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Apartment living can be tough for cats. It’s a constant battle to give your kitty enough enrichment while keeping her safe. A balcony catio can help give your cat the exercise and enrichment that she craves while keeping her safe (and keeping the birds safe from her).
A catio is a patio for cats (cat + patio = catio).
Balcony catios allow your cat to enjoy the sunshine, watch the birds, and sniff around the outdoors while protecting your cat from predators and protecting wildlife from your little tiger.
9 Benefits of A Balcony Catio
- Dramatically increases your cat’s mental enrichment. We’re nuts about mental enrichment here at Journey Dog Training! Most of our pets spend far too much time alone in apartments that just aren’t set up to keep them entertained. Puzzle toys and vertical enrichment can help a lot, but it’s hard to beat a balcony catio for mental enrichment.
- Lets your cat sniff and explore. Cats are olfactory animals – they love to sniff around. Many balcony catios allow for airflow, meaning your cat can use her nose to explore the world. This is hugely enriching for your cat!
- Gives cats extra space from each other, potentially reducing cat-cat fights. The extra space, exercise, and enrichment that a balcony catio provides can help soothe tense relationships between your kitties.
- Protects birds and wildlife. By keeping your cat indoors, you’re preventing your cat from killing threatened birds, adorable bunnies, or just gross mice.
- Keeps your cat safe from pathogens and parasites. Outdoor cats are at risk of contracting all sorts of diseases, including FeLV and FIV. Balcony catios help protect your cat from these nasty diseases.
- Gives your cat exercise. A well-constructed balcony catio will have lots of spaces for your cat to climb and jump, helping keep your cat in shape.
- Keeps your cat out of your neighbor’s garden. Let’s face it: even your favorite neighbor won’t appreciate your cat pooing in her hydrangeas. Balcony catios keep your cat from annoying your neighbors.
- Prevents your cat from falling. Sure, you might be able to just let your cat onto your balcony if you live on the 15th floor. She’ll still be safe from diseases and predators – but she could fall. A balcony catio keeps your cat from slipping.
- Protects your cat from predators. The outdoor world is just really risky. I know lots of people whose dogs have killed cats when the cat wandered into their yard or the cat wandered into a park where a dog was off-leash. Cars, coyotes, hawks, foxes, and other predators also pose a huge risk to outdoor cats. Balcony catios keep your kitty safe from all these risks!
- Not much space required. Even if you’ve got a super tiny balcony, there are options to fence in your balcony or use a window to give your cat some outdoor space. Catio Spaces has a great plan to build your own here.
The Outdoor Cat Conflict
I grew up with indoor/outdoor cats. We lived on a rural farm, and part of our cats’ jobs was mousing. The cats came and went as they pleased. Fester died at 19 from liver issues; Panda died at 18 from kidney problems.
I say this not to encourage letting your cat outdoors – but to show my hand a bit. I love that our cats were able to behave naturally and entertain themselves, staying fit by exploring the outdoors.
But we were also incredibly lucky that neither cat was killed at a tragic age. And it disturbs me to think of how many birds our cats killed (for an interesting look into the statistics of bird deaths from cats, check out this episode from BBC’s More or Less).
Outdoor and indoor/outdoor cats are at risk of all sorts of problems:
- Dogs can and do kill cats. Outdoor cats are at risk of being chased or killed by other people’s pets.
- Our cats weren’t really at risk of being eaten by other dogs because we lived on a 40-acre farm with our closest neighbors over 1 mile away. Your cat likely isn’t so safe.
- Coyotes, fishers, hawks, foxes, and other wildlife also happily eat cats.
- Our cats were incredibly lucky to dodge these predators. My suspicion is that our geographic setup discouraged predators from approaching the house and that the cats spent much of their time relatively safe inside of outbuildings, not really outside.
- Cars pose a huge risk to cats.
- Again, because of our farm setup, our cats were largely safe from cars.
- Cats kill and eat songbirds. Some estimates say that cats in the US kill one billion birds per year. Even if you don’t really like chickadees and nuthatches, it’s important to remember that cats can and do contribute to the endangerment and extinction of species worldwide.
- I hope that because our cats spent so much time lurking in the barn, garage, milkhouse, and chicken coop, they were probably mostly targeting mice. But I cannot be sure, and this pains me.
- Outdoor cats are at heightened risk of contracting various diseases (FeLV and FIV are huge risks) and parasites. Even if your cat dodges predators, ticks and pathogens are a big risk for your kitty.
In short, letting your cat outdoors is a big risk for both your cat and for wildlife.
But locking your cat indoors with nothing to do isn’t a good option, either. Balcony catios are an excellent compromise that can help keep everyone safe.
Kayla founded Journey Dog Training in 2013 to provide high-quality and affordable dog behavior advice. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant who’s worked with hundreds of private clients, thousands of shelter dogs, and dozens of working detection dogs. Kayla’s dog and cat behavior advice has been featured in NPR, the Chicago Tribune, and Pet MD. She’s an avid adventurer who is currently doing #vanlife on the Pan-American Highway with her two border collies and a cat. Aside from running Journey Dog Training, Kayla also runs the nonprofit K9 Conservationists, where she and the dogs work as conservation detection dog teams. You can get 1:1 advice with a Journey Dog Training team member here.