Eleanor and her husband, a diplomatic couple who move frequently, prefer a simple, minimalist design aesthetic, and with five special needs animals who share their home, they were having difficulty finding just the right decor items that would suit their lifestyle. Items needed to be designed to fit their aesthetic, to function for the needs of their animals, and to be disassembled, shipped, and reassembled when moving. They finally hired a designer to create several custom pieces. Here are the results.
CAT STAIRS & WINDOW LEDGES
Their current residence is an adapted office space with cathedral windows and a very long, narrow hallway. The tall bookcases that line the hallway are natural perches for cats. To give safe access, they created a circular staircase, with carpeted treads, that allows even the older male cat to ascend easily, with intermediate platforms for resting along the way. It attaches to a bookcase with a simple wooden hook and a single screw, and has a detachable weighted base for stability. The steps have wooden supports, also attached by one screw, and the carpets are removed and replaced using a fine blade to lift, and a few points of strong adhesive to attach. Assembly or disassembly and packing take only minutes with a single tool.
The cathedral windows have deep brick tile ledges, so they created 12 lightweight custom beds to fit these ledges. The cats have comfortable places to lounge, sleep, and watch the world go by, and the beds can easily be packed, or even used as packing material, without adding weight to the container.
THE ULTIMATE CLIMBER & SCRATCHER
One cat, Gigi, survived panleukopenia, a usually fatal kitten disease. She is blind, deaf, and without sensation on one side of her body, and has limited sight and hearing on the other. This had to be taken into account in all designs. A large custom climber and scratcher provides a solid, carpeted inclined plane that all the cats use for scratching, which also allows the blind cat to climb safely to and from the perch on the top. It also has a lounging space on the base that allows a cat to sleep in complete privacy, while still keeping an ear on the environment.
The high level of the perch allows for access to a window, regardless of the architecture in any given residence. The wood stain and carpeting are the same as in all the other pieces, making this the key piece in the suite, linking the designs across the interior.
THE LITTER HUTCH
To accommodate the litter boxes, as well as create a storage space for litter supplies, they created three custom litter hutches. These simple black lacquered boxes have no exterior decoration. Entry and exit are through an opening on the side. The inside is fully carpeted, to assist in keeping litter inside the box, and the support framework is out of sight. The entire remaining wall is hinged inside, and secured with strong magnets, so that nothing disrupts the elegant line. However, it lowers flat, to allow easy access to the litter box, and rapid cleaning.
Since one of the cats objects to having his fur touch the inside wall of the standard covered litter box, oversized storage boxes replace the usual litter pan. For storage, a separate, smaller hutch stacks on top of the larger one. It is also carpeted and has a magnetically secured wall.
There are three sets of litter hutches throughout the interior. One set serves as a room divider in the living/entertaining room, another as a bookcase and bedside table, and the third is in a busy office, where it often ends up being the extra shelf that every office needs. Visitors are surprised to discover that these are not standard home furnishings, but cat litter hutches!
THE SAFETY BOX
Special needs animals pose their own issues. The blind cat needs a place to eat undisturbed and an environment that takes into account her vulnerability. She cannot be left unsupervised for long periods of time. Like all cats, she loves to run, to climb, and to get into things, however, unlike a fully sighted and hearing cat, she can fail to see a door, step casually off a table or shelf because she cannot see that there is nothing there, or fail to detect the approach of a threat.
Eleanor and her husband have two special needs dogs — not cat friendly. Normally, the dogs live in their own room, with a direct outdoor exit. However, “Privilege Time” upstairs is a part of their daily routine, and the cats need to be securely protected for that period.
The safety box is the solution to these issues. A completely secure environment, it contains three levels, joined by carpeted ramps that overlap the center of the base, so that there is no possibility of a cat falling any farther than 10 inches. Since the levels are cushioned, even if a fall occurs, the landing surface is soft.
The floor level contains a litter hutch fitted to a regular litter pan, the entry to which is masked by the ramp to the first level. There is also a lacquered food and water tray, for easy cleaning. A small, magnetically fastened entry door allows the cats entry and exit when it is open, but holds firmly in place when closed. The lower walls, also with magnetic catches, serve as flaps that can be lowered flat for easy cleaning access.
The roof of the hutch has a fitted cushion, attached with Velcro, easily removed for cleaning. A third, L-shaped level, in the center of the large Plexiglas panes, allows any cat in the box a full view of the environment. This level also has a soft cushion.
Three levels allows three cats to co-exist in a small space during the dogs’ Privilege Time without disagreements about who is lying on whose tail.
Measuring 41″ x 41″ at the base, the box is 52″ tall. It is constructed from lacquered wood and Plexiglas, with ventilation slots carved in the roof and the lower sides to ensure clean air, and to allow odors from the litter hutch to escape. The roof, attached by six screws, is easily removed, as are the Plexiglas panes and their frames. For shipping, it holds the disassembled cat perches, the steps and base from the cat stairway, and all the window cushions, with room left over for litter scoops, toys, a full tin of the lacquer and the remaining carpet, for repairs and touch-ups after a move.
All the cats quickly colonized the safety box, with the blind cat voluntarily spending most of her nap times inside. The older cat also loves the box, and they are often found curled around each other on the top level. The dogs, who used to run straight to the closed door of the room in which the cats were secured and bark insistently, run past the box, often in a frenzied search for cats, apparently unaware that the cats are watching them with varying degrees of disdain through the window of the box they have just passed.
Thank you so much to Eleanor for submitting these amazing designs. Eleanor writes, “Every one of these items was inspired by your blog. Before we began getting your mailings, I had bewailed the lack of ‘interesting’ animal furniture available for a reasonable price in the market. It never occurred to me to design and build my own. Seeing what other people had achieved, whether commercially or DIY, changed my whole attitude, and gave me a lot of ideas, some of which are still awaiting execution!”