Catios—outdoor cat enclosures—are an easy way to expand your indoor cat’s world and provide your cat with a safe, fresh-air space for play, rest, and basking in the sun.

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A Beautiful brown mink lounging in his catio outdoors
Credit: ahloch / Getty

Have you heard of catios? The word catio is short for "cat patio" and refers to an outdoor enclosure where your indoor cats—and you, if it is big enough—can safely hang out in the great outdoors. Lauren Novack, a Certified Behavior Consultant with Behavior Vets of NYC says, "Most indoor cats are desperately bored. Cats are meant to roam and hunt. Catios can provide increased enrichment."

A large outdoor catio is basically a screened porch for cats. But, of course, it requires heavy-duty screening to keep the cats inside and to keep any predators out. A catio can be as small as a window box or the size of a large room. But you don't need tons of square footage. In fact, a very narrow space can be the perfect place for a large outdoor catio because cats love to climb and don't mind a catio that is tall rather than wide.

Outdoor catio accessories can include shelving that act like stairs for climbing, a swinging bridge, hammocks or other beds for relaxing, scratching posts and cat trees (try using actual tree branches from your yard!), and a cat house for hiding. More elaborate catios have mesh-wrapped tunnels (think hamster cage on a backyard scale) that connect various spaces and allow cats to run and chase.

A catio can be freestanding, which requires you transport your cat to and from the structure, or it can be cozied up to your home and a cat door installed in a window or wall allows your cat to determine his own catio schedule.

Of course, you could take your kitty outdoors on a leash instead of building him his own outdoor room. But that requires a few things:

  • You have to put your cat in a harness.
  • You have to go out with him.
  • Your cat has a very limited range of movement depending on the leash's length.

Also, a leash doesn't protect your cat from predators and other animals (such as neighborhood cats and dogs) and it doesn't protect birds from your cat's hunting prowess.

Depending how you design the catio access point, a catio allows your cat to go outside at his own will, stay out as long as he likes, and be protected while he climbs, plays, and bird-watches on his own schedule—likely at dawn and dusk, as cats are crepuscular (meaning they are most active at these times).

If you're looking for ideas to build your own catio, check out these amazing large outdoor catios we found on Instagram. They are sure to inspire your creativity! But … you might want to peruse while your cat is busy with something else. He's sure to start demanding his own outdoor catio if he sneaks a peek.

1. Play Pen Catio

Minnie and Mickey are two content cats when they get to spend time out in their outdoor catio on a warm evening with all their toys and a swinging bridge!

2. New Digs

Loki's newly built outdoor catio is a big hit with the Norwegian forest cat. His alfresco room is outfitted with a scratching post, a cat tree, a bed, a ledge, faux turf, and more! Loki simply strolls out the open window and into his own personal paradise.

3. Cat Kingdom

Beautiful CeCe looks majestic on her large outdoor catio's stair-stepped perches. Create similar wall-mounted levels for climbing in an outdoor catio (or on any wall) using inexpensive shelf brackets and topping with a flat surface.

4. Corner Office

Tucked into a corner of a privacy-fenced backyard, this outdoor catio by Elwing Works gives resident kitties Nala and Cleo an open-air place to play and lounge while keeping a low profile (i.e. below the fence line) and out of the view of neighbors.

5. Multi-Cat Catio

A large outdoor catio is divided into several rooms at Young at Heart, a safe haven and adoption program for senior dogs and cats in Woodstock, Ill. Having separate play spaces allows for more cats to have access to the sunny, open-air space at one time.

6. Going Green

Jiji and Jude sure are some lucky cats! Their humans refreshed their outdoor catio by installing artificial turf on the floor, a new shelving unit with uprights wrapped in sisal and turf on the horizontal surfaces, and new lemongrass and wheatgrass plants.

7. Vegas Oasis

Levi and Freya's catio is a tall drink of water in their rock-covered Las Vegas back yard. This narrow, freestanding outdoor catio provides lots of space for climbing and sunning and because it's on wheels, it is easy to move to a new locale when needed.

8. New Adventures

Watch Lord snow and his feline (and canine!) friends explore their new DIY outdoor catio for the first time. Looks like Mr. Snow discovered lots of things to his liking—a comfy spot for hanging out and a place to perch.

9. Window Catio

Porthole-style bubble windows in the wire walls of this outdoor catio give Nano amazing views of his surroundings and feathered neighbors.

10. Play Station

This amazing DIY outdoor catio is still under construction but we love it so far—I mean, it has a water fountain! We can't wait to get the full tour once it's done and being enjoyed by this family's cats.

11. Custom-Built Catio

This custom outdoor catio in Miami has a tunnel designed to mimic the architecture of an arbor and continues on a downward slope for a total of 60 feet of cat chase space. The catio building has board and batten cedar siding and a full roof.

12. Foster Friends

Is this Central Purrrk? No, it's a catio at Cats of Eden in São Miguel, Azores, where they foster, care for, and find good homes for abandoned kittens and cats. These five top-shelf feline friends are doing some serious sun bathing in their large outdoor catio space.

13. Quarantine Project 

Back in May 2020, Lauren built an outdoor catio for her two cats. The structure looks like a small screened porch perched on a wood deck and topped with clear plastic roofing. Later, she added a pea gravel and stepping stone path to connect the catio to her stone patio.

14. Portable DIY Catio

Living in an RV presents many challenges. Living in and renovating an RV with a cat who is restless and acting out is a whole other ball of yarn. The solution? A large DIY outdoor catio. "I told Sam we just needed something simple," one human member of this family says. "So of course she built a 4x6x8 structure," stained and waterproofed it, and constructed it in an ingenious way so it can easily be taken apart and transported when they relocate the RV to the next spot.

15. Catio With Tunnels

Multiple tunnels to and from a central enclosure where their humans hang out give three lucky kitties—Agnes, Henry, and Lorenzo—room to roam. And now, one of the outdoor catio's tunnels is outlined with lights to delight the Scottish fold, Abyssinian, and Bengal cats (and the humans) after dark.