Why an indoor catio? We get that question a lot. Our indoor catio evolved after almost seven years of running Catnip Casa Cat Refuge. Now, the weather is worse, and the cats are older. Covid forced us to do without volunteers, and then, the lack of TNR for over two years caused a feral cat explosion. As a result, we took in a young mom and kittens on our property that needed help. That’s the short story of how we got here.
Something had to change. We couldn’t keep them warm enough or cool enough even with the best resources we could find. Constant threats of power outages didn’t help. We also couldn’t risk a broken leg on icy ground going in and out on welfare checks in the worst of the winter weather. Plus, the young family needs socialization that won’t happen without more human exposure.
Still, why an indoor catio? The community cats are not tame like the seniors inside. Some will never be tame, although they have pretty good house manners. They need separate spaces because they are not one colony. They also need to adjust to human noises and work up to being handled. Essentially, they need the facilities they had outside with the added security of walls, floors, and temperature control. They also need familiar environmental noises, sights, and stimulation to avoid being totally traumatized by the sudden changes.
Meeting the Challenges
It is a challenge to design a room that can do all that and use materials that are feral-friendly (not ruined by accidents or a fit of marking). In addition, the space must be flexible to accommodate playtime, allow the cats to interact, separate a sick kitty, and provide a place for vet care. It also needs to be able to be done with materials and skills that are primarily DIY level. Here’s what we did.
- Beautiful natural-looking bird mobiles floating from the ceiling
- Hanging silk vines that sway in the breeze from the heat/cool/fans
- A television that plays cat videos with varied familiar wildlife from breakfast until bedtime that is surrounded by a wall of greenery and flowers
- Three areas are divided by doors that can be merged in any combination by using catio-type enclosures built in a custom configuration (thank you, C&D Pet Products)
- Climbing shelves, houses, patio furniture for cats and guests, and scratchers
- An entire wall of wallpaper windows with outdoor scenery (they really like it and play with the birds and flowers on the windows)
- Garage flooring–easy to clean, easy on the feet, and nonslip
- Insulated garage doors with windows that let in natural light and sun (professional installation)
- A storm shelter that makes it easy to round up the animals without going outside (installed by the company as a part of the cost of the unit)
- Sunny yellow paint with added fire retardant, along with 24×7 cameras and smoke alarms
- A heat pump mini-split unit independent of the house with heating and cooling (professional installation)
All of the onsite work was done by volunteers and caregivers except for the major items with electrical and natural gas involved. The cats love it, and they are adjusting well. Cheeto and Extra are touchable. Dorian is occasionally touchable. Toffee is beginning to join the fun too. Old Annie remains very feral, but she loves treats and playtime.