DIY Outdoor Cat Enclosure…How I Built an Oasis For My Furkids

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Hey guys…been away for a little awhile but guess what I’ve been doing? Yep, the creativity bug has bit again and this time I’ve been working on a diy outdoor cat enclosure for my 3 cats to have a little outside freedom within reason.

Do you have indoor-only cats that you would like to give a little taste of freedom to, but not at the expense of their safety? I hear you. Two of my cats are – and as far as leash training goes, some cat owners have managed to pull it off, but it’s not an easy gambit (especially with a cat beyond the most trainable age->6 months)

With an outdoor “catio”, you can have happy, safe cats and only need to tap into a small budget to do so. My husband and I probably spent about $200 (give or take) on supplies in the process.

We used 4 by 8 foot sheets of lattice designed lumber, cedar planks and assorted nails and screws.It took us all of one spring (2012-13) to complete the “kitty corral”…when we had Buddy (yellow tabby) and Cosmo (black longhair). They practically ignored it! Here’s how it turned out:

The Backstory

Nope, it was not a total loss. In the spring of 2015, we ended up with a pet lopear bunny, (yes, right around Easter…he was literally an Easter bunny! lol) and we ended up turning the cat corral into a habitat for him – talk about a great re-use! Unfortunately, we lost the bunny a few months later, I think he just disappeared, sadly.

But as they say, life goes on and in the fall of 2016 I was “claimed” by a cute young 3 month old gray/brown tabby we named Sputnik, and as it turned out, he LOVED the enclosure once I turned it back into a special outside place for him! And wouldn’t you know, the others followed (Aren’t cats just the darndest creatures sometimes)?

I always get the itch to go outside too in the spring and even though the structure was a great start, I felt it could be improved upon which is what I was doing as I stated earlier.

This past week I managed to extend the catio with a few other spare lattice sheets that hadn’t bee used. So if you’re following me we started out with a 4 foot by 8 foot size and then doubled it to an 8 foot square so our little guys could have more room:

Now there are other ways to do this, as far as your situation goes,there’s a few things up for consideration – how many cats do you have? How big is your backyard? Do you want to craft a structure the size and shape of mine, or would you prefer something more like a tunnel or “cat run” instead?

How To Build an Outdoor Cat Enclosure: The Basics

First decide on the “wheres” – Most people let them adjoin one side of their residence. To satisfy your cats’ need for independent coming and going, you may also need a cat flap/entry door too.

Determine the place to mount the cat door… And you don’t need a degree in shop class to do this either; I installed mine right next to our window AC unit which worked like a charm.

Next decide upon the desired size (this may be where blueprints on paper may come in) If you need to take some time to figure out the ideal width, length and depth by all means do it. Better to have a plan than come up short later if the work in progress doesn’t match what you thought it should.

If you want to go bigger, go for it! It will mean more materials and legwork but that can open the door to all kinds of cool ideas like an all-out kitty playground, perches, tunnels, the sky is truly the limit!

Access and Gather Your Materials

While these may vary according to personal taste, there is one thing that can’t be overlooked and that is the structure. You kinda have to think about this like you would building an add-on room. A room under construction has a foundation in place first – Ideally, the structure needs to be made of wooden lumber planks.

outside-cat-enclosure

List of Essential Materials

    • Wooden planks (length indeterminate, thickness about 1.5″-2″)
    • Galvanized wire mesh
    • Assorted hardware like screws, nails and braces
    • Staple gun

Steel wire mesh is sometimes labeled as “all purpose fencing” and has a galvanized outer layer to minimize rust. It has a 1 by 1 inch layout and 16 gauge thickness. It is very strong and durable and a staple product used in making enclosures for rabbits or chickens so it is certainly should be your go-to main material.

You will have to cut the wire mesh as needed with bolt cutters. It is sold by the yard, so it shouldn’t be difficult to determine how much you will end up using. I got mine from Tractor Supply (chain place like Lowes) A staple gun will affix the wire mesh to the wooden structure.

