If you walk through the snow-capped streets of Riga, the capital city of Latvia, you’ll soon notice a series of squat wooden cat houses dotted around the landscape. The structures are the work of the Cat Care Community organization, which has teamed up with a local woodworker to provide shelter and sanctuary for the local lost, abandoned and feral felines.
I looked at Cat Care Community’s work on Facebook, and then I spoke to Anastasia Jahova from the organization about the genesis of the cat house idea, the issues behind Riga’s stray cat problem, and how you can get inspired and start constructing your own wooden kitty hangout spot.
Describe the homeless cat problem in Riga.
The homeless cats problem in Riga is quite difficult because there are thousands of homeless cats. … There are pets left outside by their owners, and those that have been abandoned or lost, but the good thing is that people are trying to help homeless cats a lot. There are groups and volunteers helping to treat and find homes for the abandoned or lost cats.
How did the idea to build wooden homes for the cats come about?
Every day we receive a cry for help … for a temporary or permanent home for abandoned and homeless cats. That is why we created a project called Outdoor Cat Houses. These safe and inventive structures offer cats refuge and protection from the bad weather and outside world.
Who’s in charge of building the cat houses?
All the houses are built by a native Latvian master, using donations made to our nonprofit cat protection organization Cat Care Community. The native Latvian Facebook blog Es Esmu Kaķis is also helping to bring this project to life.
Did you consider different designs for the homes before choosing the one you’ve used?
For now, no, but we are working on one new design — hopefully so that the houses might become more safe with a built-in place to eat.
From a design point of view, what sort of things does a good cat house need to include?
A good protected roof, a place to eat and for a food bowl, and two windows for the exit.
How do the cats react when they first see one of the homes?
With curiosity! They always try to understand what it is.
Have you had any other animals attempting to sneak into the cat houses?
No, we have not, because it is not safe and cats can stop using the house because of the unsafe smell.
Once the cats get used to the homes, do you attempt to neuter them?
Yes, we are working now on a trap-neuter-return project. This is a program that provides support and money to neuter homeless cats, because not all of them are ready to live in a real home with people.
If someone reading this wants to build a wooden home for homeless cats where they live, what advice would you give them?
To simply start! Watch a video on YouTube or read online about how to build a house and just do it. It is a great way to help homeless animals.
You can check out more about the Cat Care Community’s efforts on Facebook.