by Christie Lagally
Originally published in City Living Seattle
As a cat lover, I understand my responsibility to ensure my cat, Buca, is well-fed, has a clean litter box and access to my lap for snuggle time. Even if I forget, Buca will remind me and occasionally thank me with a loud purr. But Buca is unaware of my similar efforts to keep her safe from being hit by a car or attacked by a wild animal, as well as my efforts to protect local wildlife from cats.
While Buca is mostly an indoor cat, she has access to the outdoors in an enclosed area. Outdoor cat enclosures, also known as catios, are quickly becoming a popular solution to ensure your cats’ safety from traffic accidents, kidnapping or wildlife conflicts, while providing cats with all the enrichment of the outdoors.
So, this spring, Seattle-area residents (and their cats) are sharing their success implementing cat enclosures by opening their homes for the Catio Tour Seattle event on May 16, sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Catio Spaces and PAWS.
This self-guided tour of homes provides an opportunity to see the variety of ways that a catio can be added to nearly any house, yard, window, porch or deck to provide, not just a safe enclosure, but also a preferred location for your cat to enjoy the outdoors. Catios featured on the tour include escape-proof wire mesh walls, tunnels and a variety of sizes and creative designs.
Catio Spaces owner Cynthia Chomos is one of the organizers of the tour. She will feature several types of catios at her Ballard home, including a window-box veranda and a ground-level garden sanctuary catio.
“Some of the catios on tour are decorated to look like outdoor rooms, including human seating, decorative mats, plants, a water fountain,” Chomos said. “Adding to the outdoor enrichment experience, cedar shelves and natural tree branches allow vertical and horizontal movement for exercise, and corner perches provide space for bird-watching, lounging and cat naps in the sun.”
Chomos will also have a Seahawks-themed catio (which she built for a client) temporarily at her home for the tour. She explains that this is an example of how catios can be built in panels to be easily relocated if you move.
Seattle resident Kathyryn Oliver will show her cat enclosure during the tour. Her catio is built with access through a window and includes several high perches, lush grass and plenty of light for sunbathing for her cats and even her pit-bull mix, Reagan, who also enjoys the enclosure. Oliver says that, when she moved to Seattle, she felt she couldn’t provide her cats with safe access to the outdoors, and building a cat enclosure was a perfect solution.
“I wish I’d built it sooner,” Oliver said.
During the tour, Oliver is taking an additional step to help cats. As a member of the Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation Bboard, Oliver has arranged to have several adoptable cats from the Seattle Animal Shelter enjoying her catio for the day. When tourists visit Oliver’s Magnolia home, they will also meet some adoptable cats.
Protecting all animals
Cat enclosures are an excellent example of how a simple modification to your home can provide a humane solution to reduce the 1 billion to 4 billion birds killed by free-roaming cats each year, according to a 2013 article in Nature Communications, and the countless number of cats that are hit by cars, poisoned, inadvertently caught in garages and die, or are attacked by wildlife, dogs or other cats. While it takes some time, money and forethought, providing a cat enclosure benefits the entire community, explained Jennifer Hillman, director of strategic advocacy and campaigns for HSUS.
“We hope this tour will give people ideas about how easy it is to add a cat enclosure and how it can be a great addition to their home,” said Hillman, whose multi-level cat enclosure in Northgate will also be featured in the tour.
The Catio Tour Seattle event will take place May 16, from noon to 4 p.m. To register, visit www.catiotourseattle.com and click on “Tour Info”; a $5 donation to PAWS is suggested at registration. A few days before the tour, you will receive a map of homes to visit during the tour.
Catio resources — including tips, DIY (do-it-yourself) plans, cat-enclosure companies and kits — can also be found on the website.
Don’t forget to take your camera to capture features of catios that you want to incorporate into your own cat enclosure.
CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane (livinghumane.com), a news site about humane-conscious lifestyles. To comment on this column, write to CityLivingEditor@nwlink.com.