“What a view!!” Who hasn’t exclaimed in pure joy when they’ve stepped onto a balcony or patio and discovered a delightful garden or expansive territorial view? The open air of the outdoor living space immediately transforms a routine indoor environment into an experience that excites and enriches your senses.
You can be sure your indoor cat will experience the same joy – and more – when you upgrade their favorite window to a catio, an outdoor cat enclosure, no matter how small. Catio freedom doesn’t necessarily require a big project with a large footprint.
Let’s explore the joy of purr-fectly petite catios, various types of outdoor enclosures, and tips for choosing the best location for your home.
BENEFITS OF A SMALL CATIO
Cats delight in comfort, but they are also the minimalists of the animal kingdom. They find joy in simple things, like curling up in a cardboard box and batting balls of paper around the room for fun. So, don’t assume you have to cancel your dream of a catio just because space, time, or cash is in limited supply
Petite catios are purrfect for your cat
From the vantage of a small catio, your cat will have all the best enrichment nature can offer.
- Fresh air and tantalizing breezes
- Warm sunshine to bask in while lounging and napping
- The joy of bird watching, bug swatting, and leaf chasing
- Stimulating and ever-changing sights, sounds, and smells
- The tiniest catio will still stir your cat to leave its indoor napping spot for outdoor leaping, stretching, and pouncing on shelves and branches.
- Additional territory can provide stress reduction for multi-cat households
Human benefits of small catio spaces
- Great space savers if you have a small yard or no yard at all
- Economical with less building material than a larger project
- Built with strong wire mesh instead of the flimsy netting of pop-up tents
- Quick and easy to build in a weekend
- Blends right in when painted to complement your house
- Can be disassembled and taken with you if you move
- Best of all, a small catio provides BIG peace of mind, knowing your cat is always safe, and you’re helping to protect birds and wildlife too.
TYPES OF SMALL CATIOS
Small catios range in size, design, and can be located above ground or at ground level depending on the space available. 3-sided catios are economical and attach to your house, providing your cat convenient access directly into the catio through a cat door in a window, wall, or door.
From a compact window box or cat tunnel to a tall and narrow catio with vertical space to climb and explore, your cat can enjoy the many benefits of the outdoors. Let’s explore several types of small catios.
WINDOW BOX CATIOS
The Window Box catio may be small in size, but it’s big on impact. This catio immediately immerses your cat in the fresh air, bright sounds, and eye-catching movement of nature. Its small size helps cats quickly feel comfortable so they can relax and lay claim to their safe, new outdoor territory.
The clean straight lines of a window box catio make it comfortable for your cat to stretch out and relax, but also provide a quick pathway if they want to zip back into the familiarity of the house — or when you entice them back indoors with the rattle of a treat bag.
The DIY Window Box Catio Plan features varying sizes, from 30” to 98” long. Each plan can be customized to your window, allows ample space for two or three cats to lounge comfortably and safely outdoors, and the wood can be stained or painted to complement your home.
The Window Box catio can also be mounted completely under the window sill with cat access through a wall-mounted cat door too.
CAT TUNNEL CATIOS
The Cat Tunnel is a Window Box catio gone wild, with world-expanding configurations that are limited only by your imagination. Build one or create a series of connected tunnels to expand your cat’s territory while keeping a compact footprint in your yard.
- You can keep it simple as a straightforward portal for your cat to venture around your deck or patio.
- Stack it in a cantilevered fashion so your cat can travel from the height of a window down to the grassy level of the lawn or garden.
- Elevate it along a sturdy fence to allow your cat to keep close watch over their entire domain.
- A tunnel can also lead to an outdoor Litter Box or Litter Box Bench for triple duty: space, seating, and an additional litter box!
Cat tunnels can be built in a variety of configurations for a safe outdoor adventure.
The Cat Tunnel can be combined with larger catio designs should you decide to add more space in the future.
lLearn more about Cat Tunnel catios.
