Friday, June 19, 2015

Cat Walks and Catios Part 2

On the third occasion of Cinders opening the fly screen and letting herself outside, I knew we had to think of another option to allow the cats some limited freedom.  The daily walks were fine, but as it got warmer and warmer, inevitably Ash seemed to prefer lying out in the cool grass rather than walking anywhere, which got a little boring for the "walker".

So we needed somewhere they could sit / lay outside, get some sunshine and some fresh air, with good views of the wildlife, but still be confined and safe.  It had to be a catio.

The research started.   A catio is basically a screened-in outdoor area for cats.  They vary considerably in size and shape, and unsurprisingly, there are some extremes out there.  Just google "catio" and see all the different options that pop up.  I started on Pinterest: from the basic wooden frame and chicken-wire rustic structures, to multi-level home-made spaces, to beautiful works of architecture, they're all there.  Whilst I liked the idea of being able to make our own custom catio to fit the space we had (and also aware that, whatever we did it had to be "temporary" for our rented house), I wasn't entirely convinced of our respective wood-working skills (between us: zero). 

On to commercial options - and unsurprisingly, they come with some hefty price tags, too - anything from $400 to $2000.  Noticing that the word "cat" seemed to bump up the price (much like the word "wedding"), I even tried to get creative and look up chicken runs and rabbit runs, but nothing quite fit the bill.  Could we find a local carpenter to put a basic frame together for us?

And then I came across this pin from
Ingeniously, it's a sturdy cat-proof structure made from those wire-frame storage cubes.  And it's completely customisable to whatever shape you need / want.  The website gives lots of information and examples about how to set about building your own catio space, so I drew up a rough plan of a simple rectangular cage design, and worked out what I'd need.  I found the storage cubes online at K-mart for just over $20 each, and bought 3 packs, with free shipping - they arrived 2 days later.  A quick trip to the local DIY store for cable ties (3 packs of 100) and some wire cutters, and I was ready to start.

Putting the wire panels together was straightforward, although my fingers got sore after a while, and a hammer was useful for the odd difficult panel that wouldn't click into place properly.  Within half an hour I'd put the first end together, complete with cable ties, quickly followed by the second.

Obviously I'm not capable of working without supervision, and Cinders ensured that I kept up the hard work:

Once the first long end was complete, I moved it all outside and started to put them all together, along with the roof.  I also added a couple of "shelves" for the cats to hang out on and get a better bird-watch viewpoint:

Finally, in just over 2 1/2 hours, I'd completed the structure and added cable ties at all the joints, including extras in the doorway.  I also attached some cardboard to the shelf "perches" for them to sit on - I'll replace this with plastic or wood of some sort soon so that it's more weather-proof.
(look carefully in the background and you can just see Cinders coming to check on progress)
The doorway took a little figuring out with the connector points, but it works for now. We may change the design slightly in future weeks so that we can give them free access to the catio via the patio doors (somehow), but for now we have to physically move them in and out.  I'm not sure we'd leave them in there unsupervised, but I can at least work downstairs and keep an eye on them through the fly screen.  The best thing about the structure is that, whilst it's very sturdy and stable, you can easily cut the cable ties and take it apart to tweak the design or add extra panels as needed.
Cinders wasn't sure what to make of it at first, but soon started rolling around on the concrete (her favourite activity when outside) and eating copious amounts of lemongrass (I'm sure we'll pay for that later), whilst Ash just laid out and chilled...

A successful catio so far!  We might even invest in some more storage cubes and make another one for the top patio... 

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