'Better for the birds and the cats'
Outdoor 'catios' offer felines a safer way to enjoy nature, and protect other wildlife from cat predation
Joei Lattz clearly remembers the day a bald eagle plunged into the backyard of her Arnold Creek home.
His whole shadow just covered the yard it was incredible, she says.
As she watched from her kitchen window, she saw the bird dive straight for her cat, Mercedes.
She had no idea what was going on, Joei says of the cat. But she was safe.
Thats because Mercedes was sitting outside in a catio a cat patio enclosure that allows felines to experience the outdoors without getting hurt or endangering other wildlife.
Joeis husband, Jim Lattz, built the structure about five years ago using cedar beams and fence wire. The couple included several perches inside the enclosure so that their cats could observe birds and other wildlife from above the ground.
Their current cat, Maris, lounges in the catio while Joei gardens, or watches through the panels when the couple dines on the deck. She enjoys nibbling on a patch of grass that Jim and Joei placed inside the structure.
It gives them a taste of the outdoors without injuring them, Joei says. Its a nice compromise.
On Sept. 12, the public can visit Jim and Joeis catio along with nine others across North, Northeast and Southwest Portland to learn more about the structures and find inspiration to build their own. The self-guided Catio Tour runs 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Those touring in Southwest Portland can find catios in Garden Home, Homestead and West Slope, in addition to the Lattzs Arnold Creek backyard.
The tour, in its third year, is part of the Audubon Society of Portland and the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregons Cats Safe at Home campaign, which seeks to address the challenges associated with cat overpopulation in the Portland metropolitan area in a humane and environmentally responsible manner, according to a release from the coalition.
Joei says she became wary of allowing her cats to roam the neighborhood after one of them was hit by a car several years ago. And since her yard is also an Audubon Society of Portland gold-level certified backyard habitat, shes also conscious about keeping birds, squirrels and other critters safe from her felines.
Its better for the birds and the cats, says Jim of the enclosure. He and Joei researched catio designs online before building their own modular structure. He estimates that they spent a couple hundred dollars on materials, in part because they invested in wood that wouldnt split for the shelves where their cats perch inside the catio.
Jim says he would advise other catio builders to invest in clear cedar boards which dont have knots since one of his boards warped as it weathered and he eventually had to replace it.
Joei says she initially worried that the structure might disrupt the look of the yard, which is brimming with colorful native plants and trees. Instead, the catio has weathered to blend in with the natural ambiance, and its a regular talking point when friends come to visit.
Many catios include some sort of cat door and enclosed walkway so that cats can come and go between catio and house, while others, like the Lattz familys, are completely separate from the house.
A total of 31 catios have been featured in the Portland-area catio tour over the years, says Feral Cat Coalition executive director Karen Kraus. Last years tour drew 900 two-legged participants.
Kraus says the tour is meant to give cat owners ideas on how to build a structure that works for them. Some of the catios featured on the tour are extremely simple, such as a screened off porch-turned-catio.
You just need to ignite that creativity, she says. Its kind of like the Street of Dreams in a way you go and see ideas that you never thought of.
IF YOU GO
The Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon and Audubon Society of Portlands self-guided Catio Tour showcases 10 outdoor cat patios across the Portland area.
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
WHERE: Five catios in Southwest and five in North and Northeast Portland.
REGISTRATION: Online registration is open through Sept. 10 at feralcats.com/Catio.html, for a suggested $10 donation. Those who miss the deadline can call 503-797-2606 ext. 103.
MORE INFO: Before the tour, each registrant will receive an email guidebook with directions to each catio, along with photos and construction information.