Portland 'catio' tour draws record crowds

Etta Wilkins-Foster's cats seem to love their "catio" habitat. (KATU Photo)

Etta Wilkins-Foster is just one of many people in the Portland-metro area going the distance for their cats. Wilkins-Foster and her husband have built an elaborate 'catio' in their backyard. It's an outdoor space for their cats that combines the words 'cat' and 'patio.'

"They come and go all day long at all hours," said Wilkins-Foster. "But mostly they like it in the morning because that's when the birds are out here."

Catios are specifically designed for animal safety. They keep cats safe and secure and they keep other wildlife, which cats like to hunt, safe and secure too.

"We get a tremendous number of birds in here every year that are caught by cats," said Bob Sallinger, conservation director with the Portland Audubon Society. "Most of them don't survive."

Many cats that are allowed to roam free outside don't survive either.

"A lot of people believe that kitties need outdoor time and there are a lot of hazards outside," said Karen Kraus, executive director with the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon. "From cars to coyotes to other wildlife."

The Portland Audubon Society, Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon, and other agencies have teamed up in recent years to offer a tour of catios in the metro area. This past weekend's tour drew about 1,000 people. Many of those came to see the catio in Wilkins-Foster's backyard.

"To me, it's just part of being a responsible cat owner," she said. "I keep my cats restrained."

Some have made fun of the catio craze in Portland. But the popularity can't be denied.

"They're damn popular," said Sallinger. "They sell out every year."

"Very Portland, I don't think, is a bad thing sometimes," said Wilkins-Foster. "We have some good ideas."

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