Thursday, March 2, 2017

How big should a catio be?

Popoki the cat in her catio

A cat that lives strictly indoor can live--on average--twice as long as a cat that lives exclusively outdoors. Indoor-only kitties don't face risks involving predator animals, zooming cars, cat-borne disease and inclement weather. They're safer indoors.

But many cats get a sense of wanderlust when they're forced to live indoors all the time. They want to get out there in the dirt and get their paws dirty. To really feel free, they want to be outside.

A catio is a perfect solution.

These screened indoor-outdoor spaces let cats spend time outdoors when they choose to do so. They can feel the fresh air, see the sights and otherwise enjoy a little wild time. But the screens on that catio keep them safe.

Popoki the cat in her catio

I talk a lot about catios on this blog because I know just how valuable they are. Popoki's life has improved immeasurably since my husband installed a catio on my writing studio. Even during the chilly days we've had this February, she's been out in her catio checking things out. If every cat enjoys a catio as much as she does, I think every cat should have one.

But often when I talk to people about a catio, they tell me they can't have one because they don't have space.

I get it.

Most people think catios should be about the size of a deck or a bedroom. They think catios should have multiple levels and include things like shady spaces and sunny spaces. They think the catio should be furnished with all kinds of toys and trees and tunnels. The spaces should be as good--or better--than what the cat has access to inside the house.

Here's the thing. If you have a very mellow, zen cat like Popoki, even a small catio helps.

Popoki the cat watches birds

Popoki's catio is simply a screened porch off the front of my writing studio. Her catio is about 2 feet deep, 20 feet wide and about 20 feet tall. That's it.

I had furnishings in her catio, including beds and cat trees. But when I watched her in the space, I noticed she spent a lot of time trying to shove stuff out of the way. She never sat on or played with anything in the catio. She wanted space to run side to side and flop out to sleep. When I took everything out, she was happier.

Screening a tiny entryway is a wonderful and low-cost way to put in a catio. If that won't work, there are companies that sell tiny cat-carrier-sized boxes you can clamp onto the side of your house, which a cat can access through an open window. Again, very small. But still. Fresh air bonus.

I remain convinced that cats need catios. And I hope I've made the case that a catio doesn't need to be huge or fancy to have a huge impact on your cat's life. Have I convinced you? Leave me a note in the comments!


  1. No cat here, but my sis has a cat and he's got a catio and he loves it!

  2. Our mom is hoping that when we move we can have a catio.

  3. I would love a catico, but we live in an apartment for senior/assisted/independent living and can't have one. Until I moved here a year ago I used to get outside with a leash and harness on and a human out there with me at all times. We all loved it - including the humans.

  4. very good point about size not being all important - would love to see a distance photo of your catio to get a better feeling for the size- do you have to get experts to instal?

    1. This blog post has plans and the distant shot you're looking for. Hubby planned it and built it. No outside contractors!

    2. thanks! it looks so cool-you are lucky to have a handy hubby! Are you able to still use the catio to get outside-I could not tell from photo of linked post if there was a door-thanks

    3. It closes with hook-and-eye on the inside, so I suppose we could use it to head outdoors. But the studio has another door that I favor, as it connects with the backyard. I tend to use that door most of the time, especially now that we're catiofied!

  5. Wonderful post, Jean! We're so glad Popoki loves her cation so much. Thank you and your husband for loving her so much, and enriching her life with you. :)

  6. Does she ever climb the catio like Spiderman? My last cat loved to climb up screens! So much so my mom learned to rescreen them herself to save money from buying them so often.

    I think your catio sounds quite spacious, honestly! I had a co-worker who just had a tunnel system to get a little taste of the outside.