Make Your Cat Adore You: Build a Catio

You adore your cats. Give your feline friends some fresh air and sunshine—without letting them out to roam around the neighborhood unsupervised—and they’ll adore you almost as much as they do catnip.

Letting cats roam outdoors endangers birds and other wildlife—the American Bird Conservancy estimates that more than 2 billion birds are killed by cats each year in the United States alone—and it puts the cats themselves at risk. Many suffer and die painfully when they’re hit by cars, attacked by dogs, or poisoned or shot by people who don’t like them digging in their gardens.

Cats who roam outdoors are also at risk of contracting diseases, ingesting toxic chemicals, suffering from flea infestations, and starving after being accidentally locked in garages, sheds, and crawl spaces in which they’ve sought shelter. They may even be caught by “bunchers,” people who make a living out of cruising neighborhoods looking for friendly animals to sell to dealers, who in turn sell them to laboratories. The only thing that cats who live indoors miss out on is the likelihood of meeting an untimely end—the average lifespan of an indoor cat is 12 to 15 years, as opposed to just 2 to 5 years for cats who live outdoors.

The world is a dangerous place for vulnerable domestic felines. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy feeling fresh air in their fur, sunshine on their faces, and grass under their paws—all from the safety of the indoors. In Florida, where I live, many people have screened-in lanais—or porches—where they and their cats can safely sit together.

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If you don’t have a screened patio, or if yours isn’t suitable for ensuring your feline’s safety, you (or someone you hire) can build a catio—a cat enclosure or “cat patio” that will safely provide your companion with access to fresh air, a perfect spot for sunbathing, and maybe even some potted catnip. Catios can be built for a window, porch, deck, garden, or yard, depending on your space and budget. Larger ones can even include space for a human companion or two. Cats enter them through a special insert placed in a window, wall, or door. It’s important to join your cats in the catio—never leave them unsupervised.

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A catio is the purrfect way to let cats enjoy the outdoors safely, but if it’s not in your budget, you can always take your feline for a walk. Just be sure to use a lightweight leash attached to a harness, not a collar. Or invest in a cat stroller or portable outdoor enclosure to give your friend a safe adventure outdoors.

Check out PETA’s tips on caring for cats for more ways to entertain your felines, both outdoors and indoors. Cats are curious, intelligent animals who need more than food, water, and a litterbox. Make your home a cat playground paradise! Toys, scratching posts, built-in wall steps for climbing and lounging, drinking fountains with running water, and a window seat with a view are just a few things that will make your cats adore you while they’re enjoying the Great Indoors.

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For more information about making your feline’s life safer and more enjoyable, pick up a copy of Ingrid Newkirk’s book 250 Things You Can Do to Make Your Cat Adore You.