Last updated May 10th, 2021
Building a cat bridge is the ideal solution to connecting an existing catio and a window, or as a standalone catio for small spaces to increase your cat’s ‘home base’. Here’s how and why we built a cat bridge for our multi-cat household.
Working on cat projects with your significant other can be exhausting. Not so much the physical work. But the part where you have to sell your crazy ideas to your partner in crime.
“Nope, that will never work,” he says
“Nope, the cats won’t like it, the neighbors will see, and why do the cats need another bridge?”
“Well, it’s what the cats want,” I say with a comical grimace, like I’m half-joking, but I’m not.Yas and Kevin
“So the cats told you so, did they?” he says sarcastically.
“Yes, it’s exactly what the cats want,” I retort.
I let the idea simmer for a while, but then at teatime, I take out my sketch pad and start drawing what I want, no, what the cats want. This is my chance to warm him up to the idea. It works, but I can already see that I have ignited some of his own ideas and I should be prepared to butt heads over this. And so the work on the catio bridge begins, but not without a few kinks to iron out.
So why build a cat bridge?
- A catio bridge or cat skywalk is an easy way to more efficiently make use of available space
- Provides an archway for the humans to walk under
- Mimics a garden feature such as an arbor and is a great way to integrate your catio space into your existing garden landscape
- Plant a vine next to the stairs of the cat bridge and transform it into a beautiful and functional ‘catio arbor’
- A less intrusive and practical way of connecting the tunnels to the catio
- A catio bridge is an attractive and practical solution for merging the human space with the catio spaces.
- As a bonus for the cats, an extra cat skywalk will provide a pathway to more cat kingdoms to conquer and rule! That’s the ultimate cat enrichment goal!
On our lawn, we have removable cat tunnels that are attached to the main catio via a mini door entrance. Here the cats love to stalk, hunt bugs, and pretend to be out in the African Savanna like their wild cousins. But the positioning of the tunnels presented a slight inconvenience. The caveat with this design was that we had to step over the 16-inch tunnels to get to the other side of the lawn. This is no big deal; the tunnels are removable after all, and I had my little ‘step and swing’ perfected to a tee.
But when you’re gardening or lugging heavy bags of soil around the backyard, a 16” obstacle to climb over was no fun. That sparked the idea for a more ergonomic design that would seamlessly connect the main catio and cat tunnels. A cat bridge or catio bridge with an archway for the humans to walk under would be the much-needed solution. My goal was to literally ‘bridge the gap’ between the catio and the tunnels in the most seamless and least obtrusive way.
Regardless of space considerations, a cat bridge creates an elevated point of interest for your cat to hide, perch, explore, and pounce. In your cat’s head, the bridge is a new piece of territory. It seems like such a small addition but for your cat, you’re creating new cat kingdoms to explore. I wanted to expand on this idea of what I call ‘Cat Kingdoms’ and create a bridge that would provide another pathway into a new cat kingdom.
How and where would we connect the cat bridge?
“So where do you think this cat bridge is going to be built?” he asks, as if it’s a trick question.
I immediately answer “On top of BirdView Lodge, of course!” and I circle it on my drawing. “See? that’s Birdview Lodge right here.”Yas and Kevin
Side note: Yes, I named each of our catio sections. It sure beats saying “oh Ollie is in the catio next to the main catio near the tree!” But Kevin just refuses to go by my silly nomenclature.
In order to build the catio bridge, we wanted to make use of existing structures for the least intrusive impact on the existing catio design. Besides adding functionality, the cat bridge would also add a much-needed facelift to the rather drab looking “Birdview Lodge.” This section was actually a cat pen we built in the garage for an injured Sly Pie in the thick of winter when we rescued him four years ago. So in that summer, we found ourselves with an extra ‘catio’ that needed a home. We ‘rescued’ it and stationed it in its current cozy corner next to the main catio tucked near the ash tree. It became “Birdview Lodge.”
After 4 years Kevin wanted to get rid of it completely. There was something about the front elevation of Birdview Lodge that we both felt didn’t quite belong. Perhaps because it is lower than the main catio ‘Chirpy’s Lair’ and was built in a hurry to save a cat. But despite our thoughts, there were many redeeming qualities about Birdview Lodge that we couldn’t ignore. Its saving grace is that the tendrils of the female Actinidia Kolomikta vine have weaved their way up through the grids and bear fruit.
It is also the entrance to another skywalk that leads to the other catio sections. The cats love the little cozy nook, hidden amongst vine foliage while watching the birds and squirrels, AND we get fruit in the Fall. So Birdview Lodge was here to stay. All it needed was a little makeover.
My initial sketches envisioned modifying a ready-made arbor to make a cat bridge sitting atop Birdview Lodge. This would act as an aesthetically pleasing veneer that would spruce up the facade and add a point of interest. In the end, we scrapped my ambitious arbor hack design and instead, went with the least complicated design but with the same end goal; bridging the gap between the ground tunnels and the catio.
