Posted on December 22 2021
Creating an Outdoor Space for Your Cat
We love our feline friends. Seventy percent of cat owners let them sleep in their beds, and 88% of owners celebrate their pet’s birthdays. There’s nothing better than watching your cat explore a new climbing tree or seeing them let out their wild-side in your backyard.
However, free-ranging outdoor cats face several health hazards while exploring — in fact, outdoor cats live an average of 10 years less than their indoor counterparts. This leads many to believe that you shouldn’t allow your cat to range freely outdoors at all.
But, research shows that controlled outdoor access is good for your cat’s overall health, and cats who were given regular access to outdoor spaces had fewer health issues, were more playful, and exhibited less fearfulness.
In the last few years, things like cat-patios (catios!) and cat-leashes have given owners a chance to let their feline family explore the outdoors safely. But, if the concept is new to you, it can be hard to know where to begin.
So, here are a few tips to help you create a perfect outdoor space for your cat.
Insurance for Outdoor Cats
Your cat will love the outdoor space you create for them, and you will love seeing them frolic in tall grass and scaling trees. However, cats are notorious for finding mishaps — while those nine lives might save them from a bumpy-landing, it won’t save you from an expensive veterinary bill.
Before you allow your cat outside, you should ensure that they are well insured, as vet bills can exceed $1000. Insurance is even recommended for indoor cats, as they can still run into accidents in your home.
A cat leash allows you to give your cat access to outdoor spaces while you supervise their actions. Walking your cat is also good for your health, as the fresh air and light activity boosts your physical health and can help owners form healthy habits.
However, many animal advocacy groups advise against walking your cat on a leash or lead. A cat’s natural instinct is to hide and escape when faced with potential danger. Putting them on a leash may cause them extra distress as they will not be able to follow these instincts.
If you still want to try cat-walking out, you should use a proper cat harness, as this will avoid disaster should they choke themselves or slip out from a make-shift dog harness. You should also introduce cat-walking slowly, so your cat can get used to the restrictions of a leash.
A far better idea is to ditch cat-leashes altogether. Instead, you can create outdoor spaces in your backyard that will provide your cat with all the stimulation it needs in a safe environment.
Building a Catio
The best form of controlled outdoor space for cats is a “catio”. As the name suggests, these outdoor spaces are connected to your home but are fenced spaces that allow you to control the movement of your cat.
Catios usually come ready built and are easily assembled. You simply need to choose where to place your catio for the best results. When interior-designing your cat patio, remember that cats love areas to hide, and should be given ample access to shade and cool areas — no one likes a burnt pad!
Beyond the practicalities, it’s really up to you to provide some design and Feng Shui to your cat’s space. You can do this by providing a stimulating, yet clutter-free environment which is well lit, filled with earthy tones, and open, breezy spaces.
You might want to add some plants and foliage to your cat’s space. This can give them a place to shelter from the sun, and they’ll have great fun climbing trees and blending in between flowers. However, if you choose to do this you need to ensure that the plants are safe for cats.
Many of our favorite flowers and shrubs — lilies, daffodils, tulips, and crocuses — are toxic to animals. You absolutely cannot risk introducing a new plant into your cat’s outdoor sanctuary without first ensuring that it is safe for them to be around or eat, and should check this ASPCA list of poisonous plants first.
Beyond avoiding poisonous plants, you should aim to find plants that won’t be ruined by inclement weather and replicate man-made cat trees. Small palm trees can usually be found at your local garden center, and you can easily plant or pot grass that cats love (like oat grass or asters).
Cats love to be outdoors, and you can help them by planning a controlled outdoor environment with plenty of room to explore and enjoy. When designing your catio, ensure that you keep any toxic materials or plants out, and consider adding some vertical elements like grass and small trees for your cat to enjoy.