Lance Harding is allergic to cats. But that hasn’t stopped the 25-year-old Washington Park entrepreneur from creating an enclosed outdoor cat patio that lets felines safely enjoy fresh air and get some exercise.
Called catios, the enclosures connect to an opening of the house, usually a window, so that the cat can get in and out. The catios can be as small or large as customers would like, and can have features such as ramps and scratch pads.
“They’re a catio, but they’re also a home addition,” Harding said. “People want to feel a part of it, too.”
Harding created Cat Topia with business partner, Sky Davis, in December. Harding got the idea for the business from a family friend who built a catio.
So far, Harding has built 10 catios in the metro area, with more projects scheduled. The largest was about 400 square feet, he said.
An architect helps design the enclosures, Harding said. Although Harding said they hire carpenters to build the catios, both he and Davis help in all phases of the projects: prefabrication, desing and building. Depending on the size, construction usually takes about two days. And they can be removed if a family moves. Price varies, but on average, Harding said catios cost about $2,500.
He plans to donate a portion of Cat Topia’s revenue to the Denver Dumb Friends League, a nonprofit animal shelter.
“I wanted to give back to a community,” Harding said. “We just paired up really well with our missions.”
Maia Brusseau, the Dumb Friends League public relations manager, said the organization is always looking for local businesses to partner with for fundraising and to participate in events. Cat Topia is part of two upcoming annual events, the Furry Scurry at Washington Park this month and the Catwalk event in July.
Having local businesses at events is a “win-win” for everyone, Brusseau said. The businesses get exposure to potential buyers and eventgoers can learn about products for their pets.
When people adopt cats from the Denver Dumb Friends League, the organization recommends that people keep their pets inside. Having a catio is a way to provide cats with exercise while still keeping them in an enclosed space, Brusseau said. The way catios are built can also give those cats the feeling of being outdoors in a safe way.
“They can not only get some exercise, but some mental stimulation,” Brusseau said. “Some cats really crave to be outside.”
Harding grew up in Washington Park and attended Most Precious Blood Catholic School. After spending some time taking classes at the Art Institute, Harding decided to launch his first company, The Good Couch, which collects and sells used couches. The company shows them in two Denver warehouse locations.
Both The Good Couch and Cat Topia were ways to let Harding have the freedom to travel as a photographer. Before he came back to Denver and started Cat Topia, Harding spent the summer traveling the world and taking pictures.
He still works with The Good Couch, although his business partner Nick Reichert runs most of the company. The Good Couch has now expanded to Tennessee and Georgia.
He believes catios will catch on, too.
“I saw a need, that cats needed this,” Harding said, “and that was more important to me” than any allergy.
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