Cat Enrichment Tools that You Can Make at Home: Catios and Other Outdoor Activities

All cats, but indoor cats especially, need enrichment and mental stimulation. Enrichment can increase activity (which can help with weight control) and prevent many behavioural issues related to low mental stimulation (things like inappropriate litter box usage, anxiety, aggression and attention-seeking).

Enrichment can come in a variety of forms, from food puzzles to scratching posts, and toys to catios. Over the next few weeks we will dig deeper into a few categories and give you ideas for how to use items you have at home, how to build projects from scratch and what to look for if you’d rather just buy something!

This week our focus is on ACCESS TO THE OUTDOORS. Whether it be an outdoor enclosure, a walk around the block, or just a nap by the window, the great outdoors can provide a ton of mental stimulation for your cat.

CATIOS provide your cat with a safe space to enjoy the outdoors with protection from other animals, cars, etc. There is a wide variety of enclosures that can be made or purchased – from elaborate, fixed-in-place catios to moveable or temporary ones – depending on the type that best fits your lifestyle.

Temporary catios are great if you have a small yard or if you are renting property. They also tend to be less expensive. This is one we made using 1” PVC piping and connectors, plastic netting and zip ties. We chose to use PVC pipe rather than wood to allow us to move the catio around the yard, as well as move a cat tree and other toys inside as needed. In this catio, the cats can’t enter/exit as they wish but it is great for wherever we are working or spending time in the yard.


Fixed or permanent catios are often more durable and therefore can allow your cat to be outdoors without supervision. They can also be great for those cats that try to escape every time the door opens! When we lived right next to a busy highway, we enclosed our deck using 2x4s and galvanized wire netting to ensure that if the cats snuck out the door, they couldn’t get any farther than the deck. It also provided a great space for us all to spend time with the cats outdoors.

Balconies can be a fantastic way to provide outdoor access to cats, however, they can also be very dangerous! Enclosing the balcony is the perfect way to allow your cat to spend time in the fresh air without the risk of falling or jumping off. We enclosed our balcony by building a wooden frame out of 2x4s  and then hanging thick golf netting across the entire length using zip ties and heavy-duty staples. We leave the window in the spare room open so the cats can enter/exit as they please.

If an outdoor enclosure isn’t a great option for you, try HARNESS-TRAINING your cat. Keep in mind that fearful cats may be over-stimulated in an outdoor environment and get injured during episodes of panicking, therefore this isn’t a great option for everyone. Harness-training is best done at the kitten-stage. It is important to start slowly!!! Use a harness in the house without a leash first, then try adding a leash and then graduate to the yard. Cats may be comfortable enough to go on walks or spend time at the park, however, this is rare and should only be done if a cat has been harness-trained for a long period of time. Cats should also never be unsupervised when on a harness! Breakaway harnesses can result in lost cats and non-breakaway harnesses can cause injuries like strangulation or an inability to defend themselves against other animals.

Another way to provide outdoor stimulation for cats is simply through a WINDOW! Whether it be sunshine pouring in, birds flying by or squirrels climbing around, windows can act like television for cats. Try placing beds or cat trees by windows to allow them to spend long amounts of time in these areas.


By Dr. Tayler Belosowsky




The Importance of Microchips

A microchip is a small chip that is placed under the skin between the shoulders. The needle we use is larger than a typical blood collection needle, though other than the initial poke does not cause any ongoing pain. Each microchip has a unique number that is retrievable with a special scanner that all veterinary clinics and rescue associations have. When a found cat is brought to a clinic or rescue facility, it is checked for a microchip by running the scanner over the body. The number populates off the scanner which can then be put into a search system which will tell us which company it is registered with. There are many different microchip companies out there, so it is important to know which one your cat has so you can keep your contact information up to date. We can then call the company linked to the chip, who can then give us the contact information that you provided when it was registered so we can get in contact with you! The companies are instructed to only provide your contact information to an animal professional or to the owner. Microchips are NOT tracking devices; they need to be scanned in order for your furry family member to get home to you. There is a small fee to get your cat microchipped but no monthly cost afterwards. However, some microchip companies do charge a small fee to update addresses and other contact information. What is the difference between a microchip and tattoo? Tattoos are slowly becoming a less common form of identification. Tattoo quality can decrease over time due to aging, quality of the tattoo to start, and other environmental changes that can affect the skin of the ear. What this means is that a well-done tattoo 10 years later can be difficult to read due to the blurring of the letters and numbers over time. This change can make it nearly impossible sometimes to identify the collection of digits which is a big problem since that combination is unique to a clinic and cat! A microchip does not age over time but in rare instances can travel from the shoulders, which is why we scan the entire cat for a chip before determining that they do not have one. Additionally, tattoo information is often kept on paper, while microchips are all digital. It is very important to microchip your cat! We often get comments about how indoor only cats do not require them and if anything, it’s actually the opposite! Indoor cats accidentally getting out are where most of our phone calls about missing cats come from. This is because they’re not supposed to be outside and are likely not equipped to hunt and fend for themselves. So, when a neighbour sees an unfamiliar neighbourhood cat and takes it to a clinic to have scanned, it now has no form of identification to get home to you and is taken to the city in the hopes of an owner coming forward and claiming them.

Read More
See All Articles

Last updated: May 25, 2020

Dear Clients,

With recent changes to restrictions on businesses, we are pleased to advise that effective May 25, 2020 the restrictions on veterinary practices have been lifted. Based on these changes, below are some important updates to our operating policies.


This includes vaccines, wellness exams, blood work, heartworm testing, spays and neuters, dental services, and more!



If you wish to connect with a veterinarian via message, phone or video, visit our website and follow the "Online Consultation" link.


Have you welcomed a new furry family member to your home? We’d love to meet them! Visit our Must Know New Pet Owner Information page for useful resources and helpful recommendations for new pet owners.


We are OPEN with the following hours:

Monday to Friday: 8:30 am - 5:30 pm
Saturday: 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Sunday: CLOSED

Thank you for your patience and understanding and we look forward to seeing you and your furry family members again!

- Your dedicated team at Killarney Cat Hospital