Welcome to my foster cat house & catios! Have you ever dreamed of moving to the country where you could have lots of animals? Or wished you had more room so you could foster more pets? I found out that I didn’t have to wait till I lived on my fantasy 100-acre animal sanctuary to make my wish come true. I just had to re-imagine, reconfigure and renovate the small suburban space I already had available, on the side and back of my home. For a long time I’d saved bookmarks when I saw a really amazing cat enclosure or cat sanctuary online. But when I saw the photos in the New York Times article on catio enclosures in the summer of 2010, I knew it was time to turn my mini cat sanctuary dreams into drawings, plans and reality! Here’s how I did it, along with a photo gallery at the end, including of lots of photos of my foster cats who’ve been enjoying the results until they find loving adoptive homes!
First I did lots of research. I printed out dozens of photos from online (many from Catio Showcase), and made notes on them about what I liked, and put them all into an idea book. Gradually it became clear what design would work well for the space I had, and the style of my 1930′s home.
Several years prior, I constructed my original catio by enclosing one side of my house, like you’d do for a porch. It was 5′ wide and 25′ long. I covered the porch wood framing with chicken wire, boarded up one end, and made a cat ‘air-lock’ style double-door entry on the other end. My foster cats had access to an interior bedroom through a window, where I kept their litter, food and it was warm & dry. But it turned out not to be such a great setup. Because of my house’s layout, the bedroom door could not easily be made into a “cat air-lock” style of entry, so getting in and out without cats escaping into the dog zone was a bit too much of a challenge!
I needed another warm & dry space where the cats could sleep and eat, and I could spend time with them even if it was cold or raining. So I bought a pre-made barn-style shed from Lowes (inspired by the Cat Cottage Senior Sanctuary), and had it installed in the back of my house. Then I hired a contractor to extend the porch catio enclosure, connecting it to a new hallway and catio/porch in front of the shed. They also ran electricity into the shed for a light and an outlet. I debated about trying to do it myself, but I was worried I didn’t have enough knowledge to build a strong enough structure to provide a safe sanctuary for many years.
I used hardware cloth on the “walls” of the new catio, to keep the cats safe from the dogs in the yard, and vice versa. I buried it 6″ in to the ground, to keep cats from digging out. The catio is inside of my 6′ 6″ walled-in backyard, so I didn’t have to worry to much about critters digging in, or I might have gone deeper or used a “skirt” style. I used chicken wire on the roof, stapled down ever 3 inches, to keep the kitties safe from hawks as well as keeping them in should they happen to turn into kitty houdinis and climb the walls.
I also installed a hardware-cloth screen door between the old catio & new catio & shed. With a deluxe wood insulated kitty cabin (a converted dog house) with a heated cat bed inside as a temporary sleeping spot, as long as it’s not raining, the old catio can be used as the “introduction” room when bringing in new fosters too.
Inside the shed, I lined the ceiling with reflective insulation, and setup a twin bed. The cats love all the shelves inside the shed that are filled with beds and hiding spots all the way up to the roof line. With a thermostat controlled electric heater, it stays the perfect temperature at all times.
Lastly I installed a cat door into the shed, so the cats could come and go into the catios as they pleased. Unfortunately the style I bought was so wind proof, even with the magnet removed, the cats have had difficultly pushing it open. So its been propped open, but on my list of improvements to come are a larger vinyl-flap style door, and some ramps and platforms so the cats can have even more places to run, perch and play.
So far the “cat house” has been a huge hit. The first foster resident was adopted in less than a week! The space gives my foster kittens and cats to have plenty of room (and litter boxes!) to live peacefully and happily until they find their new forever homes.
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