We know that cats are happier — and healthier — when they are afforded time outside to play, but we also know that dangers lurk: Cars, predators, poisonous plants, and feral animals can all lead to unwanted complications, injuries (or worse!), and expensive vet bills.
What then is a pet owner that wants the best for their kitty to do?
Enter the so-called catio, which prevents unchaperoned felines from roaming freely and housebound ones from getting listless (and, ahem, chubs).
While it's unknown who exactly minted this punny portmanteau or how it entered the common vocabulary (best guess: the internet!), these outdoor enclosures have become increasingly popular with cat lovers — including one very prominent, A-list Hollywood director — who want to extend a measure of freedom to their fur family while still keeping them safe from would-be threats and hazards.
In an attempt to nurture the trend, a coalition of nonprofits including the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon and Audubon Society of Portland recently recruited 11 area homeowners to open their doors earlier in the month to 1,000+ attendees for the 5th Annual Catio Tour.
Hosted on a beautiful Saturday morning, the goals of the self-guided tour were fourfold: To educate the community about the merits of a catio, provide design inspo, showcase best practices for placement, fabrication, and construction, and "address the challenges of cat overpopulation in a humane and environmentally responsible manner."
Because we love all things cat, we made the scene and here are some of the things we saw.
1. Like cats, catios come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
From $6,000 professional builds and off-the-shelf kits to DIY edifices cobbled together with discarded bike rims, bamboo, and mesh wire, the possibilities are endless.
And while some catios are essentially freestanding playpens from which kitty is carried to and fro, some of the more elaborate designs are fixed to the home or accessed at the cats' convenience via windows and tunnels. Very convenient, no?
2. Add fur-niture for fun.
Common enrichment features we spotted included ramps, chutes, ladders, gates, scratching posts, ropes, tarps, stumps, shelves, plants, boulders, toys, and beds. If you can dream it, you can probably build or add it!
3. The cats can't get enough of them.
At five of the six sites we visited, the resident pint-sized panthers were soaking in the adoration from the cooing humans crowded around their pens furiously taking notes and snapping pics.
Save for Mia here, who we caught poking her head out the door seemingly bemused by all the fuss (LOL, below), these kitty characters were chillin like a villain, contentedly and without reservation.
4. Easy come, easy go.
In a brief interview, one of the homeowners shared some lessons that she and husband took from the construction process.
Because cats are notorious escape artists, she said, the original design should be flexible in case it needs to be modified. In their case, they found that additional netting was needed where some cedar posts were joined because one of their cats had figured out how to shimmy out behind them (wily little bugger that one, heh).
She also stressed that because eventually, you may want to sell your home, it's helpful if the catio can be dissembled (using nails, for example, where staples would have sufficed was one of their few regrets).