Deluxe 'Catio' Built for Feline Fun
You know those people whom stray animals just seem to find? When it comes to cats, Tom and Liz are those people. At present 16 cats have found their way into their hearts and home. Some are shelter cats once deemed unadoptable, others have wandered onto their property, and a few came from various relatives who could no longer care for them. For this reason we’re withholding their last names and exact location, lest anyone get any ideas about leaving more cats with them. Tom and Liz love to save cats, but they are at their limit.
When the couple moved to this home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, cat safety and quality of life were priorities. Their property is about an acre, surrounded by desert wilderness. Predators like coyotes, great horned owls and foxes prowl nearby, and even some of the plant life around can injure cats. A secure enclosure was a must. Here’s how they created cat heaven.
The enclosure is about 600 square feet total. Tom began by sketching out his ideas and rendering his plans using 3-D software. While he had a good understanding of construction and framing, he enlisted some help in setting the redwood fence posts in concrete. The rest of the work he completed by himself on nights and weekends. The project took a few months.
“The friends that helped with the fence posts already knew our cats,” Liz says. “It was a labor of love on their part.” The metal you see here is plastic-coated galvanized fencing. The vertical posts are 4- by 4-inch redwood fence posts; the horizontal ones are 2-by-4s. The entire redwood structure has a waterproof stain.
Bird netting overhead protects the cats from winged predators. Shade sails provide relief from the sun. “Unfortunately, they’ve become hammocks and suspension bridges,” Liz says.
Tom installed a system of catwalks, ramps and steps to connect the “catio” to the main house and the guesthouse. Here is Tom working on the steps from the guesthouse to the top of the kitty enclosure:
The guesthouse is now a full-time cat residence, complete with linoleum floor and fiber-reinforced plastic on the walls, which can be easily wiped down.
Along the catwalk system is “the celestial viewing platform,” as the couple calls it. The cats enjoy sitting and taking in some of the best views on the property here.
A ramp leads from a platform along a catwalk to another ramp that goes to the ground level.
The experts at The Pond Gnome installed a pond inside — a habitat for koi, goldfish and mosquitofish. Contrary to popular belief, the cats don’t go after the fish, but they do enjoy watching them.
Liz and Tom are teaching the koi to come when they are called via treats (it’s a koi thing, they swear). “One day when a koi popped up for a treat, he scared the daylights out of Sylvia,” Liz says.
While they planned on lots of quality cat-visit time out in the enclosure, Tom and Liz were surprised to find how much they enjoy just hanging out in here, too. “The sound of the water is so relaxing, and the cats just love it when we’re in there,” Liz says. “Our friends who love and know the kitties also enjoy coming out and having a glass of wine with all of us out here.”
I know what you want to ask but are too polite to. The answer is, they rake out the enclosure once a week, and the cats also have litter boxes indoors. In fact, the couple is even training the cats to use the toilet in the guesthouse. I forgot to ask if they got the idea from Meet the Parents.
The cat enclosure is a work in progress. The to-do list includes adding rain gutters, box planters and cat grass along the perimeter. Some special cat doors that operate via magnets will control which cats can access the main house while barring those with spraying issues.
“Several of our cats were deemed unadoptable, but all it took was someone who knows cats to adopt them,” Liz says. “Now they seem to say, ‘Hug me! Hug me now!’”
Catio Home Update
As of the date of this blog, November 15, 2017, the Guinans have moved out of state, taking their kitty loves with them, of course. The catio has been removed, and only the pond remains, now surrounded by lawn. The house sold for $1.3+M: Zillow Listing. We miss them!
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Barbi Holdeman, co-owner of The Pond Gnome, enjoys sharing their 20+ years of education & experience with you! She writes about Phoenix Ecosystem Pond Installation, Pond Maintenance, Wildlife around the Pond, Koi and Goldfish in the Pond, and the Pond Lifestyle. If you enjoy what she writes, please share it!