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'Better for the birds and the cats'

Outdoor 'catios' offer felines a safer way to enjoy nature, and protect other wildlife from cat predation


REVIEW PHOTO: KELSEY OHALLORAN - Maris enjoys sitting at the base of her catio, where she can nibble a patch of grass and watch for creatures on the ground.REVIEW PHOTO: KELSEY OHALLORAN - Over the past five years, Jim and Joei Lattzs modular catio has weathered to blend in with the plants and trees in their backyard.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.”

That’s 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.

Joei’s 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.

REVIEW PHOTO: KELSEY OHALLORAN - Maris watches for birds from her catio perch in Jim and Joei Lattzs backyard.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. “It’s a nice compromise.”

On Sept. 12, the public can visit Jim and Joei’s 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 Lattz’s Arnold Creek backyard.

The tour, in its third year, is part of the Audubon Society of Portland and the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon’s “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.

REVIEW PHOTO: KELSEY OHALLORAN - Joei Lattz says the catio provides her cat, Maris, a taste of the outdoors without the risks.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, she’s also conscious about keeping birds, squirrels and other critters safe from her felines.

“It’s 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 wouldn’t 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 don’t 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 it’s 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 family’s, 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 year’s 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. “It’s kind of like the Street of Dreams in a way — you go and see ideas that you never thought of.”

Contact Kelsey O’Halloran at 503-636-1281 ext. 101 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

IF YOU GO

The Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon and Audubon Society of Portland’s 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.