Apartment Catio Ideas - How to make the perfect catio for an apartment balcony
Cats thrive in apartments as long as they have toys to play with, cat trees to climb and laps to snuggle in. But if you want to enrich your apartment cat's life, consider setting up a renter-friendly apartment catio on your balcony. A catio provides a fun way for your kitty to spend time in the fresh air without any worry that he might slip and fall off the railing.
Gathering Inspiration & Getting Started
If you have an apartment — especially if you're renting — you may be unable to add permanent fixtures to your balcony. But you can still create a fun catio for your kitty.
First, determine if you need the building management's approval and any regulations about what you cannot do. For example, you may not be allowed to screw anything into the walls or floor. Or you may simply need to ensure everything can be easily removed and repairs made when you leave.
After that, it's time to gather inspiration. Look at other cat caretakers' creations for apartment catio ideas. You can find these on social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. TikTok and YouTube also have numerous videos with ideas. Use popular hashtags like #catio, #catioguy, #catios, #catpatio, and #customcatio in your search.
Some apartment dwellers keep things pretty basic and just screen in the entire balcony, converting the whole thing into a catio, kind of like a Florida room. In this case, you may simply need to install a sturdy screen that attaches securely to the roof and floor.
Other cat caretakers may prefer to purchase a pre-made catio that just occupies part of their balcony or build their own rather than converting the entire thing. If you build your own, you need a sturdy screen for the walls, plywood for the base and wood supports. Or you might use sturdy wire "fence" panels (like those that come with pet playpens). A quick Google search of "DIY catio plans" will bring up great options to get started, and many are free.
Before you start building, decide how your pet will enter the balcony. If you want them to come and go as they please, you need to install a cat door in a window or door. If you don't want to install a special door, be sure you're ready to let your cat in and out.
Take safety seriously when building your catio for your precious purrr-baby. You don't want it to give in if your cat sees a bird and jumps at it excitedly. You also need the screen to be strong enough to keep predators out. Some catio builders recommend rust-free galvanized or vinyl-coated fencing wire in 14- to 16-gauge thickness with a small grid (think 2"x 4") to keep out predator birds. This protects your cat without obstructing his view. It's also better than chicken wire, which can give in to predators like coyotes, predatory birds or raccoons.
If you're screening an entire balcony, you may need to include one portion that can be popped out as an emergency escape for you and your cats, such as during a fire. But make sure it's secure enough that your cats can't pop it out.
Finally, always keep a litter box and a water bowl with fresh water in the catio. You don't want your kitty to get dehydrated! If it gets really cold sometimes, a K&H Thermo-Kitty Cafe is a great choice. Just don't leave food in the catio while you're not around because you don't want to attract predators or vermin.
Factor in the weather when furnishing your catio. If the balcony isn't covered, you need covered spaces your cats can retreat to when it rains or they need shade. And even if the catio roof is covered, your furry felines will still feel the winter chill and the summer heat.
In the winter, the K&H Extreme Weather Heated Kitty Pad is perfect for the outdoors and heats up to your cat's natural body temperature. Another option is the Lectro-Soft Outdoor Heated Pet Bed with a washable fleece cover.
For any time of year, you might like the K&H Thermo Outdoor Kitty House (which also comes in an unheated variety). This provides a cozy place your kitty can retreat to for shade that's insulated from the weather.
Furnishing Your Apartment Balcony Catio
Creating a balcony catio isn't just about the building itself. You also want to furnish it with items your fuzzy feline will love. Just remember: if any piece of "cat furniture" isn't made for the outdoors, set it up where it won't be exposed to rain or other weather elements. (Or, make sure you bring them inside when inclement weather is predicted.)
Put in comfy outdoor carpeting or an area rug your cat can scratch and play on rather than just sitting on a concrete floor. You also want planters with cat-safe grass your kitty can nom on.
Your furry friend will want to scratch for joy while outside, so don't forget a scratcher like the K&H Kitty Tippy Scratch n' Track Cardboard Toy. And give him a bed to snuggle in, like the K&H Lazy Cup Pet Bed.
Another great item is the K&H Kitty Tower. This lets your cat climb and play on three levels with plenty of peepholes and cozy fleece surfaces. It's "purrrfect" for your cat to climb, especially if you don't have cat stairs and climbing trees built into the catio.
If you have a window or glass door in your catio, you may want a window perch too. Consider either a K&H EZ Mount Kitty Sill Deluxe with Bolster, a K&H EZ Mount Kitty Sill Cradle Scratcher, a K&H EZ Mount Window Bed, or a K&H EZ Mount Penthouse. What's great about these is you can even mount them to the door or window your cat uses to enter the catio, so he can look back inside and watch you if you're still in the house.
Don't let living in an apartment stop you from setting your cat up with a fun catio. Many wonderful solutions, even for small balconies, can enrich both your cat's life and your own.