With the growing feline enrichment movement comes more focus on products that give cats access to the outdoors, whether it’s on a leash, in a stroller or in specially designed, secure outdoor areas ranging from window boxes to full enclosures that cats can share with their favorite people.
Cynthia Chomos, founder and owner of Seattle–based Catio Spaces, is a general contractor and a feng shui consultant who has combined her talents and expertise with her love of cats to create customized outdoor spaces that can fit on a balcony, deck, patio or with direct access to a garden. Further, she has designed a selection of DIY window box and ground-level catio plans with instruction manuals sold in stores and online so that cat lovers can create safe feline spaces wherever they may reside.
“The DIY Window Box plans take up very little shelf space in-store. They are available in three sizes. Apart from the step-by-step instructions and diagrams, the manual details all the tools and materials needed for the project,” explained Chomos, who also holds in-store workshops to educate cat lovers about the benefits of giving cats vertical space and a window to the outside world while at the same time protecting birds and wildlife.
“One of the main lifestyle enrichment benefits of such home add-ons is fresh air. Plus, there’s the mental stimulation resulting from being able to watch what goes on outside from a safe zone,” she said. “Further, I suggest kitting them out with toys to bat about, a comfy bed and even scratchers for additional enrichment.”
When it comes to bigger enclosures, Chomos says there’s a trend for cat lovers to accessorize a catio for both cats and their favorite people to enjoy together. It can be anything from cat trees, shelves and scratching zones to special floor coverings and furniture so that cats can spend time with their favorite people.
A cat door is the best way for a cat to access a window box enclosure or larger outdoor space independently. British company Sure Petcare, with a United States office in Florida, has produced the world’s first app-controlled pet door designed for pet lovers to be able to control their pet’s access to outdoors when they themselves are not home. The door will only open when it reads a designated microchip or RFID tag.
“Our aim is to develop great products that are useful, easy to understand and make life simpler for pet owners and their pets, especially with people generally working longer hours and being away from home,” said Dr. Nick Hill, founder and CEO of Sure Petcare.
The Microchip Pet Door Connect connects wirelessly to a hub, which in turn is connected to the home router, allowing pet owners to monitor and control when pets come and go via the Sure Petcare app on their smartphone. Consequently, the door can be remotely locked at anytime from anywhere. It can be fitted into walls, wooden doors and glass windows. Further, cat owners can share access to the app with friends, family or pet sitters and manage their permissions.
The Correct Gear
When it comes to taking cats outside, one of the biggest fears often expressed by cat owners is that their cat will escape from its collar. Specially designed cat harnesses expel this concern by passing a collar (especially a breakaway one) completely.
“The correct cat harness is vitally important,” confirmed Anna Suplik, the resident cat expert at Green Cottage Pets in Gig Harbor, Washington. “For starters, it’s important to purchase one designed especially for cats, such as the H-styled design which is difficult to wriggle out of. I make a point of telling our customers that it has to be feline-specific as cats are not small dogs.”
Suplik confirmed that the store also sells the material harness-vests from Sturdi Pet Products as well as the portable enclosures the company specializes in for cats.
“The company is local, so if we don’t have the products in stock—as our store is small—they are very easily obtainable,” she added.
Coastal Pet Products, Inc., has a line of mesh harnesses sold with attached six-foot matching leashes in several colors including red, blue, pink and lime green. The harness sits on the shoulders so that it can be worn in conjunction with a collar. They are also adjustable around the tummy area and ideal for cats to enjoy the great outdoors and simultaneously stay close at hand.
PetSafe’s Come with Me Kitty Harness and Bungee Leash combo has a patented design that allows for pressure on the leash to gently tighten the shoulder straps, restraining any forward motion without putting pressure on the delicate throat area. It offers gentle, comfortable control for a cat or kitten while allowing her to explore the world. The bungee-styled leash provides gentle “give” when kitty pulls. The belly strap is made of a complementary-colored nylon, so you can quickly see which strap goes over the shoulders and which goes under the belly. The product comes with a detailed fitting/training guide.
There are lots of benefits for taking cats out and about in a stroller. Cats that are allowed to roam outside will usually find a place under a bush to sit and watch birds and insects. And they can do exactly the same thing from the safe confines of a stroller.
Pet Gear has a patent on the clip-styled locking device on its Happy Trails strollers.
“Cats can be adept at opening zippers,” company CEO Todd Jakubowski explained. “This clip eliminates this possibility. The design also offers a larger panoramic view and has a removable waterproof liner.”
Strollers have added benefits for people as they offer a place for keys and possessions in a basket along with a place for that cup of coffee. And for anyone requiring walking assistance, the ergonomically designed handle along with rear safety brakes and front shock absorbers converts them into a “walking aid.”
“Our Travel Lite Soft-sided Pet Pen is also ideal to give cats a safe outdoor haven,” Jakubowski added.
It’s available in three sizes and several colors and the design offers good ventilation all around.
“The Regal Plus Pet Stroller is one of our most cat-friendly outdoor products,” confirmed Dana Humphrey, public relations spokesperson for Gen7Pets Products. “It offers cats the luxury of three wheels (traditionally reserved for larger, more expensive models) in an affordable, convenient stroller.
“The front convertible wheel swivels on smooth surfaces or locks on rough surfaces for easy traveling, while the extra storage pouches are perfect for your water bottle and other accessories,” she continued. “It’s very lightweight, as it only weighs 11 pounds. And, when not in use, it folds flat.”