Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the November/December 2015 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.
As cat lovers, we want our cats to feel at home and to be able to climb and explore all they want. Here’s how two inspiring designers incorporated unbelievable feline living space into their clients’ homes.
Amber Stockdale from West Lynn, Oregon, contacted Pet Tree Houses about creating a high-rise tree house that would allow her four cats to ascend two stories within a colossal indoor/outdoor enclosure. Joe and Shelley DelRocco of Pet Tree Houses had no idea they would be setting a world record just by filling the order. The official height of the tallest platform, as listed by Guinness World Records, is 5.14 meters (16 feet, 10 inches), but with foliage in place, the tree reaches nearly 20 feet in height.
See it here:
Rebecca Mountain, founder of Mountain Cat Trees, faced a similar challenge in Hatfield, Massachusetts, when homeowners Eliza Fischer and Tiffany Barrow contacted her. When the couple joined their families in 2014, they also had to decide how to accommodate their animal family. Eliza moved in with cats Kirby, Agnes, Monkey, Judd, and Naked, plus dog Nora, while Tiffany brought cats Encore and Pluto and dogs Nova and Bebe. To ensure a peaceful transition, they recruited Rebecca to “catify” their home. The $5,000 remodel took her about 70 hours to complete.
I asked both cat home designers a few questions about their extreme projects.
What is the most important aspect of home design for cats?
“Function,” Rebecca said. “You want to create structures that fit the needs of the cat or cats who live there.”
The DelRoccos agree with this sentiment: “The cats must use it, or it’s useless. Another important aspect to consider is safety. Our trees are built to flex and act like a real tree to stay sturdy and upright on their own.”
How can the average person implement feline design that looks natural in their home?
“‘Natural’ means that the cat can engage on an instinctive level,” said Shelley DelRocco. “We recently developed a DIY Assembly Kit that the customer can easily put together at home. The Tree is affordably priced and is the same high quality and craftsmanship as the rest of the line and includes the real tree, silk foliage, removable carpet, and foliage that can be easily posed.”
According to Rebecca: “You want to use materials and colors that blend in with those in your home. In the case of this design project, I chose natural wood that blended well with the existing wood in their home. The catwalks were made from weathered wide pine boards I happened to have. The light and dark streaks in the wood blended well with the other light and dark wood in their home.”
What should people consider about their cats (and other animals) before planning a home design project?
“People should consider their cats’ age, weight, general health, and breed,” Joe said. “How active is the cat? Can they jump, or do they have medical issues? Are they a large breed cat, such as a Maine Coon, where the tree will need to be larger and heavier? Any home design project that does not con- sider these aspects will ultimately not provide the benefit that people are trying to achieve.”
Rebecca said, “Definitely think carefully about your cat’s personality and activity level and plan around that. Whether you have a cat with a lot of energy or a couch potato, you can create some really great structures they will enjoy. If you have a multi-cat home, you may want to create a variety of spaces for each of them so they all have their own spot.”
How has everything been since this project was completed?
Eliza and Tiffany reported, “Our cats are doing great! We have cats sleeping on high shelves, resting on the window shelf, and watching us from the super-high scratching post specially designed to give the cats access to the catwalk. We could not be happier, and we have very happy cats!”
In Amber Stockdale’s case, the tree house worked a little too well. “We love it, but we tend to see a lot less of our cats,” she explained. “However, keeping their food inside our home ensures frequent visits.”
Any suggestions you can add for those doing a project similar to this?
“Changing things up can be really helpful,” said Shelley DelRocco. “For example, Pet Tree Houses now offers Fall Foliage. So, people can change the design of the tree throughout the year. Pet Tree Houses is the only cat tree that changes with the seasons!”
“The tree must also be placed in the right location,” Joe said. “Cat trees should not be eye sores. For example, we crafted a cat tree for Matilda, the feline resident of the historic Algonquin Hotel. The tree was crafted to mimic the hotel’s beautiful interior while providing Matilda a place that caters to her instinctive needs. This is very important when felines are ‘confined’ to a specific space.”
Planning also plays a major part in a successful design, according to Rebecca. “For those considering a similar project, I suggest drawing out the room and planning it on paper first. If you are creating a kitty highway, as we did, you need to make sure to measure everything out carefully to be sure shelves are spaced appropriately. You want to know what is going where before you begin. You can use various structures as we did to allow the cats to move about the house, which breaks things up and keeps it interesting both for the cats and aesthetically.”
Read more about cats, environments, and vertical space on Catster:
Stacy Mantle is an award-winning writer, founder of the popular website petsweekly.com, and best-selling author of the Shepherd series. When she’s not writing, she can be found assisting with TNR rescue missions or volunteering at rescue events. She currently resides in the deserts of the Southwest with several cats, a few dogs, and a very understanding husband.