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A patio just for cats

Q: I want to build a catio for my two cats. Do you have any design tips?

A: Your cats are lucky to have such a thoughtful owner. They're likely to enjoy their outdoor space, if you consider these things:

  • Give your cats as much vertical and horizontal space as possible to allow for climbing, sniffing and lounging. At a minimum, the catio should be 6 by 6 feet. Add a cat tree or incorporate a real tree into the plan — as long as your cats can't get to the top — plus perches or walkways at various heights around the perimeter. Walkways, about 6 inches wide, should also cross the space diagonally.
  • Enclose the catio with screening tough enough that it can't be clawed through by a determined predator — or your cat. And it should have actual flooring, not just dirt, so that other animals can't dig beneath it to get inside. If possible, lay a sealed concrete floor. It's not just strong; it can also be hosed down as needed. If you're going all out, have the floor slope to a drain for easy cleanup.
  • Prevent altercations with stray cats by building a solid base wall about 3 feet high so there's no hissing, yowling and spitting at ground level. The screening can go up from that.
  • Add a cover for protection from the elements. Design it so the catio has both shaded and sunny areas.
  • Planters filled with cat-safe plants provide nibbling and sniffing enjoyment, as well as a pop of color. Options include African violets, Boston ferns and, of course, catnip. Consider a small fountain or other water feature if your cat enjoys dabbling in the wet stuff.
  • Remember your own comfort. Make sure you have easy access for plant and litter box care. Here are more tips:

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