Cats, like people, love having an outdoor space. Having an outdoor space for them adds to their health and well-being and to their overall happiness with their life. I don’t recommend letting your cat wander around your neighborhood. It’s not safe, and it can make enemies out of your neighbors. Wandering cats use other people’s flower beds and sandboxes for their litter box, and they can scratch, bite, or otherwise cause injury to other people or pets. I recommend a catio, an enclosed outdoor space, made with materials that keep your cat in, but allow air and sunshine for your pet to enjoy.
Here is how I turned my deck into a space for my cats to also enjoy: My deck is built onto an L-shape area of my house. That means it already has two walls of substantial height on the house itself. The entire deck/catio space is 14′ X 22′. I decided to have someone else add 4′ X 8′ sections of sturdy ¾” lattice on one open wall, and part of the final open wall. Then one day, I walked out there, and realized, if I put in a storm door, and finished off the last wall with lattice, I would have an enclosed deck, yet still have sunshine and air for the cats and me.
I had someone add the posts and lattice needed, and they framed in and hung a nice storm door that matched the other storm doors on my house. Then I worried about critters getting on the deck, and future kittens getting off the deck through the wide openings in the lattice, so I bought enough screen to cover the lattice. I found some black screen that has a privacy feature. On one side it allows people to look out and on the other side, it obscures a person’s views from a distance. I had my handyman use a staple gun to staple that in place on the yard side of the lattice. The screen, like the lattice, came in 48″ inch widths, so we could cover each section of lattice with one sheet. It took about a hundred and sixty feet of screen, and it wasn’t cheap, but it has kept kittens inside the deck, and chipmunks and stray critters off the deck.
Next, I decided I needed to roof part of it. When I had the deck built, I also had the builder build a pergola over part of the deck, so I could hook hanging baskets on the pergola above my head. When I wanted the roof, I bought several sheets of opaque green fiberglass, and my handyman attached it atop the pergola, screwing it on the cross beams, all the way from the house to the end of the deck/catio, so on rainy days, the cats and I can enjoy the deck, yet stay dry.
Cats like to have things to climb on, too. I bought some pieces of 8″ X 8′ long pine boards, and using the horizontal supports that the lattice was screwed to, and a few lumber scraps, I fashioned catwalks at table height on the lattice and screen walls, by pre-drilling holes for the screws, and using a combination electric drill and screwdriver, I screwed the boards to the 2″ by 4″ horizontal supports. These are also exactly at table height, so it’s not just a place for the cats to roam, but a good place for me to rest a book, or a drink and snack, while enjoying my deck/catio with my four cats.
Of course, I have furniture out there for guests and for me, but the cats use it, too. I have several seating and table options out there, and the cats and I enjoy them all. They are particularly happy when I get out the seat cushions.
The thing that gives the cats’ real freedom is the cat door that I had installed in the “people” door that I use for access to the deck from my den. Each morning, I take the locking mechanism off the cat door, and I prop the storm door open, so the cats can go in and out as they please, until nightfall, when I go to the door, and tell them it’s time to come in. They all have learned what that means, so even my newest cat, the one who was a feral kitten who I adopted and tamed, knows to come in for the night.
We live in a harsh winter climate, so once the weather is below freezing, the cat door is closed for the season, but some years, we have no ice or snow buildup until almost January, so they have a prolonged play season, and then cat door is open for play time again in mid-to-late March. They love this space, and sometimes take a toy or two out to the deck and enjoy the jingle mouse in the sunshine. My cats are safe, happy, and get the fresh air that we all want. With some planning, you can have a safe outdoor space that both you and your cats can use, and if you love your furry babies, you want that for them, too.