Categories: environment

Building a catio in Abu Dhabi for US$800

I love this little story from Abu Dhabi in the Middle East because I love to see catios being built. Catios are a great compromise solution to keeping domestic cats safe while providing some outside space where they can smell the air and sometimes feel the earth and grass under their feet. The latter was not an option in this case as there is no grass but it is still a success.

Lau's Abu Dhabi home's backyard before the catio is built. Photo: Evelyn Lau - The National.
Lau's Abu Dhabi catio being built by Ernesto. Photo: Evelyn Lau - The National.
Lau's Abu Dhabi catio. Photo: Evelyn Lau - The National.
Lau's Abu Dhabi catio. Photo: Evelyn Lau - The National.

The catio fits very nicely into part of the compact backyard of this Abu Dhabi villa. Evelyn Lau who owns the house and who commissioned a builder to build the catio thinks like me and any other cat lover. When she moved home to the current townhouse she had to consider whether her cats would like it too. It’s what I did when buying my current home. In fact it is the hardest part of buying a home for yourself: factoring in your cat. Would he like it? This question has to be answered in the affirmative before buying.

Lao moved from an apartment to the house you see in the photos. It is her first experience of having her own outside space. She was already figuring out how to share the space with her four rescue cats. Lao employed Ernesto who had experience of building ratios and who was recommended.

The catio took three days to build and cost Dh3,0001. Lao just could not let her cats roam freely outside and I totally understand that. It is the fear that they might be hurt. And of course the first duty of a good cat guardian is the safety of their cat or cats. The decision to build a catio is about a balancing act between risk and reward. It is a bit like the coronavirus lockdown. When do you unlock? That’s a balancing act too, between long term health issues due to economic problems set against immediate risks of getting the virus.

The catio is a success as her four cats have explored and approved it. Lau realises that she can add more furniture to her catio to enrich it a little more. She has plans to add more interactive elements “so they don’t feel like they are stuck in a big cage”.

But for now, they’re able to get fresh air and sunlight and I get the peace of mind of knowing they’ll be OK.

That’s the compromise I am referring to. One of her cats spends the evening in it on the top ledge. It is the sights, sounds and the smells which draws him to it. That’s what a good catio is all about.

1. UAE dirham (AED or Dhs) which is divided into 100 fils and is pegged against the US $ (US$ 1: AED 3.6725).

2. As you can guess the word “catio” is a mixture of “cat” and “patio”. It is a patio for cats which is fully fenced in.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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