British Columbia

Outdoor digs for your cat: B.C. SPCA shows off 'catios' to inspire others

Officials say the structures help give cats safe outdoor time and keep them from harming other wildlife.

Officials say the structures give cats safe outdoor time, keep them from harming wildlife

Kitsilano resident Mary Chow in front of her custom-built enclosed cat patio, called a catio, on Sunday in Vancouver, B.C. (Enzo Zanatta/CBC)

The B.C. SPCA is hoping a made-in-Portland concept will catch on with cat owners here.

It wants to convince people to build cat-specific outdoor enclosures that protect both the furry and the feathered. 

It's something Mary Chow has done at her home in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood. She's built what looks like a screened-in outdoor bookshelf called a "catio," a patio built for a cat.

"Hello there baby," she said to one of her black and white cats as she tried to coax it out of the window of her home into the enclosure on Sunday.

"Ok, there you go! You want some yum yums?"

Mary Chow's cat in its new catio. (Enzo Zanatta/CBC)

When Chow adopted her cats she had to sign a waiver saying they would remain indoor pets.

"A part of this is really giving them the opportunity to get outdoors and be in a safe enclosure," she said about her catio, which took about a week to build.

On Sunday, the B.C. SPCA organized a self-guided tour of seven catios around Vancouver to promote the concept in B.C.

Marieke van der Velden speaks for the society and says the enclosures were first built in Portland about eight years ago and have been catching on across North America.

"We thought it was about time that Vancouver got a taste of the trend as well," she said.

Safer for cats and other wildlife

She says cats allowed to roam outdoors face a range of risks including being hit by vehicles, coming in contact with toxic materials or getting in fights with other cats.

The enclosures help cats stay healthy and protect small animals that outdoor cats often hunt, such as birds, she said.

A more elaborate 'catio' featured on a tour hosted by the BCSPCA in Vancouver Sunday. (Enzo Zanatta/CBC)

The B.C. SPCA helped Chow construct her catio, which cost a few hundred dollars. It's attached to the exterior of her home's windows and has a ramp, shelves and a hammock.

For step-by-step instructions see here.

Mary Chow shows off her catio to participants in a B.C. SPCA tour on Sunday. (Enzo Zanatta/CBC)

Chow says she encourages other cat lovers to build catios.

"I really hope it catches on because we had an outdoor cat previously and then he was hit by a car when he escaped, so I just feel it gives cats more opportunity to be outdoors and be in a safe environment," she said.

With files from Stephanie Mercier.

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