Why do dogs get to have all the fun, with their fancy-schmancy dog houses and dog runs and dog beds?

Cats deserve some love, too.

And with “catios,” they’re getting plenty of it from some central Ohio homeowners.

Catios, like their occupants, can be many sizes, but they are basically screened porches for cats.

They allow indoor cats to leave the house without wandering off or getting exposed to other animals.

Larger catios can be closed off from the house with a door, just like a screened porch, but most are connected through a pet door or an open window, allowing cats to come and go as they please.

Owners say catios have revolutionized their pets’ lives. (The cats declined to comment.)

“They spend hours out there. My boy cat especially, Marley, begs to go out,” catio owner Linda Blount-Jacobs said.

She built a second-floor catio on her home two years ago with the help of her father, Dave Blount.

Blount-Jacobs’ catio is a screened space, 2 feet by 4 feet, that rests on the roof of her Florida room and is accessible from a second-floor window.

Dana Russell went a step — or two, or three — beyond. He built what amounts to an addition onto his South Side home for the eight indoor and two outdoor cats that he and his wife, Debbie, care for.

Two screened porches — one about 12 feet by 20 feet, the other about 4 by 8 — are attached to the rear of his home.

“They love it out here,” Russell said.

Linda Orenchuk built a catio onto the back of her home for her five cats that, like Blount-Jacbos’ catio, is accessible through a window. The space is more modest than Russell’s, but the goal is the same.

“It just bothers me that a creature can’t have sunlight or fresh air,” Orenchuk said. “But if we let them out, there’s the danger of disease or injury and they’ll get the birds.”

Cat experts say catios can serve important functions for cats, beyond simple exposure to the outdoors. Catios provide entertainment and exercise, especially if they are outfitted with climbing structures.

“They’re happier, like any of us, when they get a little exercise. They’re less stressed,” said Kellie DiFrischia, co-director of Columbus Dog Connection, an East Side rescue shelter for both dogs and cats. “It’s visual stimulation. It’s really invaluable.

“Giving the cats an opportunity to climb is important,” she said. “It’s such a natural behavior for cats and gives them an opportunity to get up high.”

Columbus Dog Connection includes a 16-by-16-foot catio outfitted with logs and other play things. DiFrischia said the staff is hoping to expand the furnishings with some donated lumber.

For cat owners considering building their own catio, experts caution that it’s important to take the specific cat into consideration. Not all cats enjoy the outdoors, said Michelle Matusicky, an assistant professor at Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Although plenty of cats are in need of enrichment — and a catio could certainly provide it — plenty can either be outright frightened or overstimulated, which could result in further behavioral issues in the home,” she said. “So watch your kitty closely if you are going to attempt to take him/her outside.”

Some experts also cautioned that catios can potentially expose cats to fleas and diseases.

Matusicky advised pet owners who are building a catio to make sure it includes no sharp edges or isolated ledges that would require a dangerous leap. She suggested designing a space that includes plenty of interesting spaces for a cat to explore — paths, hiding spots and perches.

And finally, pet owners need to make sure any catio is secure. Orenchuk learned that lesson when she discovered an opossum in her catio one morning before letting her cats out.

— Jim Weiker writes about real estate and housing for The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. He can be reached at jweiker@dispatch.com or follow @JimWeiker on Twitter.