Apartment with a Catio

Ever since I learned what a catio was, I’ve wanted one. I mean, look at this website. Catios EVERYWHERE.

They provide an enclosed, outdoor space. Perfect for city cat living. The longer I own cats, the more I hate keeping them cooped up indoors. But I also recognize the idiocy of letting them run free. My cats have only ever lived in buildings surrounded by concrete, and using a harness and leash to walk them doesn’t exactly improve my image of being a crazy cat lady. So, many years ago I made a promise (primarily to Smirnoff, as he loves going outside) that within his lifetime, he’d get a catio. I really hoped I could fulfill that promise. He was eight when I made that promise – so still some time.

Then, at the beginning of this year, my husband and I were forced to move apartments after ours was bought and torn down for condos. Not ideal, as we had been living there for three years. But it was a chance to find a better location for commuting to work and maybe get a few (pricey) upgrades. A catio was still a dream idea… until we saw our new apartment.

A non-street facing balcony with a roof and solid walls? Great potential. But there was still the issue of not owning the place. Landlords usually don’t take too kindly to their tenants building structures. And yet… I’ve never had a landlord turn me down for owning three cats (which is the legal allowance in Los Angeles, but doesn’t mean landlords are typically open to the idea). That’s been surprising considering how often cats are brought into shelters for the reason of ‘moving’. But besides that hurdle, I was so bold as to make it a condition of our tenancy – that we would turn the balcony into a catio. Again, surprisingly, it was a non-issue. We were given only two rules: it had to be a non-permanent structure (ie. we can easily tear it down if we move) and the neighbors couldn’t complain of it being excessively ugly.

My husband and I made a deal as we signed our year-long lease that we’d build the catio first thing, for fear that we’d otherwise procrastinate and it would never come into existence. So despite being exhausted from a whirlwind of packing and unpacking, we spent our first few weekends in the new apartment planning for and building our catio. An ambitious endeavor for two people who had never built anything in our lives. Certainly nothing involving carpentry. And it couldn’t be excessively ugly.

I won’t go into all the details of making the catio. There are plenty of resources on the internet if you’re interested in the details. But here are a few things we learned along the way:

  1. Home Depot doesn’t help you cut dozens of pieces of wood. So, for us apartment-dwellers with no access to a circular saw, that meant Jon and I (but mostly Jon) spent nearly three hours hand sawing cheap wood using a bent, dull tool that for some reason Home Depot allows any random person off the street to use in their store.
  2. They say measure twice, cut once. But really, it should be: measure, like, ten times at least. And then make sure both people got the same measurements. And plan for the fact that balconies aren’t perfectly straight. And then make sure every piece of wood is super well-labeled. And then be prepared to make a few, er, creative adjustments to the design along the way.
  3. Staple guns are kinda fun. But loud.
  4.  Buying a corner clamp for a project that consists mainly of building rectangular frames is the best decision you could ever make. DO IT.
  5. Hipster lights make everything look cooler.
  6. Be prepared to overhear snarky remarks from your neighbors because CLEARLY YOU’RE BUILDING AN ENCLOSURE FOR A PUMA, and like, there are four cats living in your apartment at least. But then a random visitor says, “Oh, a catio! That’s so cool!” and you think, finally. Someone gets it. I’m so cool.

To be honest, making this catio took some hard work. Like, 3 full days (from breakfast until tea time) with two people, plus another couple half days of finishing the wire mesh. But the cats now enjoy their sun-filled mornings. I love sipping coffee out there on warm days. Or writing out there. Or reading. Or snuggling cats. Smirnoff loves the occasional moth that wanders into his path and meets its untimely demise. And we all love having one of the litterboxes outside.

The catio cost about $350 in supplies, which included:

  • the cheapest 2x2s available
  • carpentry screws
  • wood glue
  • a staple gun & staples
  • work gloves
  • a corner clamp
  • a small hand saw (to fix some mistakes)
  • wire cutters
  • mesh wire
  • three cats (previously purchased)

Here’s the final product:

Have you ever built a catio, or dreamed of having one? If so, leave a comment and let me know how you made (or will make!) it happen.