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Tacoma family's DIY 'catio' is purrfect for kids and pets

A Tacoma family makes room for their pet menagerie with a unique DIY addition



Richard Nixon and Stephen Malkmus with their family inside a custom catio.

PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON

It’s tight quarters on a busy street for a couple, their baby and their four pets — two dogs and two cats. When Adam Meeks and Kylie Agostino moved into the 1,200-square-foot house on a busy street in the Highline neighborhood of northeast Tacoma, they knew that Richard Nixon and Stephen Malkmus would have to become indoor cats to stay safe. But oh, the pet hair that began to overrun the house, followed by the huge amount of housework it required. With new baby Nora, 1, toddling about the house, Kylie and Adam needed a way to make more room for everyone in their home.

So they built a “catio,” an enclosed cat patio, to give the cats a safe outdoor environment. “The catio lets us separate our lovely, hairy pets from the rest of the house when needed,” says Kylie. “Our dogs rule the backyard. The catio gives Nora somewhere safe to play away from the street. Now she has a clean house and a less stressed-out mom.”

PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON

A charming catio is a safe semi-outdoor space for felines.

To build the catio, the couple set posts and built an 85-square-foot framework off of the back of the house. Salvaging a 20-year-old fence from Kylie’s parents, they repurposed the wood to create the 1-inch slats that make up the catio’s lower half. They capped the space with a clear, corrugated roof and wire across the upper half, so the cats can enjoy a full 360-degree view. Then they set about decorating the catio. There are extra ramps for sleep and play, a bird feeder outside the fence so the cats to watch birds, and some low-maintenance landscaping including catnip plants and a baby rocking chair for Nora and the cats.

When the cats aren’t lounging outside, they have access to half of the house, lessening the housework. “We leave the craft room that leads to the catio open all the time, so they can just jump in and out,” says Kylie.

While the catio is definitely a sanctuary for the furry felines, Nora will be able to join them as she gets older. Stephen is a recluse, but Nixon and Nora have become fast friends, and often play together on the catio or in Nora’s playpen. “Nixon is the mouse and Nora is the cat,” says Kylie. “I have to put Nixon on the catio when Nora is napping, or she will nuzzle and head-butt her awake every time.”

When it comes to tips they have for people who want to build their own catios, Kylie advises: “Make a game plan first.You don't need to be an expert. Just do a little homework and find a style that inspires you, as well as suits your family’s needs.” They found a lot of free and discounted building supplies on local websites.

If building a catio is beyond your skill set, find someone more familiar with yard  construction: “Don't be afraid to ask for help,” Kylie says.

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