When Carrie Fagerstrom was looking for a new home in Portland, Ore., her must-have list didn't include a spacious yard, plenty of closets or even a large kitchen.
Her highest priority: the comfort of her cats. "I really wanted a house that would allow me to build a place for them," said Fagerstrom, who had visions of a catio out back.
A catio is essentially a cat's playground. It's an enclosed, covered area, much like a patio, that allows feline friends to be exposed to the outdoors, getting fresh air and scenery, while keeping them safe from predators.
"I thought it would be as simple as running wire on three sides and putting tarp overhead, but it wasn't that easy," Fagerstrom said. "It ended up being a much bigger project, but I love it." Roughly $5,000 later, her eight cats have room to roam in a catio filled with scratching posts, climbing apparatuses and even a drinking fountain. The space also contains human seating so that Fagerstrom and her friends can enjoy it as well.
Catios got their start with cat breeders and at animal sanctuaries, but more and more cat owners have begun building them at home, according to Kate Benjamin, founder of hauspanther.com, an online magazine for design-conscious cat people. "I've been seeing a lot more people catifying their homes," Benjamin said. "If your cats are truly beloved members of your family, you won't let them live outside. There are just too many threats."
Some tips from Benjamin on building a catio:
• A catio can be built in any home, no matter the size. While some people build large, elaborate ones, a small window enclosure also will work if you're short on space.
• Make sure the catio is fully enclosed, so cats cannot get out and predators cannot get in.
• Provide cats a view of the outdoors, and make sure there's ventilation so that fresh air comes in. Be aware of the weather: You might need a fan in the summer or a heater in the winter.
• Include plenty of toys and features your cats enjoy, such as climbing shelves, scratching posts, cat condos, trees or a water fountain.
• Keep their litter box in the catio.
• Make the space pleasant for humans too. Include comfortable seating so you and your cats can enjoy the catio together.