I recently built a small enclosed outdoor area for my cats to enjoy the outside (aka a "catio"). There is a pet door for them to come and go as they please. Human included for scale.

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We also have a small dog that we want to use it when we're not home to relieve himself. Therefore, we plan to remove the gravel and replace it with artificial grass.

I've watched several DIY artificial grass installing videos online. The basic preparation steps seem to boil down to:

  1. Remove current landscaping material (in our case, gravel).
  2. Grade the exposed dirt.
  3. Build wooden frame around perimeter.
  4. Pour some kind of compacted leveling substrate over the dirt and pack it flat.
  5. Install artificial grass on top of substrate.
  6. Attach outer edge of grass to wooden frame.

This enclosed area is only for small animals. The animals are mainly indoor pets, so the installation does not need to be very durable or need to stand up to heavy use. It seems like a lot of the preparation for an artificial grass installation is predicated around being able to withstand full-size humans running around on it for years.

That said, what is the minimum artificial grass installation we can get away with for our specific use case? Can we get away with laying the grass directly on the dirt below? Do we still need to build a perimeter or can we stake the grass directly into the dirt? Are there other "cheats" we can do that will be good enough for a pet area and allow us to save time and money?

Edit: There is a dog door that gives both species of animals unlimited access into and out of the enclosure. We expect only the dog will use the grass to relieve himself, and then only when we're not home to let him outside into the larger backyard.

  • 1
    This is the first time someone has asked about artificial grass on the site, so I posted a question about its topicality on meta: gardening.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/804/….
    – Niall C.
    May 27, 2017 at 20:22
  • 2
    @NiallC., thanks. I figured artificial grass lands firmly in the "landscaping" part of this SE, but I will respect it and remove the question if it's considered off topic.
    – Dan Laks
    May 27, 2017 at 21:03
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    @DanLaks Well, wait and see what comes of the meta question. I find it interesting that the subject hasn't come up before in the almost 6 years the site has been around.
    – Niall C.
    May 27, 2017 at 21:15
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    @NiallC. - artificial turf has come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years - even the RHS allowed a show garden 2 years ago using a particular brand of artificial turf. Its becoming more commonly used, certainly in the UK, and with the better ones, its really hard to tell its artificial from just looking at it. I'd imagine its use will only increase over time, and it definitely falls under G and L I'd say.
    – Bamboo
    May 27, 2017 at 21:45
  • 2
    @bamboo Could you post that as an answer to my meta question so that people can say yea or nay to it (i.e. vote on it)? gardening.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/804/…. Thanks!
    – Niall C.
    May 27, 2017 at 21:49

3 Answers 3


In theory, you could just lay the artificial turf straight onto soil or sand - but it will ruck up and move. It should be laid over compacted granite dust for a proper replacement lawn, but that's not what you're talking about. Because its a small area and is intended to be used by animals, it should be anchored down correctly, because the animals may run around on it, or scrape at it, and the necessity to clean it frequently means, if its not anchored down properly, that will be difficult. Whether you follow the recommendations regarding installation to the letter is your choice.

There is another drawback though - in such a small area, it will be important to keep it clean and sanitised as often as 3 or 4 times a week, including removing pet hair. You can buy products for sanitising artificial turf, and some advice on this type of upkeep is included in this article, How to Clean Artificial Grass, but obviously, the advice is aimed at people who have a whole lawn as artificial turf, not a tiny area, so the amount of cleaning recommended will be more than it suggests.

The other possible drawback is how hot artificial turf gets in sunlight - on a very hot day, its entirely possible it may burn the pads on the paws of your animals.


Firstly, I don't think that pen is nearly big enough for that person. :).

Secondly, you're describing installing this turf as intended for use with humans. Considering the use it'll be put to, as a cat pen and a potty pen for the dog, I'd probably put more of the same stones you already have to fill in that back grassy corner, cut the AstroTurf to fit, and use the pavers to hold it in place because of wind from storms.

Here's my thinking. Cats don't like water and you're planning on your dog regularly peeing on it. You don't want standing puddles either way. These animals aren't going to weight enough or be rowdy enough to move this mat in all likely hood, especially with the pavers weighing it down. Pee and rain water can easily drain out through the stones. You can use a water hose for a quick clean and simply take out he pavers, remove the whole mat, and use a hose and tire brush for a thorough cleaning. The stones will be easy to tamp back flat. Replace the mat and pavers, and it's like brand new.


I started off thinking of a small dog. Sorry. I love that cats are kept inside, otherwise they become everyone's cat, grins. My beloved outdoor, used to be feral cat was shot by my neighbor, major sigh! I have 4 indoor cats and 3 catboxes. I have never seen cats poo or pee on top of a lawn or artificial grass. They are designed to dig and bury their excrement. I would find a great place in the home to set up cat boxes. That will last quite awhile if you leave home. Good clumping litter works well and I also get a deodorizer that is unscented to add to the room and we live in a very small home with 4 cats. No problem at all. I ask guests if they can smell cat and they say no. And my guests know not to 'be nice'.

I don't think this is a good solution at all for cats. For a small dog but not for cats. Cats do need grass to eat now and then but that you can do on a window sill in the kitchen.

  • The cats are fully indoor cats with indoor litter boxes. The question is not about whether the cats will take to relieving themselves outside, which I am certain they won't. I'm just asking how to do a minimal artificial grass install taking into consideration that it will be light use with a small dog that occasionally uses the grass when we're not home.
    – Dan Laks
    May 27, 2017 at 20:55
  • That is how I answered at first. The artificial grass would be a good idea if it is easy to clean, definitely sloped. I always have to see more than what people want to know, sorry!
    – stormy
    May 28, 2017 at 0:03

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