A catio for our cats

We have been talking about getting a catio for our furry girls pretty much since they came into our lives, and they’re five now so it’s been an epic conversation! I’ve never had house cats before, in fact I never considered it, but when we moved into our house, our previous cat, Willow, was hit and killed on the road, so we made the decision (controversial to some) to keep our girls as house cats. They were tiny kittens when we adopted them so they’ve never known the outside world. I wouldn’t keep a cat inside that was used to going out.

Over the last few months we’ve been home with the girls a lot more and have had more time to consider and research the catio. There are a number of companies who sell ready made catios, but boy are they expensive! We started looking at them and then did some research on YouTube and decided that we’d be able to build our own at a vastly reduced financial outlay, so I got planning.

The catio is essentially a wooden frame with cat safe wire mesh attached to make it secure, but it was actually harder than I anticipated to design it. The basic shape was easy enough, but then I had to consider exactly where the screws should go to avoid drilling into another screw where three lengths of wood needed to be joined, and I had to bear in mind the width of the mesh and where we would need additional struts to allow us to attach it. Even with all my meticulous, pencil-chewing planning, we still had to tweak the design as we went along, but we got there.

I think we ended up with three trips to B&Q for supplies.

It’s a good job I’ve got quite a long car because we needed eight 2.4 metre lengths of wood in order to make the catio big enough to clear our back door.

Our first attempt went a bit wrong – I’m still not entirely sure how it happened, but I think it must’ve been something to do with the conversion from inches which we measured in, to centimetres which we cut in! We won’t dwell on that!

Newly measured, and double, triple and quadruple checked, we got going again – luckily we were able to reuse most of the bits of wood that we’d cut so we didn’t waste much, and this time the frame fit over the door and window. We decided not to include a door because this would’ve made the design more complicated and expensive, and we have another door into the back garden so it’s not necessary.

So far, so good!

The timber we used was only thirty eight millimetres wide so the frame was quite flimsy whilst we were still assembling it so we had to be really careful as we moved it around.

Soon we got to the stage where we could staple some of the mesh onto the frame so it became more stable.

We chose the mesh carefully because the cats may decide to climb it which could hurt their little paws. This mesh is plastic coated and is sold as animal proof. We made sure that all the edges are secured and/or tucked away so curious paws can’t find them.

I picked up a few hanging pots to go on the outside of the catio, as well as some quirky additions to prettify the whole thing and I moved some of my existing posts to make a feature of it. We picked up some cheap fake grass for the bottom to soften the look. We’re really pleased with how it turned out.

I picked the plants up from Webbs last weekend. I needed plants that wouldn’t get too big for the four around the sides, and two that will trail for the top corners. Obviously they all had to be cat safe too, just in case!

I’ve wanted an ornamental kale for ages and this was the perfect opportunity.

The cats were a bit hesitant about the whole affair to start off with …

… but they’re getting more and more used to it now. Tink even scratched the door to ask to go out there yesterday.

Next job then, it would seem, is to get a cat flap so they can let themselves out there whenever they fancy. It’s nice to know they can get outside in a safe and secure way to get some air and some sunshine.

Six on Saturday 5th September

September … a bitter sweet month for me. It’s my birthday in September which is generally a positive, or at the very least conjures up memories of when birthdays were something that seemed to take an age to arrive but were worth the wait, and when becoming another year older was a good thing. However September also heralds the end of my favourite time of year. I’ll soon be swapping my Summer front door wreath for my Autumn one. I’ve worn boots for the first time since March. The heating’s been on and the Winter duvet is on the bed. I do not do cold! I haven’t had to turn the SAD lamp on yet, but it won’t be long.

Anyway, enough with the doom and gloom – maybe we’ll have an Indian Summer – and on with the business of the day

First up, an update on the tourniqueted Sunflowers and, well, you win some …

… and you lose some!

At least I tried to save them both. I’m pleased that one of them has thrived despite the squirrel assault.

Harvest time is coming to an end, but I did bring some produce back in with me after my usual Saturday morning potter around the garden.

These are my first ever peppers and I’m stupidly happy about them. The courgette is somewhat squat! I don’t know what I do wrong with my courgette plants. Most people get a glut of courgettes but this is only the second one I’ve had – all the rest have rotted. I have had loads of runner beans though, and the carrot crop will keep us going for a while. I’ve chopped everything up and frozen it so nothing gets wasted (apart from the courgette because they go mushy – we’ll have that next week in a stir fry most likely).

My lovely Berberis is getting its gold edging back for the first time since I bought it.

