Top Ten Tips for Do It Yourselfers
Updated: Mar 3
A catio is an excellent D-I-Y project for a cat owner with some basic carpentry skills, a few tools and some motivation! Materials are typically 25-33% of the cost of one of my catios. So, you can save a LOT of money if you do it yourself. Here are my Top Ten tips to hopefully make your experience easier, and your catio better!
1) Recognize you are NOT building a room. It is really just a big cage. It doesn't need studs or joists every 16”. It only has to be strong enough to hold the fencing that will contain the cats and keep predators out. I usually work with 4' spacings, because the fencing I use comes in 4' x 50' rolls.
2) A 2” x 4” x 8' is the best lumber value you can buy. Working with dimensions that are divisible by 4' will enable the most economical use of lumber. I LOVE 4' wide catios, because the space between the sides is eminently maneuverable for a cat!
3) Screws make stronger and tighter joints than nails. Make sure you pre-drill the first piece, or else the screw threads can actually hold the two pieces apart.
4) Rent a pneumatic stapler (and the compressor to power it) to attach the fencing. It is SO much stronger and faster than trying to do it with a T-50 or such. Wear ear protection! I have tinnitus because for years I didn't.
5) Though I don't, there's no reason not to use store-bought metal shelf brackets. They will save you time (which is, ultimately, money). I build mine from lumber because I like the strength and aesthetic that provides, but in the end, the time it takes me to make and install them probably makes them more expensive than totally adequate, off-the-shelf brackets.
6) Regarding tools, a cordless drill (with a selection of bits) is a must. A miter saw, too, because it will give you the most accurate cuts. You'll also need a level, a tape measure and wire cutters. I use a circular saw and a hand saw on every job, but you might be able to do without. And even though I put almost everything together with screws and glue, there is always some need for a hammer. If you're installing a pet door, you'll also most likely need a stud finder, a drywall saw, and an angle grinder.
7) I build all my catios solo. I can count on one hand the number of times I've had help with some task on a catio build. But, I have developed lots of techniques to enable that. For a D-I-Yer, having a co-worker or helper could be extremely helpful, especially with attaching the fencing. Steel fencing that has been shaped into a roll likes to stay that way! And it can be quite challenging to get it to lay flat against your catio. I find this to be the hardest part of the job working alone, and where an extra pair of hands would be very helpful.
8) If you build with wood, treat it! No matter where you live, the wood will last longer if you finish it. There are many options, but bare wood can deteriorate quickly. I use a solid color stain because: 1) you don't need to prime bare wood to stain it (which you do to paint it, so that saves a step); 2) it comes in a variety of colors, to enable a better blend with your home; and, 3) it provides good protection against weather. Whatever you choose to finish your wood with, make sure it provides both water-proofing and protection from sunlight. And be ready to refinish as needed (the solid color stain lasts 5-10 years) to keep your catio in good shape!
9) Check out some catio plans online! Cynthia Chomos, the “Catio Queen,” has some great resources for D-I-Yers at: catiospaces.com/catios-cat-enclosures/diy-plans/
10) Examine and study other catios you admire—especially in-person, if you can—to see what building techniques you can copy.
I LOVE the Adventure Cats website! Check out their catio suggestions at: Adventure Cats Catio Hacks. Good luck with your project! And reach out if you have questions!