A tour of cat patios returned to the Halifax area on Sunday after a two-year absence caused by the pandemic.
The visit gave cat owners the chance to enjoy refreshments and socialize in so-called catios set up in private residences in Fall River, Bedford and Cole Harbour.
Cindy Murphy volunteers with the advocacy group Tuxedo Party of Canada and SpayDay HRM, which helps low-income people sterilize their cats. She said the event started in 2018.
Murphy said cat groups encourage people to keep their cats indoors for their safety and the safety of other creatures, such as birds. She said catios help provide indoor cats with stimulation and pleasure.
“In the rescue community, we see a lot of cats that are lost and injured and we see terrible stories…because people think their cats need to get outside for some fresh air,” Murphy said.
“We want to educate people that your cat can go outside but stay safe and healthy.”
There are many versions of catios.
Some people close their back deck with netting. Apartment dwellers can choose to install a planter or even a screen on their balcony.
Murphy said some cat owners set up catios large enough to allow them to spend time with their cat outdoors.
She said one of the catios that was part of a past tour was called alCATraz because it included a tunnel to allow the cat to be closer to the woods and further from home.
Range of costs
The cost of installing a catio in the Halifax can range from a few hundred dollars for a planter to a few thousand dollars for a larger enclosed patio.
Murphy said one of the reasons for the visit is to encourage people to see what type of enclosure is right for their living situation.
Another important aspect of catio visits, Murphy said, is providing cat owners with the opportunity to socialize much like dog owners socialize at dog parks.
Marta Smith, a retired nurse, opened her catio home in Bedford to visitors on Sunday.
Smith, who owns a cat and raises four kittens, also volunteers with SpayDay HRM. She said it was too dangerous for cats in the real world.
Smith said she belonged to a Facebook group that posted messages on Saturday looking for the owners of four cats found dead in HRM. She said cats just need access to fresh air to be happy and a catio provides that.
“An outdoor cat may be four to five years old [of life]”Smith said. “An indoor cat, they [can] live 18 to 20 years now.”