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How to build an outdoor enclosure or catio for your cat

grey kitten inside catio

Catios are a great way to keep your cat safe while providing them with the stimulation they need

© SariMe - Shutterstock

Catios are the perfect middle between the safety of an indoor cat life and the fun of an outdoor cat life. But make sure you’re aware of the rules before you start building!

By Justine Seraphin

Published on the 05/10/2021, 17:00

People keep indoor cats for a variety of reasons: Indoor cats are in no danger of getting run over by a car, getting into fights with neighbourhood cats, or eating anything toxic that they find outside. And the truth is, indoor cats do live longer than outdoor cats, with their average life expectancy reaching 15 to 17 years. 

However, indoor cats are missing something essential to them: The outdoors, quite simply! Cats are made to be outside - no matter how domesticated they are, they still love to prowl, hunt, and climb. Denying them the ability to go outdoors can result in a cat developing anxiety, depression, boredom, and destructive behaviour. So what to do?

Building an outdoor enclosure, or catio, for your cat, can be the perfect solution to help them live a balanced existence between an indoor and outdoor life. But if you’re thinking of building one, there are a few things you should know first.

Are catios good for cats?

Yes, catios are great for cats. On the one hand, your cat is safe because they cannot roam further than the catio enables them to, and on the other, they are able to get a little taste of the outdoors; to get a little fresh air, stretch their legs, sunbathe, and watch the birds in the trees! 

Do you need planning permission for a catio in the UK?

This depends on several factors. Generally, you will need planning permission if your future catio falls into any of the following categories:

  • Over 8 feet (2.5 metres) tall
  • Covers half of your garden
  • Is in the front garden
  • Is near a boundary
  • Is near a road
  • Is raised or suspended
  • Is in a conservation or historical area

However, these are not the only factors to consider. Every city council is different and imposes specific building regulations. You should always check with them first, even if your catio falls into none of the categories above.

And perhaps most importantly - you should get your neighbours’ approval first. Though it seems strange, be aware that most opposition to catios come from neighbours who complain about it being an eyesore and decreasing the value of the neighbourhood. 

There are so many cases in which cat owners have had to tear down their catios shortly after they were built, simply because they hadn’t spoken to the neighbours or applied for planning permission beforehand. That’s a lot of money down the drain! So make sure you double, triple-check with your neighbours and city council before you start building anything.

What is the average cost of a catio?

This really depends on what kind of catio you’re building. A small one that attaches to a window could cost as little as £150, but a large one built by a professional could cost as much as £4,000. 

How big should a catio be?

Even a small catio can be very beneficial to your cat’s welfare, so don’t worry too much about building something huge. However, there are size restrictions when it comes to planning permission. For example, your catio will definitely need planning permission if it is to be higher than 8 feet (2.5 metres) tall, and it cannot be taller than your home, or cover over 50% of your curtilage (area of your property excluding the house). 

What type of catio should I build for my cat?

There are many different types of outdoor playpens, runs, or enclosures you can install for your cat. The trick is finding something that will work for where you live, and of course, something that your cat will enjoy! Here are three main ideas you can choose from:

Brackets and fences for cats

If you don’t want to actually build an enclosure, you could simply fence off your garden or your balcony. Remember, cats are high jumpers, so make sure you choose your materials wisely. If your fence is high, you can screw metal brackets into it, then attach cat mesh fencing to it using wire or a staple gun. This should be enough to prevent your cat from jumping out of your garden. If you live in an apartment, however, and the wall of your balcony is not very high, you may just want to seal it off completely with some netting or chicken wire.

Small box catios 

These catios attach to a window and are usually suspended (so remember to get planning permission!). Box catios are smaller than you might imagine - some of them are no larger than a cat carrier, which could be perfect for people living in an apartment, people with a small budget, or simply for people who don’t want to install something too big on their house.

Window catios and 3-sided catios

Window catios attach to the side of your house, enabling your cat to use a window, door, or cat flap as an entrance point to their catio. These catios are usually made out of wood and wire fencing, but can vary hugely in size and structure.

4-sided catios

These catios resemble large cages and differ from window catios in the sense that they don’t attach to the side of the house. You can either carry your cat to their 4-sided catio when the weather’s nice, or you can build a small tunnel which runs from a cat flap in your door all the way to their catio. The advantage of this type of catio is that it doesn’t touch the integrity of your house, since it’s completely separate from it.

How to make a catio

If you’ve gotten the permissions you needed and done your research - then you’re ready for a catio! 

If you’re quite handy, you can try building your catio by yourself. You can purchase kits online and watch DIY videos which can help guide you through the process! Make sure you use strong, durable materials that will withstand all kinds of weather.

Otherwise, you can always approach a professional. Many groups now specialise in building catios, since they’re becoming so popular. Of course, this will cost you more, but the quality of catio you get in the end is completely worth it!

Building the catio is only half the fun though. To make it as enriching as possible for your cat, add non-toxic plants, shelves, ladders, tunnels, and scratching posts. This will help your cat stay mentally and physically stimulated - and they’ll probably want to stay in there all the time after you’ve decorated it!

Providing your indoor cat with a catio is one of the best things you can do for their welfare. So what do you think? Will you give it a go?

Frequently asked questions

Is it cruel to keep a cat in a catio?

Is a catio a bad idea?

Is it better to have 2 cats?