Lee Ann Heymans

Name: Lee Ann
Surname: Heymans
Location: Robertson, Western Cape
Entry Date: June 7, 2024
Category: Innovation
Project: Outdoor Areas

About the Project:

The potential of this space, adjacent to the main bedroom’s en-suite bathroom, was obvious: solid walls on two sides, facing onto the garden, a tiled floor, and two brick columns supporting a pergola. After purchasing the house in 2016, I considered several options, but as the number of cats I rescued and offered a permanent…

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The potential of this space, adjacent to the main bedroom’s en-suite bathroom, was obvious: solid walls on two sides, facing onto the garden, a tiled floor, and two brick columns supporting a pergola. After purchasing the house in 2016, I considered several options, but as the number of cats I rescued and offered a permanent home to increased (currently 11 – mainly from a feral cat colony that I feed), the most obvious choice was to create a patio for cats or a ‘catio’.

Inspired by the abundance of ideas on Pinterest, I formulated a plan, which has slowly become reality. Although this is very much a work in progress (started in August 2021), the big structural work has been completed, and all that remains to be done is functional improvements (for example, installing a cat flap in the door leading to the garden).
The first step in the project was to have a low brick wall, wide enough for cats to sit/lie on, built on the perimeter of the two open sides, leaving space for a doorway opposite the en-suite bathroom’s window. My then gardener and his uncle did the brickwork and plastering, and I did the painting.

Enclosing the open sides between the pillars with metal frames holding vertical bars, including a door opening into the garden, ensured that the space was cat-proof. Or so I thought until I watched – in horror – as one of my fatter cats squeezed through the space between the last bar and the frame in one of the corners! Until I can find a permanent solution, I have covered the metal frames and door with a low-density shade cloth. Thankfully, further escape attempts have been thwarted! The shade cloth also filters the sunlight, and prevents leaves from being blown in.

Removing the window in the en-suite wall to create space to fit a lovely old Oregon pine door followed. This doorway facilitates access from the main bedroom, through the en suite and into the catio. It also provides more light and air in the bedroom – an added bonus!

Next came the roof: given that the en suite had its own roof, separate from and below the main roof of the house, this posed something of a problem. A few builders offered solutions, but none felt right. Finally, Cobus of Rossouw Bros. proposed a really simple solution, and it is perfect! I wanted the catio to have a light, airy outdoor feel, but with protection from rain and the hot summer sun, so now clear polycarbonate roof sheets cover the whole roof of the catio. Alternate spaces between the roof beams of the catio were fitted with IsoBoard. The spaces not fitted with IsoBoard were temporarily draped with shade cloth as protection against the hot summer sun. With the help of contributors to Pinterest, I worked out a permanent solution: retractable blinds (sewn by me) attached to a wire track (fitted by a talented carpenter) in each of the open spaces between the beams. These blinds can be closed completely to provide shade in summer, or drawn back partially or completely, or even removed entirely in winter.
Fitting out the catio was, of course, great fun! I glued offcut carpet pieces onto two long pieces of shelving to create ‘catwalks’. Fitted onto the walls with shelving brackets, one leads up to the new doorway into the en suite, while the other leads away from the doorway on the other wall. Above the en-suite doorway I fitted a piece of guttering, linking the two ‘catwalks’. I bought lovely old wooden wine boxes from a local supplier, and these were fixed to the walls. Fitted with cushions (and warm blankets in winter) they are cosy nests for cats to snooze in. An old avocado tree branch – begged off a friend – is propped up in one corner in an old milk can, and provides a well-used scratching post, as well as access to a lookout platform that offers a view into the garden.
A family heirloom bed, positioned against one wall, accommodates lots of cheerful cushions (sewn by me), whilst leaving enough space (vitally important!) for cats to indulge in lots of R&R (and humans too occasionally)! Other ‘facilities’ provided to indulge feline whims include a suspended climbing rope (never used…), a small single-occupant hammock fitted to the wall, a longer hammock (potentially multi-occupant) suspended between two pillars for bird observation purposes, and another two lookout platforms overlooking the street at the end of one of the ‘catwalks’. A converted bathroom cabinet now houses a sandbox at the bottom, with a shelf above to store cleaning things. Access to the sandbox is through a cat’s head-shaped hole.

Fun finishing touches were provided by small black cat silhouette stickers, stuck in appropriate places, such as along the catwalks, above the boxes and hammocks, and next to steps fitted to the wall to access one of the ‘catwalks’. Pride of place above the daybed is given to a big black silhouette sticker of a cat sitting on the branch of a tree.

The catio is not just a safe, quiet place for my cats to spend time in, it’s also multifunctional: it serves as a secure space in which to leave washing to dry, a safe space to sit on summer evenings, and an alternative exit from the house. It is also used as secure overnight ‘accommodation’ for cats that have been trapped, pending their sterilization the following day at a local vet, as part of a feral cat TNR (trap, neuter, release) programme I am involved in. Half of any prize money I may win will be donated to this TNR programme.

Thank you to all those who provided encouragement, ideas and practical hands-on assistance in creating and furnishing this catio, thereby making my dream a reality!

Budget Breakdown:

Bricks, plaster, paint
Oregon pine door and frame
Shelving, brackets, screws, carpet offcuts
Fabric for blinds, cushions and hammocks
Tracks for retractable blinds
Roof sheets, beams, IsoBoard
Metal for frames, bars, gates
6 x old wooden wine boxes
Stickers (black cats)
Shade cloth


Rossouw Bros.
C F & R Staalwerke
Robertson Houtwerke
Gardener and his uncle
Grand Total