Last year, I had the opportunity to help Jackson catify his own home outside of Los Angeles where he lives with his three cats, Velouria, Chips, and Caroline, and his little dog, Rudy. This was his chance to put into practice some of his own advice for his feline family, and he learned some valuable lessons in the process.
The top priority was to create a cat superhighway throughout the house. On any good superhighway, you need to have ample lanes to accommodate the flow of traffic, as well as on- and off-ramps. In a multi-cat household, sharing a lane of traffic can cause conflict. Cats shouldn’t have to compete for space on a one lane dirt road.
Jackson’s superhighway includes multiple levels: the floor, the ottoman, the bookshelf, and two levels of cat shelves. His cats have all kinds of options for traversing the space without facing a potential traffic jam.
We continued the highway in the bedroom with more shelves from Ikea leading from a low table up to the top of the dresser. Strategically placed cat beds and scratch lounges make for nice destinations along the highway for happy cats to stop for a nap.
In the office nook, by watching the cats’ behavior, we found that the cats were using the desk surface as part of the highway, moving from the middle window shelf to the shelf above the desk by jumping on and off the desk. Instead of discouraging this, we accommodated the cats by placing sisal pieces with no-slip backing on the corners of the slippery desk surface. This is a great example of modifying an existing surface to accommodate the cats behavior.
As any of you who have both dogs and cats know, sometimes it’s necessary to separate them at feeding time (greedy dogs!) In order to address this issue, Jackson decided to use the top of the low bookshelf in the living room for the cat’s feeding station. To make it easier for the older kitties to reach the raised surface, we added a set of modern pet stairs. Now the cats can easily access their food while Rudy dines on the lower level.
Of course we had to showcase Jackson’s guitar collection, along with other personal touches. Overall, everyone is quite pleased with their new digs!
Thoughts from Jackson:
I think one of the most wonderful elements of this particular cat superhighway is that it was difficult to assess the needs of our cat clients. Given a brand new space, how would they decide to timeshare? So much smaller than the previous territory, who would try to dominate certain areas, and who would find confidence and safety in various degrees of the vertical world?
The way Kate and I answered that question was to embrace it. We built a highway with four vertical lanes, and with three cats, it could be assured that they could all explore different heights in their own time. The configuration also allowed me to get further into the mojo of each of my cats.
For instance, I made the discovery that given access to “trees,” “bushes” and “caves,” Caroline would allow her feral nature to take over, attempting to “disappear” herself from human view. The last thing one wants when constructing a cat superhighway is to encourage a fearful mindset. I wound up having to block off the top of a closet that I thought would be a great private zone, initially lined with cat beds, as well as underneath virtually any piece of furniture. Her challenge line became to live “on” very midrange heights like the bed, the arms of the couch, etc. Cat beds were then placed strategically in those areas.
The point is that we provided an incredibly flexible skeleton, one which we could change with the emerging individual as well as communal needs of my three cats. It goes to show you that catification is a journey, not a destination; the space as well as the process need to be given the room to breathe as the inhabitants cross their challenge lines and become more and more confident.
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The Catification column on JacksonGalaxy.com is written by Cat Style Expert, Kate Benjamin. Kate specializes in environmental enhancement for living with cats and is the founder and editor of hauspanther.com, the premiere online magazine for design-conscious cat people. Kate’s design expertise and Jackson’s cat behavior know-how combine to create cat-friendly environments that are sure to please both human and feline family members alike.