a cat crosses a homemade pond inside its cat enclosure

Cat Enclosures to Keep Cats Safe: All About the Catio


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Cat enclosures are incredibly useful ways to keep kitty safe while also protecting wildlife, and they’re growing in use across the country. What us Kiwis call catios (or sometimes cat runs) are made using cat netting around a wooden structure, and they’re an all in one playpen and sanctuary for your whiskery family.

Notwithstanding their increasing popularity, if you’re a cat mum or dad you might be wondering how safe and effective these cat enclosures are (or even what they are). In this article, PD Insurance answers these questions and more.

What is a catio?

Catios and other types of cat enclosures are made from netting that’s tailored to the needs of cats. The catio is ultimately a ‘cat patio’, hence its name. It’s a fun outdoor space that gives kitty the time to play, climb and sunbathe all while being safe from harm.

Many people create catios on balconies, verandahs and decks and in backyards and other outdoor areas of the home using cat netting. The cat patio is your cat’s playground and happy (safe) space.

a cat crosses a homemade pond inside its cat enclosure

Are cat enclosures worth it?

Let’s face it. When our cute, cuddlesome, soft purring cats are not curled up in our laps, they’re often out hunting. Cats are some of the best hunters on the planet. And being hunters, they’re well known for having adventurous and independent natures.

Unlike dogs, cats will roam freely between different properties, climbing trees, investigating sheds and more. While this can be great fun for them, it means they can encounter rival cats, aggressive dogs, cars, bicycles, and be exposed to toxins and viruses.

From a cat mum’s mouth

As one local cat mum, Julie, tells PD, “I have lost more cats than I want to remember on the roads. Several were early hours of the morning by the milk tankers travelling our roads. “

“This is soul destroying to not only myself, but also my children, and after I lost my Maine Coon having been chased from our property by a dog and then getting run over on the road two years ago, I decided enough was enough.”

“In my opinion and from experience, I would rather know my cats are safe from all dangers being in a catio situation than the devastation of losing them due to wandering and either being run over or attacked.”

a cat scales a branch inside its catio

Cat enclosures preserve wildlife

While the safety of our pet cats is paramount, we also owe it to the environment to protect wildlife from their terrific hunting skills. That’s yet another reason for the catio, cat run or other type of cat enclosure. Playful and prowling pets alike can do plenty of unintentional damage to native animals and other pets.

As cat mum Carolyn tells PD, “Our cats are either in the catio or in the house; there is no option to harm wildlife.”

Julie echoes this sentiment and says, “Having cats in a catio situation most definitely would save the native wildlife as they are not roaming the countryside getting into mischief. I have had several cats who would bring home rabbits – not native obviously – but also birds as well if they were quick enough to catch them.”

New Zealand is home to a wonderful range of unique birds and wildlife. None of them are used to predators and they’re unlikely to have the skills to out manoeuvre a cat’s predatory penchant. Thankfully a cat enclosure puts all that to rest by keeping predator and prey apart.

a cat plays in a large catio

Are cat enclosures good for cats?

Cat enclosures like a catio provide a safe and controlled outdoor environment for your meow. They’re the ultimate solution when you don’t want to confine your cat indoors permanently because they offer a solution that allows your cat to enjoy the outdoors safely.

In addition to safety, because the catio is your cat/s exclusive environment, you can tailor it to suit them with all sorts of fun things like climbing spaces, scratching branches, cat-safe plants (and a cat litterbox).

Is it cruel or not?

Julie tells PD, “I know a lot of people think it is cruel containing your babies within a catio, but if it is sufficiently large enough with plants, beds, scratching poles etc they have the best of both worlds. You can put natural timber logs in for them to climb and scratch, cat friendly plants and cat grass for them to enjoy, towers, ramps, for them to climb and sleep on and cat exercise wheels if you are concerned they are not getting sufficient exercise.”

Because catios are relatively affordable to create from netting, they can also be fairly big. Cat netting is super lightweight and highly durable. It’s fun for cats to climb and is pretty weather resistant.

Since cats can and often do climb the cat netting in their enclosures, it’s important to do routine maintenance checks. Remember no holes, gaps or tears anywhere or you will very likely find an empty catio!

Is yours an indoor cat? Perhaps a cat enclosure is the solution you’ve been looking for to give them outside time that’s free from dangers.

Cats chill in the indoor/outdoor cat enclosure connected to their house

Is it cheaper to buy or build a catio?

If you’re all about DIY, then the more affordable catio route is to build your own catio using materials like timber for the frame and cat safe netting for the walls. You may already have an indoor/outdoor space that’s part of your home you can adapt into a catio.

How to make one

Here’s a quick DIY guide of steps to follow.

  1. Choosing the materials: Polyethylene is the recommended cat netting material thanks to its durability, resistance to tearing and affordability. However, other materials like vinyl, metal and fiberglass can also work. It just depends on your preferences and budget.
  2. Measure and cut: Measure the area you need to cover. Add a few extra centimetres to ensure you have enough netting. Use scissors or a utility knife to cut the netting to size.
  3. Secure the netting: Attach the netting to the balcony or enclosure using wire, zip ties, or magnets. Be sure to fasten it well and good so you don’t have any escape attempts.
  4. Check for gaps: Regularly inspect the netting for holes or tears as cats can squeeze through even the smallest gaps. You’ll want to make necessary repairs promptly – or you may have a Houdini on your hands.
  5. Supervise initial exploration: Once the cat netting’s securely in place you can let your cat explore their new environment. Keep a close eye on them until they become accustomed to it.

Another option is prefab cat enclosure kits that come with step by step instructions. This route may be slightly more costly but you can simply follow the instructions which can be a bonus. (Kind of like larger than life LEGO)!

A cat scales a climbing post inside its outdoor play pen

How much does a cat enclosure cost?

The cost of a catio cat enclosure varies depending on the size, materials and labour. You can spend hundreds or thousands depending on whether you’re doing DIY or calling in professional installers.

The wonderful thing is that you can totally tailor your cat’s enclosure to your budget, their needs and the environment. Plus you can always add an extension to your cat run down the line.

external view of a catio

A soft landing for cats

As cat mum Julie says, “I absolutely would encourage others to consider a catio. Our fur babies are part of the family and deserve to be safe also.”

She explains, “Cats tend to wander a lot further than you think and, subject to road traffic, further than dogs etc on their travels. A cat enclosure not only ensures their safety from being run over or being attacked by dog. It also eliminates the risk of them being attacked by other cats whether they are wild or someone else’s big tom cat on the prowl.”

Of course, any injuries or accidents aren’t cheap to fix, not to mention the agony of your cat getting hurt. Julie says, “As we all know, vet bills are far from cheap. If this is another thing we can alleviate obviously it’s a win win.”

We couldn’t agree more; cat enclosures highlight that prevention is better than cure. Of course, nothing is foolproof and accidents and illnesses do still happen. Thankfully for that, there’s award winning cat insurance.

When you buy PD Insurance online, you’ll get one or more months of FREE pet insurance. Click below to start your quote.

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