THE HAVEN CATIO
The three-sided Haven has many of the perks of a larger catio while keeping a small footprint. You can take advantage of almost any level area close to your house including a deck, patio, and garden area for this type of catio.
A tall and narrow catio has the height for leaping and climbing, room for shelves and perches, and plenty of floor space to explore. The height can be adapted to surround windows and doors.
With 3’x6’ and 4’x8’ DIY Plan options, you can tuck the Haven close to your home, leaving plenty of room to scoot by with a lawn mower while still allowing space for an outside pathway or patio.
A human-sized door on the side of the catio allows access for cleaning your catio and bonding with your cat. The wood can also be painted or stained to complement your home.
TIPS TO CHOOSE THE BEST LOCATION FOR YOUR SMALL CATIO
The magic of a small footprint catio lies in its flexibility. It can be perched up high on an upper deck or balcony where you can watch the world pass by together. It can wind down low on the ground or transform a small patio into a relaxing retreat where your cat can join you.
Here are a few important guidelines to consider when choosing a location for your cat’s tiny outdoor temple:
- Look for the light. Cats love to bask in the sun, but they also enjoy the shade in the heat of the day. If you have a choice, pick a side of your house that offers both. You can also create shade areas with shade cloth or a bench for your cat to lay under in the catio.
- Choose a location with a stimulating view for your cat. If your only possible building site faces the side of a fence or garage, fresh air, a bird feeder nearby, and some cat-safe plants will still provide outdoor stimulation for your cat.
- Plan for the cat door. Some home interiors have several options where a cat door to the outside makes sense, and others may have only one or two. This may limit where a catio can be added outside of your house. Luckily, there are commercial cat doors that fit a variety of windows and doors, and they can even be installed through walls. Discover a world of cat door options here in this comprehensive guide.
- Measure twice. If space is tight and near a pathway, measure garden equipment to be sure you leave room for lawnmowers and wheelbarrows.
- Look up! Are there trees near your catio space? If so, you may want to choose another location or use a blower to occasionally remove leaves or debris on your catio. All of our DIY Catio Plans – even the smallest ones — include the option of a roof with either open wire mesh or a weather-protecting clear polycarbonate (or a combination of both), so you’re covered either way.
One of the biggest advantages of a small catio is that they fit beautifully almost anywhere.
Balconies and elevated decks are dangerous for cats but can be perfect for a small catio. Cat parents often make the mistake of assuming height will deter a cat from jumping, but even a cat who seems to respect a balcony railing can be spooked into leaping or can fall accidentally during curious explorations. By adding a catio or enclosing the space, you and your cat can watch the everchanging sights and sounds together.
BUILD A CATIO YOUR CAT WILL LOVE
No matter what type of catio you choose, it won’t be the size of the space that your cat first notices when stepping through the cat door for the first time. It will be the breath of fresh air, stimulating views, the rustle of leaves, and the trill of bird song.
Don’t let project size delay the joy of a catio for you and your cat. With a catio to fit every home and lifestyle, your catio journey starts with just a single click over to our DIY Catio Plan page. DIY Plans range from $39.95-$69.95. Each plan takes the guesswork out of building a catio and includes a tool and materials list, step-by-step instructions, and diagrams for a successful project.
A catio can be a fun and rewarding weekend project!
Build a DIY catio yourself (step-by-step instructions included), or hire a carpenter to build the plan for you.
Your cat will thank you for it, and you’ll enjoy peace of mind knowing your cat is always safe outdoors.
*10% of plan purchases are donated to animal welfare organizations.
ALREADY HAVE A CATIO?
Even if you already have a catio, a second small structure, such as a window box or cat tunnel, is a wonderful way to add extra adventure for a family of cats. You’ll likely see your cat following the sun or dashing through the house from one catio to another to discover where that bird or chipmunk disappeared to!
No matter the size of catio you choose, life is good in a catio!