Safe and enriching cat enclosures


Expert Builder Series #10 With Bay Area Catios

Expert Builder Series

This is the tenth Q&A in a series of interviews with catio experts from around the world. My hope is to learn from the best catio builders on the planet and pass on that knowledge far and wide.

Bay Area Catios

While a relative newcomer to the catio business, David Carnaghe is definitely an expert. He launched Bay Area Catios, which serves the San Francisco South Bay, Monterey Bay, and Santa Cruz, with nearly 30 years of relative experience. A licensed contractor since 1993, he once specialized in large timber landscape gazebos, pergolas, trellis and custom decks. That expertise shows up in his catios which have the distinctive look of a master carpenter.

Questions & Answers

1. What materials do you generally use? Anything unique?

I mostly use local materials including redwood, cypress/cedar for my framing, and interior shelving and ramps. At times I’ll cover the interior shelving and ramps with outdoor carpet.

I use black 14 gauge PVC vinyl coated galvanized welded wire, typically 2×4 or 2×2 spacing and black 19 gauge PVC vinyl coated galvanized welded 3/4 inch chicken wire when I’m working with an owner who doesn’t want birds getting onto the catio. I’ll also use the 19 gauge wire when constructing a custom aviary.

The roofing can be open wire or a single or double wall polycarbonate panels and I’ll use both clear and bronze panels which cut out about 30% of direct sunlight.

When designing and building custom sisal rope climbing poles I like to use what’s in nature, a tree branch from a redwood or eucalyptus tree to mimic the natural environment.

2. Can you please share at least three best practices and/or tips you’ve developed over time?

My designs are minimalist.

I construct prefab panels at my shop, I’ll rip 2x4s into 2x2s for the framing with one horizontal member at mid-point for structural integrity and one vertical member at mid-span which gives me more options when installing interior shelving, and for some panels I will create a simple frieze design. The prefab panels make for a simple disassemble if owners move or just want to expand their existing catio.

I avoid pressure treated wood or paints when I can for the health of the cats and if I have to paint, it’s animal friendly paint.

When installing panels on site I leave a gap of about an inch or so with spacers above existing flooring, either concrete, tile or wood decking so the owner can sweep or use a hose to clean the catio floor.

Interiors are designed with the cats needs, tree or ground dwellers, older cats, kittens or special needs cats. I like start the interior shelves from the top down, I make sure when possible to have shelves form a circle so there is no dead end, which can cause anxiety or stress with multiple cats.

When possible, I like the Feng shui design, from shading, placement of shelves, ramps, climbing poles, tunnels, hammocks and furniture to create a more social stress free catio for both cats and owners.

3. Do you have a favorite catio story?

Building a functional heavily used catio for a cat rescue group (Four Paws to Love), they’re planning on expanding soon.

Building a custom catio and aviary on an existing deck at a historic home, I could hear the waves crash from the Pacific Ocean.

Enjoying the cats’ company when installing interiors, the smiles on the owners faces, most owners say “why didn’t we building this catio sooner”

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