Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense

Really… Our cats are not spoiled… Part 4

Back in 2014, we moved and did a huge renovation on the new house (You can see portions in previous posts). Since we were doing some additions, we had the option to install a dedicated cat door into an exterior wall so that I could eventually add a big catio instead of the small, window units that I had made at the old house.

Fast forward 5 years and ta-dah! We have a big catio!

I sort of skipped to the end with that picture, so here’s a summary of the process, along with some tips and strategies that I used while building it.

We had the cat door installed next to a great location in back of our house that gets full sun for part of the day and lots of shade later in the day. I started by laying out the base, digging some post holes, and framing up the base.

I didn’t use any concrete for the posts… just re-packed the dirt back in. All the lumber I used was pressure treated. I used 2×8 lumber for the sides and 2×6 lumber for the joists. I also used galvanized joist hangers, which was probably overkill. The top boards are just decking boards.

To form the walls, I build individual panels using 2×4 lumber and covered them with 2″ x 3″ vinyl coated wire. The only reason I used the vinyl coated wire vs galvanized wire was because I liked the appearance better.

All the panels then got assembled on the platform. I put the panels in place and clamped them to each other. That made it easier to make sure they were aligned correctly and were square. Each panel was screwed to the base and screwed to its neighboring panel. I had help from friends for this part, which made it a lot easier. The panels weren’t all that heavy, but they were awkward to handle.

I framed a sloped roof and covered it with polycarbonate roof panels. The plan was to assemble all the panels and then slide the roof up onto the top.

It was a good plan… simple… straight-forward. However, the roof was absurdly heavy, mostly because I probably over-built it to an absurd degree. With three helpers, we managed to get it on top without the walls collapsing or anyone being crushed… though it got dicey for a short bit!

Here are a couple different views from right after the roof was attached.

You can see the cat door in the bottom left corner in the above right picture. To connect the door to the catio, I built a tunnel with a 2×4 base and 2×2 sides with the 2″ x 3″ welded wire attached and the polycarbonate roofing on top. To attach it, I built a brace on the catio for one end of the tunnel to rest on. The other end was supported with a 2×4 leg on each side (it’s not attached to the house). I also screwed the tunnel to the brace and to the catio. It’s pretty solid.

After that, it was a matter of adding all the ramps, platforms, hammocks, and perches, which I did over the next few weeks. I made sure that no matter where a cat was on the platforms, there were two exits, so no cat could ever get cornered by another cat.

Melody (the little black cat) and Milo (the huge orange cat) are the most frequent users, though the other two cats (Houdini and Chexie) visit every now and then.

I still have a few more additions that I want to make on the inside, but it’s got all the necessary pieces in place right now and the cats seem to think it’s just fine, so I’m not in any rush.

While building the panels , one tool I found exceptionally helpful was a fencing stapler. The thought of hammering in hundreds of wire staples by hand was not particularly appealing (to say the least), so I got a Freeman 18 Gauge Fencing Stapler. Attaching the fencing was a breeze with this tool I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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