Catio Tour 2016

For just a few hundred dollars, you can keep your kitty out of the food chain. The Catio Tour, April 9 in Santa Cruz County, will give you some ideas about how.

April 4, 2016—As every Santa Cruz Mountains cat owner is all too aware, mountain lions and coyotes like to eat kitties. Puma experts say house cats are a measurable part of the big cats' diets (the figure is between 5 and 10 percent for local pumas, if memory serves).

It leaves a cat lover with a terrible choice to make: let the cat out (and the cat always wants to go out, right?) at considerable risk, or keep it safely indoors, which seems like a pretty dull life.

There's a third way, cat-loving people of the world: the catio.

Essentially an enclosed outdoor space for felines, catios can be lavish, capacious affairs with catnip and multiple lounging stations or something as simple as a window box. The idea is to let the cat enjoy some fresh air and sunshine—and all the fascinating smells the outdoor holds—without running the risk of it becoming somebody else's dinner. On Saturday, April 9, the Catio Tour will allow you to take a gander at 11 Santa Cruz County homes that have been outfitted with catios. You'll see elaborate kitty condos with multiple levels and fenced-in skyways (catwalks, I guess), nifty window boxes, and quite a few ingeniously enclosed patios with fencing that prevents the cats from escaping (and other things from getting in).

There's another reason to keep cats out of the world at large. Domestic cats are an invasive species, as pernicious in their own way as Norway rats or French broom. A 2013 study found that pet and feral cats are eating as many as 3.7 billion songbirds and 20 billion small native animals each year—bad news for any ecosystem. A catio is a way to minimize the damage your beloved little monster can wreak on the planet.

The Catio Tour is Saturday, April 9, 10am to 2pm. It's self-guided, so look at the Catio Tour Booklet to decide where you want to go. It's free, but donations will be gladly accepted.