Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's Catio Season!

When it comes to their homes, there are few things New Yorkers prize as much as a little outdoor space — a terrace, perhaps, or a small deck in the backyard.

How to build a catio
Cat owners who want to create a safe outdoor space for their cats have several options:
— Do-it-yourself: equipment like PVC piping, heavy mesh nets and chicken wire is available at Home Depot and other supply stores. Various websites offer photos, construction tips and other pointers.
— A website called sells a book with detailed drawings and instructions on how to build a cat enclosure, for $25 plus $5 shipping. The site also has an attractive gallery of its customers’ installations.
— Kittywalk Systems ( sells modular cat enclosures that can be used individually or combined into elaborate cat playgrounds (think of them as Habitrail for cats). Among the freestanding models are a 6-foot-tall teepee ($399.95) that can be set up on a balcony or deck and a 5-foot-tall “penthouse” with enough hammocks for three cats ($179.95).
— Habitat Haven ( is a Canadian company that sells predesigned, do-it-yourself cat enclosure kits. It also offers supplies and advice on making custom enclosures.
— SafeKitty ( is a mom-and-pop company in Buxton, Maine, that sells off-the-shelf and custom-made enclosures, starting at $449 for a standard 6-by-6-by-6-foot box. The pieces are made with white cedar from the Maine woods.
— Petco ( sells a stand-alone outdoor enclosure called the ABO Gear Happy Habitat Cat Tent. It is 3 feet high, 74 inches long and 63 inches wide, and costs $41.97 when ordered online.
— Doctors Foster and Smith (, a pet supply company, sells a no-frills 5-foot collapsible tube called the Fun Run Outdoor Cat Enclosure for $39.99.

Their cats feel the same way.
So some cat owners who would never dream of letting their pets roam free outside have come up with a creative compromise: an enclosed space — usually in the form of a screened-in porch or deck — that allows them to share the great outdoors.
Please don’t call it a cage. They prefer the term “catio.”
“The cats, they like to sit out there,” said Stefanie L. Russell, who is 44, referring to the balcony of her 12th-floor Greenwich Village apartment, where a homemade enclosure keeps her three Burmese cats safe. “Before, we basically didn’t use the balcony at all, because we were afraid that the cats would fall or jump.”
Two years ago, she and her husband, Robert Davidson, who are on the faculty of The NYU College of Dentistry, fenced off half the balcony, which runs the length of the apartment. They used industrial-grade PVC pipe and heavy black netting, creating a fully enclosed space that they decorated with furniture, plants and carpeting.
Now the couple and their 9-year-old daughter, Sophie, leave the terrace door open for Oliver, Lily and Jackson, who are, as Russell put it, “the type of cats that love to run out in the hallway.” The cats seem happier, she said, and there has been an unexpected bonus: “Before, we used to have pigeons nesting on the balcony, and it was just a mess.” These days, the birds keep their distance.

     ***The remainder of this article can be read at