Chicken Wire 13.7 in x 236 in Poultry Wire NettingChicken Wire 13.7 in x 236 in Poultry Wire NettingChicken Wire 13.7 in x 236 in Poultry Wire NettingFencer Wire 16 Gauge Galvanized Rabbit FenceFencer Wire 16 Gauge Galvanized Rabbit FenceFencer Wire 16 Gauge Galvanized Rabbit FenceHardware Cloth Hot Dipped Galvanized WireHardware Cloth Hot Dipped Galvanized WireHardware Cloth Hot Dipped Galvanized Wire

What’s the Easiest Way to Build an Outside Cat Enclosure?

Let’s just say you don’t have a carpenter’s bone in your body. That’s OK! I did read up on a very interesting alternate option after researching ideas for adding on to my enclosure. You can purchase some wire storage cubes made by Whitmor. They work great for animal habitats.

The individual sides of each cube are made to be easily reconfigured as needed. Some people were using them to make guinea pig and rabbit enclosures so just think a little bigger for cats in this case.

A set of 4 is about $30 and so if you ended up getting 7 sets you’d spend about $210 but the process of putting them together would be duck soup because you wouldn’t need any other hardware other than a mallet and zip ties to secure them together.

UPDATE: I finally got myself a set of those stackable cubes …(keep reading) I don’t think I got the hang of them, though!

Don’t Just Stop There…Make Your Catio a Pet Paradise!

As time goes by you may consider the addition of things like tunnels, various perches, or ramps. Cats like to be on high places, they like to explore, and keep an eye out for outdoor critters like birds or squirrels. I’m thinking about the addition of lanterns, or some solar lights surrounding the perimeter.

That would look really cool and they could see where they are going since cats love to prowl around in the evening hours!There’s really no right or wrong way design-wise, so long as you’ve created a secure foundation so those little buggers can’t get out. Then you can have fun with the inside elements too!

how-to-build-an-outdoor-cat-enclosure

And don’t forget you can always modify or expand upon your enclosure in the future -which I did, too. Read on:

UPDATE: Adding On a “Corridor”

6/18/17 Well, I thought I’d take things up a notch.  I added on one more “corridor” of space to it. After all, why quit when you’re ahead right? The little guys were enjoying their habitat to the point that it passed the smell test.

After all I had done I had all this galvanized fencing wire remaining. I did not want to throw it away (I mean it would have gone in the recycle bin) We live in too much of an easy come easy go kind of culture, which is exactly the opposite idea I like to promote on my blog. Check it out here:

cat-enclosure-addon-closeup-with-chair-As it turned out my pieces of wire that I had left from a former project (another long story about a pet rabbit that got away-I’ll save that one for another time) all had similar lengths – like four feet, and with extensive measuring, I discovered that I would have enough to piece them together strategically in the shape that I wanted.

I also had a deadline I wanted to stick to, complete this wire “corridor” by the middle of May at least. I live in Georgia and the God-awful humidity and heat we have here; trust me when I say that the best time to be working outside is March, April through about May 10th, but after that, only in the early morning or evening.

Tools Used In addition to the wire I used the following tools to create this “corridor” I also used heavy duty staple gun, A 2 by 4 plank, 12 gauge wire and zip ties. Hey, the cats seem to be enjoying themselves, no?

I figured out that I would need a top part and a side; but ti was going against the side of the house…and the small 4 by 4 foot lattice piece could be removed and used as the endpoint. Using the staple gun I attached the first wire sheet down to the 2 by 4 plank so it would be sturdy enough to have the right shape. This part was attached to the now-open end of the house side of the enclosure.

But the hardest part seemed to be getting that part flush to the house without looking too weird or leave open the possibility for a feline escape. Obviously this had to come before the part where the lattice end is attached. That was when I came up with the idea of using good old sticks, yep, like the kind that stick out of trees. I gathered a few that were just about the right thickness and length.

One, close to the wall, securing the wire and giving it something to hang onto securely; as it was bowing a little in the middle. Still with me? Good; I hope these images are helping to make this scenario easier to picture.