I bought this from Hop Pocket, a lovely shopping village near Worcester which is filled with crafty things, home baked goods and, importantly, a garden centre. However, when I planted it in the garden, all its leaves fell off and it really didn’t look happy, so I whipped it out again and kept everything crossed that it would recover in a pot. It survived but never returned to its former glory until now. It looks like it’s coming along in leaps and bounds.

My Pussy Willow is starting to lose its leaves.

I bought this earlier this year before lockdown and it’s done pretty well through the Summer. Sad as it is that it’s preparing for the cold weather, the skeleton leaves do look pretty spectacular.

We built a catio for our cats over the last couple of weekends. They’re house cats because we live on a busy road, so we thought they might like a little bit of outside space to smell the air and nose around. I decided to prettify the catio with some plants hanging off it.

This is my favourite one. I’ve coveted an ornamental kale for ages. I think they’re so pretty. The plants are all on the outside of the catio so there’s no danger of the cats ingesting something they shouldn’t.

Finally, I want to ask for opinions!

What on God’s green earth are these that have appeared in the soil at the base of one of my tomato plants? Some kind of spider egg? Apart from the usual arachnophobia worries, do I need to be concerned about this?

As ever, don’t forget to check out the Propagator for more Sixes.

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

Six on Saturday 29th August

I didn’t think I’d have time to write a Six today as we have a busy day ahead, but I’m awake earlier than anticipated so I took myself out in to the garden to see what delights I could share today. Would you believe it, it’s dry! Rather blustery, but dry. At last! I really thought I was going to need an ark at some point soon!

Anyway, on to my quick Six and first up, I think, an update on my tourniqueted Sunflower which I shared last Saturday. We now have two tourniqueted Sunflowers due to the squirrel’s obsession with climbing them (and, some may say, stupidity for not realising, if it didn’t hold it last time, it’s not going to hold it this time either!)

This is the flower, so it seems that my rather dubious first aid attempts are actually working! I have to admit, as I sat at my home office desk this week gazing out over the garden being buffeted and blown by the high winds, I didn’t think it’d hold, but it’s clinging on there. Hopefully next week I’ll be able to share a fully open flower.

Moving on up (moving on out, time to break free? Black Box anyone? No? Never mind!) to the greenhouse and my peppers are finally going red.

This is a definite red now. Last week you had to squint and look at the right angle to see it but now, yep, that’s red! There are two that are like this, and another five at various stages of green. I’ll call that a success for my first time growing peppers.

Next in the greenhouse are my tomatoes.

Last week I only had the ones on the left, but now there are some growing on a second plant as well. I think this is very late and I’m keeping everything crossed that we get enough sun over the next couple of weeks for these to continue maturing (also for the rest of the peppers to grow and ripen). Although I don’t actually like tomatoes, I LOVE the smell of the plants. I may have to rethink growing them in the greenhouse next year (or grow fewer plants) because the tomato jungle has meant I’ve had no space to try taking and growing cuttings which I really wanted to do.

Next for some colour.

I’ve shared these Begonias before, but they really are looking stunning. I think they’re my favourite thing in the garden at the moment. Although, oh, my Eupatorium, and, hmmmm, my Dahlias. Well, they’re definitely in the top three anyhow! These Begonias are in my wheelbarrow planter and they’re directly in my eyeline as I sit in my home office. They look beautiful and cheerful even in the rain and I think I’ll most likely plant these every year until I die! I can’t see me ever tiring of them.

Well, ok, if you insist, of course I’ll share another picture of my Eupatorium. It would be rude not to now I’ve mentioned it, wouldn’t it?

It definitely hasn’t got as tall this year, which I hope won’t be an ongoing trend. Maybe I really should try a cutting of it, just in case! I did take one last year, and it was doing ok until it got cold and damp and then it died. Maybe I could find somewhere cat-proof inside to nurture a cutting. It has lots of new growth coming through at the moment so it’s still got time to get taller. It flowers in the Autumn though, so not much longer probably.

Finally, in recognition of the rain this week, I’ll share a rainy grass.

This is one of my Festuca Intense Blue babies that self seeded on our bistro. I nearly pulled them up last year when they appeared, but decided to leave them to see how they looked growing higgledy piggledy around their mother, and I’m glad I did because they look lovely. This one particularly took my fancy this morning as the early morning sunlight glistened off the droplets nestling in its fronds. As ever, the photo doesn’t do it justice, but it’s still lovely.

There we go, that was a quick Six so now on with the business of the day – lunch at Webbs Garden Centre, followed by a browse of the plants (and most likely a purchase or three) and then off to meet my lockdown nephew for the first time. A coronial baby apparently is the newly coined term! Have a mosey on over to the Propagator’s blog for more Sixes.