Expert Builder Series
This is the third Q&A in a series of interviews with catio experts from around the world. My hope is to learn from the best catio builders on the planet and pass on that knowledge far and wide.
The Cat Carpenter
David Murphy, AKA The Cat Carpenter, who is based in Austin, Texas, is another all-time great catio builder whose craftsmanship is next level. It’s no surprise that he’s been featured on Animal Planet. I’m also appreciative of his generosity in always answering my how-to questions over the years. You can tell from the Q&A below — he knows his stuff. Enjoy!
Questions & Answers
1. What materials do you generally use? Anything unique?
I use pressure treated lumber for framing, decking, and perches – it holds up better than just about anything else. I cover all the framing on the exterior with cedar trim, which I either stain or paint to match the house according to the client’s preference. For catios I use 1/2″ welded wire hardware cloth to screen the walls, it’s very strong and gives the cats an open feel but the openings are small enough to prevent a paw being stuck through from either side. Most of the time I’ll do a metal roof for shade and rain protection, but for some enclosures I’ve done the roof in hardware cloth as well for a more open feeling.
2. Can you please share three best practices and/or tips you’ve developed over time?
I try to look at a potential catio location from a cat’s point of view – what’s out there to look at, what will be interesting, where are the good sunbeams, and then design a catio to give the cats as wonderful an experience as possible. A catio doesn’t have to be huge – I’ll often have to talk a client down in terms of the size structure they want. I like to say that cats don’t run laps in a catio, they usually just find a great spot to watch the birds or lay in a sunbeam and then hang out there for a long time – the perches on the outside walls are what it’s all about, and a huge floor area in the center is often just wasted space. I always try to provide lots of perches at different levels – sometimes the action may be watching a bug crawl through the grass, sometimes a bird high up in a tree. I use a vertical spacing of 16 – 18″ between perches so that any cat can easily navigate them, including kittens or older cats with mobility issues. My perches tend to overlap each other so that a cat can stand with their feet on one and put their paws on the next perch up before jumping if they want to, I try to avoid having cats needing to jump across open gaps to get from one perch to another.
3. Do you have a favorite catio story?
Often my clients will look to me to suggest designs and layouts, after building almost 200 catios I have a pretty good idea of what cats like and what works well for them. But sometimes a client will want something different than what I envision, and I have learned to listen to them. One client had a large covered porch that I was sure would make a wonderful, huge screen porch catio. But there was a big tree out in the yard 20 feet or so away, and they were determined to have a catio built around that tree. Getting the cats out there was a challenge – I had to design an enclosure around an office window that wouldn’t block the view, take the cats up to almost the ceiling of the porch to not obstruct anyone walking on the porch, then step down to the entrance to a long elevated walkway from the edge of the porch out to the catio. After all that, building a catio around the tree was a snap. The catio is filled with perches, and the trunk of the tree going all the way up and out the roof of the catio provides additional climbing for them. It was a pretty big thrill when they opened the cat door and Milo ran out to explore his new catio for the first time!
Where you can find The Cat Carpenter:
Examples of Work