The pandemic has led to both a surge in pet adoptions and home improvement projects. Will the two trends meet soon in a wave of ‘catio’ projects?

While stuck in quarantine, many homeowners have leaped into home improvement projects, including building out new office spaces or landscaping backyards. Now, some homeowners are taking those projects to a new level while thinking about their feline friends at home.

The coronavirus pandemic led to a surge in pet adoptions with many people finding they could use some friendly and comforting company during these uncertain times. Now, particularly with more pets in the neighborhood, some cat owners are channeling their DIY energy into creating an enclosed, outdoor cat patio — or “catio” — to give their pets the freedom and stimulation of being outdoors without risking their safety and the safety of other wildlife that may wander through the backyard.

A cat lounging in its catio window box | Photo credit: Catio Spaces

Cynthia Chomos | Catio Spaces

“Catios help solve this dilemma while also addressing a cat’s physical, mental and environmental needs,” said Cynthia Chomos, founder-designer at Catio Spaces, a company that sells construction plans and creates custom aesthetically pleasing outdoor enclosures for cats.

“And they’re proving to be a fun and rewarding family DIY project,” Chomos added.

Chomos said during earlier months in the pandemic, her business saw a significant increase in sales of her DIY catio plans. In April 2020, sales were up 58 percent from the previous year, and in May 2020, sales experienced a 66 percent surge from the year before.

Animal welfare groups in Ottawa and British Columbia launched campaigns this spring to encourage cat owners to create catios for the welfare of birds and cats, as well as to help curb expansion of a community’s cat population.

Stateside, the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon recently partnered with the Audobon Society of Portland to create the Cats Safe At Home program, a program that promotes catios as an effective and safe compromise between having a firmly indoor or outdoor cat (a matter cat owners tend to have strong opinions about).

A cat exploring a shelf in its catio | Photo credit: Catio Spaces

“It’s one side versus the other,” Karen Kraus, executive director of the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon told The Register-Mail. “We’re polarized, but both sides are trying to do what’s right. For both sides, the intent is to be the best family for the cat.”

Cat parents Wayne and Ellen built their cat Oliver a Catio Spaces “window box catio” during lockdown, modifying the plan to fit their home’s double windows that face the backyard, and painting the catio to match their home’s existing white trim.

Oliver the cat’s window box catio | Photo credit: Catio Spaces

“Life has been pretty boring with the lockdowns, so I needed some projects to keep me out of trouble,” Wayne said.

Although quarantine has been a great time to work on projects around the house with nowhere else to go, Chomos noted that the benefits of creating a catio are long-lasting.

“While life during a quarantine has been challenging, these catio cats are enjoying many benefits of catios,” Chomos said. “They will continue to be safe and stimulated long after their owners resume working outside the home.”

Email Lillian Dickerson

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