When we brought our Bengal kittens, Tsavo and Zerah, home we realized something that even the vets had missed: Tsavo was blind. After months of saving and fundraising, we were able to get him surgery for his birth-defect cataracts, but he will always be far-sighted. He loved the outdoors because he could see clearly at distance, so we built him a cat enclosure. This way Tsavo, and the other cats, can enjoy the outdoors safely, whenever they want.

With several mutinous cats, a catio was a long-time dream of ours. We wanted the furbeasts to be able to enjoy nature, roll in the dirt, and bask in the sun safely (there are coyote, cars, and other dangers nearby). What wasn’t appealing were the images that came up when searching for cat enclosures or catios. For every nice-looking enclosure (that, of course) cost thousands of dollars, there were dozens that would be cheaper to build, but visually amounted to a box of unfinished lumber and chicken wire. A creative couple, we came up with a way to create a catio that blended into our garden and fit with the aesthetics we had already established.

The garden pergola catio took my husband and me two weekends and only a few tools to create; it’s the best thing we could have ever done for our cats. We even made plans for the Garden Pergola Cat Enclosure for other people to follow, and the proceeds go to the local Humane Society.

More info: Etsy

The finished catio gives Tsavo a great view of the garden and a sunny spot to recharge in

Tsavo as a kitten. You can see how his pupils are milky

The cataracts covered 100% of one eye and 90% of the other. He could barely see. The doctor said it was nothing genetic, or to the breed, it’s just a birth defect that happens once in a great while.

We had to wait until Tsavo was 10 months old to get his surgery done, trying to hit the sweet spot in between letting his eyes grow to their adult size and fixing his vision while he was young enough to adapt

The surgery to remove his cataracts and give him artificial lenses was a great success, and for the first time in his life, Tsavo could see. The artificial lenses, however, don’t focus as well as natural ones, leaving him far-sighted. The greater the distance he has to see across, the happier he is.

A garden pergola served as our frame. Before we installed it, we built a level foundation of landscaping bricks because the yard slopes a bit

After the pergola was in place, we cut 2x4s and put them in between the legs and secured them with angle brackets. This made the enclosure very stable and kept it from wobbling.

We had purchased a window-seated cat door for our office window, and then needed shelves on the outside for the cats to get up on so they could enter and exit the enclosure

We cut the wood with a circular saw, painted it to match the metal of the pergola, and put it together with screws and angle brackets.

Rather than use chicken wire to enclose the space, we settled on deer netting

UV-resistant, lightweight, easy to work with and virtually invisible it’s held up for years and proved a great choice. We covered the roof and secured the netting with black zip ties, then did the sides. The deer netting is pinned between two pieces of wood at the bottom of the enclosure.

The roof of the enclosure and zip ties. We made sure all the ugly nubs were inside and cut the tails off with wire cutters

With things mostly wrapped up, we started adding perches made of precut wood rounds on top of 4x4s

We later lowered this perch because we didn’t want the cats to be able to push against the netting on the roof.

Meanwhile, Tsavo wanted to know why we weren’t working faster

One of the perches before it got a coat of paint. We notched the precut rounds so they’d be stable and secured them to the pergola frame with angle brackets on the underside

Installing the door was very simple. We added a shelf on the inside for the cats to hop up on, and then they exit to the taller shelf on the outside

The windows in the door are great, still letting a lot of light into the office and letting us see the garden.

Finally, we were done and it was time to release the cats! Here’s Tsavo’s little sister, Zerah, enjoying the sun

Teaching the cats to use the door was a pretty easy sell: the reward was being able to go outside whenever they wanted

Tsavo could finally look at the birds and squirrels in the distance, roll in the mulch, and sun himself

We noticed, over the next few days, that all the cats seemed much less stressed and happier. Their newfound autonomy and having additional space eased some of the tensions that often come with a multicat household.

We’re so happy we brought the outdoors Tsavo loved so much to him, so he can enjoy it whenever he wants, safely, in his garden pergola cat enclosure