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News / Life

Patio for cats: Catio craze takes off

Cat-version of screened-in porch offers benefits

By Shaun Goodwin, The Idaho Statesman
Published: September 17, 2022, 6:04am
2 Photos
Ansel plays near his favorite backyard hiding spot.
Ansel plays near his favorite backyard hiding spot. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman/TNS) (iStock.com) Photo Gallery

Some people have a meshed screen patio on their back porches to sit in during warm summer evenings to enjoy a drink and fresh air while staying free of pesky bugs.

Others use it as a sun and plant room, giving ample access to the sun and rain without worrying about leaf-eating critters.

But there’s now a third reason to have a meshed screen patio attached to the back of your house: your cat loves to be outside, but it may be killing birds.

Luckily, there’s something called a catio that can help. It’s just what it sounds like: a cat version of a screened-in porch.

The nonprofit American Bird Conservancy estimates that cats worldwide combine to kill four billion animals worldwide each year and up to 500 million birds. Cats can pick up illnesses from hunting birds, such as songbird fever, a name for salmonella in birds which can be passed on to felines and humans.

“Cats are sick for a couple of days to a week or more. Up to 10 percent may die, especially if they are very young, very old, or otherwise immunosuppressed,” Jennifer Coates, a doctor for the pet care information site PetMD, said in a blog post.

“Treatment for songbird fever includes supportive care (fluid therapy, anti-nausea medications, etc.), and antibiotics if the cat’s condition warrants their use,” Coates continued.

Most cats love going outside — they’re naturally outdoor animals and love to hunt, climb and lounge in the sun. But it’s not necessarily always good for them.

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In addition to risks to wild birds, according to a study by the Animal Humane Society, the lifespan of outdoor cats is significantly shorter than their indoor counterparts. Cars, toxic plants and other wild animals are just a few of the many outdoor dangers that can shorten outdoor cats’ lives by as much as 10 to 12 years, according to the study.

That’s where a catio creates the best of both worlds.

A catio is precisely what it sounds like: an outdoor, enclosed patio for a cat. Its meshed screen walls allow cats to sit outside in the fresh air and sun while avoiding the dangers and temptations that the outdoors pose.

Decorations and add-ons wise, the possibilities are endless. Ledges to jump up on, thick branches to climb, comfy chairs to sit on and dangling toys to play with are just a few options.

Aside from avoiding illnesses, a catio will help cat owners avoid the nasty business of disposing of dead animals that their furball brings home. The website Catio Spaces lists the top 10 benefits a catio brings for your pet.

Benefits include protecting your cat from outdoor threats and reducing vet bills due to injuries, but others benefit humans, too.

If you have multiple cats, Catio Spaces notes that providing an outdoor space will give cats more territory to roam and additional outdoor simulation that could help reduce conflicts and behavioral problems between cats. Putting a litter box in the catio can also help reduce indoor odors.

If you build the catio large enough, you can also integrate a sitting chair for yourself, allowing for additional bonding time with your cat outdoors, which is healthy for both parties.

While a full patio-sized catio gives your cat the most space, it doesn’t have to be large. The website Adventure Cats shows examples of two smaller types of catios that can be attached to a window.

One was made out of a chameleon cage, while the other is a dog cage repurposed to attach to the window. Adventure Cats reminds people to build up if they can’t build outward or wide. Cats enjoy climbing and sitting in high places, and you can easily build ledges for your cat to tower high above in their catio.

Directions to build your own small catio that can be adjusted to fit any window size can be found on Adventure Cats’ website.

If you’d rather purchase a catio, there are several websites from which you can order. Catio World provides descriptions and links to options.