Your feline friends will think you’re the cat’s meow if you install a custom-built “catio” just for them.
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/07/2022 (334 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Marissa Lajeunesse, better known as the Winnipeg Cat Carpenter, explains that a catio is simply a patio for your cats. Typically, catios are outdoor structures made from wood, wire and screening to keep cats safe while exercising or lounging outside. This secure outdoor enclosure provides the purrrfect place for kitties to play while enjoying fresh air.
A Red Seal carpenter by trade, Lajeunesse discovered a niche when she merged together her woodworking skills with her lifelong affinity for cats. She’s been a residential carpenter for about 10 years, and is now going into her second year as the Winnipeg Cat Carpenter.
“I knew I wanted to build a catio for my own two cats after moving into a place without a balcony about two years ago. My cats could not wait to get into their very own catio as I built it. They watched patiently from the window. I had a feeling I was not the only pet owner that would love to be able to give their cats this sort of experience,” she said.
“So I turned to social media to see what kind of interest there was here in Winnipeg and the response was unbelievable. I had dozens of inquiries within hours of posting it online. With combining my passion in carpentry and love for cats, the Winnipeg Cat Carpenter was born.”
For the upcoming season, Lajeunesse will offer different sizes of freestanding pen-style catios with a covered roof, multiple perches and access door. As another option, she builds custom catios that can be affixed onto a house with cat access directly through a window.
For cat owners who’d prefer to build their own catio, Lajeunesse encourages them to start by selecting the right structure material — such as cedar, spruce, pine or PVC pipe —so that it’s safe, sturdy and able to withstand Manitoba weather.
“My catio structures and perches are built out of 100 per cent cedar anywhere the cats come into contact with. Cedar is a great option because it is safe for the cats,” she said.
“It is very durable against our climate and weather. It is naturally mould and insect-resistant, so there is no sealing or staining necessary. It also has a natural beauty to it.”
“When installing perches, make sure they’re an adequate size and height for your cat to safely enjoy.”
– Marissa Lajeunesse,
Winnipeg Cat Carpenter
When building a catio, another important consideration is choosing the right type of screening or wire.
“The purpose of screening or wire is to keep the cats safely inside the catio while allowing them to be able to see and enjoy the outdoors — bird watch, feel the fresh air and sun on their fur,” she said. “Choosing what best suits your need may also depend on the location of the catio.”
Some options include aluminum screening or wire mesh, known as chicken or hog wire.
“For my catios, I primary use aluminum screen. It is durable and tear-resistant. The aluminum screening also adds to the attractive design while still keeping the cats safe,” Lajeunesse said.
“It is also great for controlling the types of insects the cats could come into contact with, such as bees, wasps or ticks.”
In addition, she suggests ensuring the space within the catio is comfortable for your cats to move around freely. When installing perches, make sure they’re an adequate size and height for your cat to safely enjoy. For a personal touch, you could incorporate their favourite toy, scratching post and cat-safe plants.
For all current and future catio owners, Lajeunesse shares a few precautions.
“It is very important, when allowing your cats to enjoy time within their catio, to have fresh water and shade readily available to them,” she said.
“Regularly inspect the catio screen, wiring and structure for defects or damage to ensure your cats’ safety. Remember to never leave food or treats in the catio for long periods of time or overnight as you may have unwanted guests enter or damage your catio.”
Especially now that spring is in the air, catios are proving to be a popular pick for both cats and their owners.
“It is one of the most rewarding feelings, watching the cat owners with huge smiles on their faces as they place their cats in their new catio for the first time. As for the cats, their first reactions are often filled with some caution and a lot of curiosity,” she said.
“But without a doubt, each time before I have cleaned up my tools, the cats are right at home in their new catio, laying on the perches purring with uttermost joy. My absolute favourite clients now are the ones with four paws and are covered in fur.”