your front yard.
If you are building a big catio in your backyard, or if you are building one on your balcony, then you need to consider if it will be visible to your neighbors or if it will impact their view.
If you live in an apartment, you will need permission from the building’s owner to install a catio. If you are currently leasing a house or apartment, you will need permission from your landlord before you install a catio.
Reducing the size or even just the height of your catio may mean that you have fewer people to ask for permission to install your catio.
The Difference Between A Catio And Cat Enclosure
A catio is a caged-off area or structure which is attached to your house at a door or window and which allows your cat to move freely between the indoor and outdoor spaces.
It can be attached either directly, to the side of your house or building, or via a closed walkway.
If it is not attached to your house or building, then the structure is better known as a cat enclosure.
Cat enclosures have different size requirements to catios because your cat is confined to the area of the enclosure and has no access to the indoor space.
The smallest size a catio can be while still being beneficial is approximately 2 feet wide, 3 feet long, and 2 feet high.
These measurements are based on logic rather than scientific research, but they can give you a good idea of where to start.
There is no maximum recommended size for your catio, but there are a number of factors you need to consider when deciding how big your catio should be.
Catios need to be well built, so you shouldn’t compromise quality in favor of size. You should choose the location of your catio first, and then select the size based on what will fit best into that space.
If you have somewhat limited space, you can build vertically to increase the size of the catio without increasing the ground area.
Catios should be smaller if they are attached to your apartment or upper floors. You can convert a patio or balcony into a catio; this may cost less than building a new catio.
Your cat’s breed, personality, and age will influence what size catio you should install. High energy cats and young cats need more space than low energy cats and older cats.
Older cats and cats with disabilities may need more ground space and less vertical space. If you have multiple cats, you will need a bigger catio.
You may need permission from your city, landlord, and neighbors to build a catio. Find out what approval you may need before starting.
You can also try to adjust the size of your catio to reduce the number of people from whom you need approval.