Kit Skywalker – Catio Upgrade

During the holiday / 2021 new year break I unplugged for a long overdue “Plumwood retreat”. It was my first opportunity in 5 years to regain balance, to reconnect with myself, the Posse, and life on Plumwood. To absorb more lessons from the journey of loss shared with my Father. I read, questioned, reassessed, accepted, released. I did many things, worked on many projects – organizing, decluttering, creating, constructing. All of this meditative & cathartic. 🙏💗 

One of my projects was an upgrade to Kit’s catio. 🎉🐈

Kit already enjoyed his catio. What’s not to enjoy when you’re a cat and have your very own outdoor space complete with a catnip plant to nibble on and nap in? And a transparent roof that lets in the glorious, warm sunshine yet blocks out the rain? Not to mention bugs, lizards & occasional birds to stalk and chase. Kitty cat paradise! 😻 Being outside with the Posse & me another plus. 

The only drawback of the catio was Kit’s inability to enter & exit as he pleased. Kit’s catio is built as an extension of our covered back patio. The patio sits between the catio and house. This creates a distance of 14 feet between the door of the catio and the door of the house. I designed the catio this way for a few reasons.  First, we use our back door as our primary door and I didn’t want it opening directly into Kit’s catio space.* I wanted to maintain the smooth flow of traffic (dogs) though our back door. Second, this design allows the catio to be on grass instead of concrete. Who doesn’t love grass underfoot / underpaw?  

So, although the catio was a wonderful improvement in our lives it still had Kit dependent on me for his outdoor, fresh air time. He’d let me know he wanted in the catio and I’d either carry him there or escort him on leash.  (Yes there were times I had to kindly tell him, “sorry, sweet boy, not right now.”) Then he’d let me know he wanted back in the house and I’d again assist him. Upgrading the catio to give Kit more control of his comings & goings was a high priority. 

This upgrade project has three main elements: 1) a skywalk spanning most of the distance between the catio and house, 2) a cat door in the house window facing the back patio, and 3) a ramp connecting the skywalk and cat door. Many considerations regarding design, function, safety, materials, and aesthetics. A few of those shared here.

I wanted the skywalk protected from the elements so Kit could use it regardless of weather. I wanted it (and the ramp) to provide a maximum view of Kit and provide Kit a maximum view of us and other goings on. I wanted it sturdy and solid, yes, but also airy and of minimal weight.  

I wanted a straight path from cat door to ramp to skywalk to catio.  No turns in between. Spent some time determining a best slope or angle for the ramp. Too steep would give Kit an awkward, possibly dangerous entrance/exit at the cat door. Too flat would cause too much intrusion into our patio space.  

To improve Kit’s traction on the ramp I included slats. The trim material used for the slats was leftover from when I built the agility dogwalk and A-frame for SMART DOGS. 🐾 Really nice flashbacks to those 2013 projects and the special Posse members of that era.   

Building the cat door was the easiest part of this project though I held off building it until the ramp decisions were finalized. The angle of the ramp dictated the position of the cat door. After the cat door panel was in place in the window, I added weather stripping and security.

Figuring out the connection between the cat door and ramp was the final puzzle. I wanted the option of removing the cat door panel from the window so I could close & lock the window as usual when so desired. This meant a removable connection between the cat door and ramp. Also meant the ramp’s length should allow solid connection with the cat door, yes, but also allow clearance for the window to close when the cat door panel was removed.  

Had a few delays due to weather. Had some cold, cloudy work days and also plenty with sunshine. Many late nights burning the midnight oil, hard to stop when you’re in a groove. The hanging work light used at night was my Father’s, how perfect is that? Dad and I had planned to work on this project together, looks like we did. 💗 The Posse was also with me throughout except when power saws and sander were in use. Always, always safety first. 

The results?

Kit LOVES his independence and freedom to go in & out of the catio as he chooses. After patiently watching me build, he was more than ready to give it a go.  He took to the cat door, ramp & skywalk with zero hesitation on the very first try. 😹 I love hearing his happy chatter as he heads out the cat door and up the ramp.  And I love when I’m outside with the Posse dogs and suddenly Kit Skywalker appears! 😻 

I thought maybe we’d see less of Kit, that he’d spend all his time in the catio. Not so. He indeed comes & goes but he still hangs out with us plenty.  In fact, he’s much more of a lap cat now.  In early morning and late at night after he’s been out he comes over and WANTS IN MY LAP. 💗Giving animals choice & control always leads to beautiful things.  

There are times when I close the cat door and prefer Kit stay in the house. I always let him know it’s about to happen, it’s not been a stressful event for either of us. One of our stickers from Adventure Cats 🐈 adds a nice vibe to the cat door cover.  Also helps signal “door is closed”.   

Additional upgrades to come as my schedule permits – more plants, a climbing tower, a cubby hole condo’, a swinging bridge, a few more perches. In the distant future maybe another skywalk leading to a third catio* elsewhere in the yard. 😹 

In the meantime Kit Skywalker is one happy cat. 💗🐈  

*We have a second catio here on Plumwood, it’s at Jim’s Plumwood Place (JPP).  Back door of JPP opens directly into that catio.  More on those topics in future posts.


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