Any cat owner would agree that cats have a strong predatory instinct. Unfortunately, this drive to hunt puts native animals at risk, especially birds; each year, outdoor cats kill about 2.4 billion birds in the United States alone. How can you give your feline friend the experience of being outdoors and keep wildlife safe?
The answer is a “catio” (think “cat” plus “patio”), a screened-in extension of your home that may feature plants, perches, tunnels and other enriching elements while still exposing your cat to natural stimuli. Catio designs are diverse as the cats themselves, ranging from simple, hut-like structures to fully enclosed treehouses. You can purchase a kit online or fabricate a catio of your own design.
There are benefits for your cat, too. Cats kept inside tend to live much longer than their free-ranging counterparts because they don’t have to contend with predators, disease, inclement weather, traffic and other outdoor dangers.
Want to learn more about catios? Stop by the Zoo to see one for yourself! Cats Jack and John, on loan through a partnership with Brevard Humane Society, are living it up in their very own catio as part of Butterflies and the Magic of Nature, open now through September 30. When the exhibit ends, they’ll be available for adoption.
A space must meet two criteria to be considered a catio. First, it should be completely enclosed on all sides to prevent escape; check it periodically to ensure nobody’s trying to claw their way out. Second; it should offer some degree of multisensory exposure to the outdoors; porous materials like mesh screening allow natural sights, sounds, smells and sensations (such as wind and rain) to permeate the catio. Outside of these guidelines, your imagination, creativity and budget are the only limits!