Cat Suite: Pet Owners Build Outdoor Enclosures for Their Felines

Enclosures allow cats to enjoy the outdoors safely, and might protect birds, too. Photos: Kittywalk Systems
Cat owners often face a conundrum: Let their beloved felines roam free outdoors, where they might encounter dangers (and pose a threat to birds), or keep them inside, where they’re likely to spend a good chunk of the day perched on the windowsill looking outside. For a growing number of cat owners, the answer is building a “catio”, an enclosed outdoor space for Mr. Whiskers.

From The New York Times:

Catios have made inroads in the suburbs, where they range from small, practical structures — like a box made of wood and chicken wire — to all-out fantasy cat playgrounds, replete with tunnels and scratching posts. But such enclosures remain a rarity in the city, where giving up even a square foot of real estate to a litter box can seem like a sacrifice.

Still, they do exist in the city. One of my neighbors in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, has converted an air conditioning grate into a catio (see photo above). All it took was putting down a board on the bottom of the metal box and wrapping mesh around it to ensure the kitty can’t escape. Though the cat wasn’t there when I snapped this photo this morning, the owners often leave window open so it can enjoy its own private screened-in porch.

And as a plus, birds might benefit if catios catch on and fewer felines are on the prowl. The American Bird Conservancy estimates that 150 million free-ranging cats kill 500 million birds a year in the United States, Ted Williams recently reported in his Audubon story “Felines Fatales”.

Catios come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Kittywalk Systems, for instance, provides a variety of options, from the Penthouse, a vertical outdoor enclosure with three levels, to modular tubes for the lawn or patio, and even a gazebo. Those who are handy build their own catio, and some folks go all out with custom-built ones. In Toronto, Madeline Ann Hare’s three Abyssinians have a sweet setup: a screened-in second-floor porch with an attached 25-foot walkway that wraps around a tree. It gives a whole new meaning to ‘catwalk’.