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.

Easter Progress

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you’re all managing to make the most of the long weekend, despite the challenging circumstances. I’ve spent quite a significant amount of time in the garden over the past few days, including eating lunch our there for the first (and second, and third, and fourth) time this year …

… and it really has made me appreciate being able to open the back door to step into the great outdoors. We lived in a pretty small flat with no garden before we moved to our house and the thought of going through this social distancing without some outside space to escape to is pretty grim! I really feel for people living in less fortunate circumstances.

Last time I wrote, I reported that I’d sown my first seeds of the year and I’m pleased to report good progress going on there just over a week later.

New shoots seems very appropriate for Easter Sunday. In the green bamboo pots I have a few Sunflower ‘Teddy Bear’ seedlings and in the black pots some Sunflower ‘Autumn Beauty’. It always amazes me that you can look at your pots one day and there’s nothing, and the very next day there’s teeny tiny leaves pushing through. Nothing’s happening with the Dutch Sweetpeas or the Petit Pois yet.

Having spent quite a few hours in the garden, I’ve come to realise how many animals we’re sharing our outside space with, most desirable, others less so!

We spotted the first non desirable one through our kitchen window, but we did also see him saunter across the patio brazen as anything when we were having lunch on our bistro!

Rat! On the bird table! We’ve had to decommission the bird table for the time being! I actually don’t mind rats, in fact, if we didn’t have the cats I’d have a couple of fancy rats, but I also don’t think it’s a good idea to encourage them in the garden.

We have an abundance of squirrels who also like to steal the bird food from, well, anywhere that we put it! It is seemingly impossible to squirrel proof any kind of food!

Here’s one plotting his manoeuvre on to the bird table (pre rat-retirement!) I really like the squirrels, and I’m much less concerned about them pinching bird food than rats (probably because they’re so darn cute!) I’d rather they pinch bird food than my bulbs! Hubby gets cross with them though (mostly, I think, because they outsmart all his squirrel proofing attempts!)

Moving on to insects.

This striking Stink Beetle was living in the greenhouse. Apparently he’s not a huge threat to my veg or plants so I left him.

This is quite possibly the prettiest beetle I’ve ever seen. It is, according to Google, a Rosemary Beetle. I thought it was a ladybird until I got a bit closer, it was exactly the size and shape of the lovely ladybug. We don’t have any Rosemary in the garden, but we do have Lavender which they are apparently also partial to taking a munch on.

Sticking with the insect theme, but this time a highly desirable one, is the bee.

I nearly trod on this little lady as she was resting on the floor. I gave her some sugar water which she went straight to. After a while she started crawling around and scrambled up on my leg.

I sat there with her for a while before letting her crawl on to a leaf and I left her in my birthday planter.

I went back out to check on her after ten minutes or so and she was gone so I’m hoping I’d given her enough energy to fly off and continue her bee business.

Let’s flit off (see what I did there?) to some birds now.

Since the lockdown, the traffic has been much reduced on our road, and the air traffic above has practically zeroed! I feel somewhat guilty admitting this, given my love of flying and holidays, but I’m not missing the planes! Sitting in our garden sounds like sitting in an aviary.

We’ve seen quite a few different kinds of birds over the last few days, not all of which I’ve managed to photograph. We have Jays, Blackbirds, Magpies, Wrens, Robins, Sparrows, Thrushes, Finches, Pigeons and Blue Tits.

Here are the pictures I have managed to snap.

Finally, the piece de resistance …..

I did, for a second or two, think that a Pterodactyl had landed on our ridge tiles (I’ve been stuck at home for millions of years, my brain’s turning to mush!) but soon realised that it was a Heron. You can just about see his fancy hair do in the first pic. He stayed up there surveying the gardens for about half an hour.

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at our lovely wildlife. I feel so grateful to have our garden, it really is my little sanctuary.

Enjoy the rest of Easter, and if anyone has any mini eggs, please eat some for me. I don’t have any and I’m pretty sure they don’t count as an essential item so I can’t go and get any!

Alternative Six on Saturday!

I was a really busy bee yesterday. I spent about five hours cleaning, tidying and generally organising ready for some friends to come over in the evening so our house is now sparkling, then I went over to Coventry to get my nails done.

… I went for green with glitter this time and I’m a little bit in love with them!

By the time I got home I just had time to have some tea before everyone arrived so I didn’t have chance to write a Six on Saturday post, even though I had managed to squeeze a photo mission to the garden in. Not to worry, it just means I’m not limited to six things to tell you about today.

First of all I’m going to wish our Welsh friends a very happy Saint David’s Day.

More and more daffs are popping up in the garden now and they do make my Winter-battered heart sing with hope. These ones are in the corner of my birthday planter.

There are definitely signs that Spring is in the air I the garden, apart from the daffs. My friend gave me a Crocus bowl for my birthday back in September. I planted the bulbs and then left the bowl in the dark garage as instructed. I have to admit, I had completely forgotten it was in there until hubby saw the bulbs sprouting and mentioned it to me. I took it out to the light and it’s gone from strength to strength.

There’s lots of new growth appearing around the garden.

My Hydrangea is growing little cabbages at the end of its arms.

My Dogwood is looking beautifully red and is growing lovely limey leaves.

And my Pink Damask in my birthday planter has got pretty big already. This dies down completely in the Winter and then shoots up in the Spring ready for its big blousy pink flowers in the Summer.

There’s actually some pink already doing its pretty thing out there. In the front my Camellia’s gearing up to flower already and I’m going to start appreciating it from now on because once those beautiful flowers bloom, they don’t stick around for long.

In the back the Pieris is already starting to develop its pink tips ready for the full on sunset that it will impress with soon.

And my sale table Erysimum which must surely be the most stoic plant in the garden, determined to shine even through Storms Ciara and Dennis, is waving a couple of flowers above its foliage.

Gorgeous!

The lawn is a little unruly because we weren’t able to give it one last mow at the end of the Summer because, would you believe it, it kept raining, and I noticed yesterday that the fox run is visible.

This reminded me to check the garden camera to see what the wildlife’s been up to recently. This was a mission! I hadn’t checked it since before Christmas so there were more than four thousand photos on the memory card. It took me hours to go through them all and get rid of the blurry ones, the hundreds of pigeons and the ones that were apparently triggered by the invisible man! Do you know how many actual decent photos I was left with? Twenty! I’ll just show you the best ones.

Bit blurry this one, but look at the date! Looks like it was the pigeon Christmas party!

Just Mr Fox enjoying some chips …

… and a squirrel chowing down on a prawn cracker.

We got another hedgehog too! So pleased with this one.

Finally, how do I know it’s Mr Fox and not Mrs? I’ll just leave this here!