Cat bridge design considerations and concerns
For a project of this nature, everyone has to be on board, especially the person who operates the power tools! But Kevin was still skeptical. We live on a corner plot with not much screening our backyard from the side road. His primary concern was passersby being able to see the cats in the bridge above the fence line. This is one very overprotective cat dad, I kid you not! He wanted the cautious approach and suggested covering the facade of the bridge with lattice.
I was not too keen on the lattice design and wanted to keep it open, preferring just the plain wire mesh. I planned on planting another hardy kiwi vine which would eventually climb its way up the bridge stairs and provide privacy screening, anyway. But the compromise was somewhere in the middle; we would cover everything above the fence line in lattice and leave everything below that bare, leaving the wire mesh exposed.
Materials required for building a cat bridge
- Wooden outdoor stairs stringers – The Home Depot
- Pressure-treated wood (various lengths and thicknesses)
- 24″x24″ patio stones
- Nylon cable ties
- Wire cutters
- Galvanized wire mesh
- Galvanized fence staples
- Grinder to grind down any sharp edges
- Lattice panels (The Homedepot)
How we built the cat bridge
The good thing about building the bridge on an existing catio structure was that this provided a solid base of support to build from. We laid a patio stone in position to support the stairs. We replaced a wooded beam from Birdview Lodge catio with a longer 8-foot piece spanning across to join the stairs.
Using a (10″ wide x 2″ x 96″) piece of wood for the bridge walkway, we bent the wire mesh into an arched shape at 16″ high and secured both ends to the wood using fence staples. When working with bending or cutting wire, always wear heavy-duty gloves. Once we made the 8-foot tunnel, we positioned this on top of the roof of the catio.
Before attaching the bridge, we needed to design the ‘vestibule’ or entryway for access from the catio onto the cat bridge. I thought it would be easiest to make a vestibule by simply cutting a ‘flap’ in the wire mesh of the new bridge, then attaching a semi-circular piece of wire mesh to join the bridge using cable ties.
When cutting the wire, use a grinder to smooth any sharp edges on cut wire. Once the vestibule is attached, the walkway is ready to be attached in position.
After we completed the stairway frame, we attached the wire mesh to the frame. It’s always satisfying to reach this stage because you know the job is almost done and one’s ideas are taking shape. Kevin sticks to his part of the deal and only covers the top half in lattice.
But as we go along with the build, he makes another small enclosure at the base of the stairs. So now we needed more patio stones! I did not ask how many trips to the Home Depot he had made. When everything was attached and securely enclosed, Mr. Jack was the first to make a mad dash across the bridge, down the stairs, and rubbed his back on the patio stones.
The vestibule design is a success and even serves as a lookout point to snoop on the neighbors in the front! Mr. Jack is mesmerized by the unfamiliar landscape from above.
I was very excited to plant my new Actinidia Kolomikta vine and I can’t wait to see how it weaves its way up along the lattice bridge.
The grass tunnels are attached to the little “antechamber” at the base of the stairs. No more ‘swing and step’ maneuver or tea spilled.
The humans finally have an archway to walk under!
The cats have more stones to rub against.
They have an elevated lookout and more cat kingdoms to conquer!
A catio for smaller spaces?
While our reasons for building the cat bridge were foremost to connect two existing structures, I soon realized that the cat bridge can be a standalone structure, as a complete catio on its own. A catio bridge, or bridge catio, if you will.
Why would you consider building a bridge catio?
- If your backyard is too small to build a catio, this bridge catio could work for you.
- You could build it on the side of your house connected to a window and cat flap.
- It can be built over or under a carport. Or any other structure that forms part of your backyard that might otherwise hinder the building of a traditional catio.
- And what about a catio bridge attached to your pergola? This would be a great way to merge both human and cat ‘ecosystems.’
- A cat bridge can function as a stylish arbor and catio in one.
I firmly believe that providing enrichment for cats by enhancing their living spaces further cements the bond with their humans. The spaces we share with our cats have to provide mutual harmony and enrichment for both. If you would like some catio inspiration, check out how we built our catio. And if you would like some catio accessory design ideas for decorating your new catio, check out these 9 awesome ways to bring your catio to life.
You’ve got to think like a cat
It’s almost sunset and Mr. Jack watches the day end from the vestibule. Sly Pie enjoys the last sun puddle on the bridge and Baggy is rolling on the cooled slabs of stone.
The evening sun sparkles through the lattice of the bridge, and I catch a glimpse of a cat silhouette walking through. It looks so beautiful; I think to myself.
And as if reading my mind, Kevin says “See, the cats like my idea, you’ve just got to think like a cat.” I roll my eyes and say “Your idea?” And just as we engage in an exchange of good-natured repartee about the birth of this project, we’re both interrupted by Baggy chasing Ollie over the bridge then frolicking in the grass.
We both laugh at the cats’ antics and he says to me, “See, it doesn’t matter. It’s what the cats want.”
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