Then a long 4 footish long stick in the middle, also helped hold that piece well too. The good news is that by the time I went to attach the lattice end piece I had gotten over the hardest part. All that was left was to seam them together with zip ties and wire.

Boy that was work I tell you, but I’m so glad it payed off, I debated about having a roof top or not, but that doghouse on the inside (yes we did used to have a dog, another long story) serves as a good shelter when it rains.And yes, once again, I know that this is not exactly the Taj Mahal, you may even call it “rustic” or heck, even primitive looking…..but do keep in mind I am not a carpenter and this is the first cat enclosure I have ever put together.

My furkids are happy, and that’s what counts… (I think it’s resulted in them bringing in tiny bugs so I have to use the pet flea and tick spray on home furnishing stuff here)

Check out this feline visitor I’ve got that’s discovered my furkids’ catio and is just making himself right at home…cute cat on my catio

He’s a handsome boy no? I have no idea who he (perhaps it’s a she?) belongs to, but I’ve been seeing this cat off and on trolling the neighborhood for a few years, so for all I know he might be just a transient or semi-feral.

Anyway, just wanted to share this cute scene; if you are reading this right now and you’re missing a black and white cat, please get in touch:)

How Well Did the Stackable Cubes Work?

Update 4/27/19 This corridor after two years, was starting to get messed up …I decided it was time to give it a good rework. Want to know what i did next? Find out now in my Part 3 Catio story!

My oldest cat, Buddy, is a real escape artist. I’ve taken to dubbing him the “Shawshank Kitty” ’cause he is always acting like the catio is some kind of jail and trying to escape. It worried me a great deal because he set a poor example for his brother and sister.

I finally decided to order some storage cube sets. I couldn’t find them locally – Only Amazon and Wayfair carry these. I ordered 3 sets off Amazon; guess-timating that was about how many I would need to build a runner. I saw that one guy had purchased 10 sets to build a whole kitty enclosure; not just a runner or tunnel area.

catio side view

Anyway, I really like working outside this time of year. We’ve had some more of that weird Georgia weather again with periodic rain, so that kind of stalled my plans. Anyway, back to the storage cubes….These are actually grids. They are nice and heavy too, so you’re not rolling the dice with some flimsy junk that your cat may be able to pry loose.

They are all 14″ square. Next included is a bunch of these round disc thingys. These are the connectors you use to fasten the grids together. At first, oddly enough I had trouble with them and didn’t realize that they have slots on the bottom AND on the sides with which you insert the corners of the grids.

But then I had that face palm moment putting them together. It goes smoothly when you’ve got a few panels going at a time….Then when I had the actual box shape well under way, though, every so often a corner would pop out of a connector, or if I tried to push in a corner it would end up disrupting another part of the framework. Ugh.

Any of you guys remember Tinkertoys; they go back to the 70s and 80s and for those of you Millennials they are building tools which consist of colorful wooden sticks and round discs with holes to connect the sticks.

I had my fair share of consternation whenever I tried to get elaborate structures…but I digress. I also managed to hook up a small platform on one corner since cats love perching. I used two grids; one I pushed into the corner and a second one perpendicular to it for stability.

Don’t Forget the Zip Ties…Lots of Them!

I finally came to the conclusion that if a grid corner pops out of the side of the connector, it’s best to just grab some zip ties and wrap the grid sides together for extra security. A much more productive move than pushing stragglers back in only to have other corners pop out while you’re trying to fix things.

Anyway, long story short…..after I had all the grids assembled (I ended up with four or five left over) I finally had a good runner piece that will hold my little escape artists. They may feel like they’re being detained at the moment, hehehe.

Wrap-Up

So if you have made it this far….I hope my story has inspired you. Or entertained…or both. Personally, I think the conventional method with real wire and lumber was the better approach, and the cube grids were a major PITA and not as easy as I had expected. But you may have a different experience and be the other way around. Either way, how you build your catio is all up to you. Good Luck and Happy DIY-ing!

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