The cats at the Dumb Friends League in Denver, Colorado got a big treat earlier this year with a special Catification makeover! Jackson and I helped them out with a plan to overhaul five cat rooms, transforming them from ho-hum to cat-tastic. We added enrichment features for both cats and people with lots of little details that will hopefully inspire other shelters to Catify their cage-free colony rooms, too.
These five rooms house a combination of social cats along with some shier cats, so the design needed to take into consideration these different cat groups as well as the staff, volunteers and visitors who use the space. The overall project had three main objectives:
- CATIFICATION – create spaces where the cats feel comfortable and where their personalities can truly shine. Staff and volunteers need to be able to easily work with the cats in the rooms and introduce them to potential adopters.
- CLEANING & MAINTENANCE – create a design that can stand up to rigorous cleaning protocols and continuous use by cats over time with pieces that can be easily and inexpensively replaced as needed.
- BRANDING & IMAGE – coordinate with the DFL brand image, introducing the corporate colors and presenting an attractive and inviting look and feel.
We created a similar Catification plan for each of the five rooms with a variety of elements to achieve the following:
- provide vertical space at various levels — low, mid-range and high (but still within easy reach)
- take advantage of the windows and views
- give cats safe spaces where they can hide but still be easily monitored and reached if necessary
- eliminate any dead ends or places where cats could feel trapped
- designate areas for litter, food and water, soft bedding, and toy storage
- incorporate places for people to sit
- reduce clutter in the rooms
- make it easy for maintenance staff to clean and sanitize
Litter Hider & Seating Bench
We started by creating a large seating bench that doubles as a place for the litter box. Two separate compartments, one large and one smaller, have multiple openings and hinge-open front panels for easy access when cleaning. A full 24″ depth and height gives cats plenty of room inside while creating a large surface on top for people to sit and for cats to lounge.
These sturdy boxes can be moved and stacked in any configuration, creating a multi-level climber for cats and some additional seating for people. Each box has a hinged panel to allow for cleaning access, as well as large openings on multiple sides so cats won’t feel trapped. Soft bedding inside creates a cozy retreat where cats can have some privacy but still see what’s going on in the room.
When creating vertical space and a Cat Superhighway, it’s important to eliminate any dead ends. In a smaller room, this can be a challenge and sometimes you need to get creative. One way to allow cats to climb from one level to the next is to add a passthrough hole like we did below. Just make sure that the distance between the shelves allows cats to easily jump up or down through the hole.
In addition to the hiding spaces that the Cubby Boxes provide down low, we also added some hideaways up high with these wall-mounted boxes. The boxes provide a raised, semi-enclosed spot for cats, making them feel like they are hiding in the leaves of a tree, peeking out at their surroundings. Add a soft bed or even a hammock inside to make it extra cozy.
Windowsill Perches & Window Bridges
Some of the climbing shelves align with the bottom of the windows, creating an extension of the windowsill where cats can lounge and look outside. In each room, one of the shelves extends across the lower window, creating a bridge that allows two cats to look out at once, maximizing the view.
It’s important to have a variety of toys in the room but some toys, like wand toys, should not be left out when there are no people the room for safety reasons. We created a built-in storage compartment that can be used for toys or any other supplies that are needed for working with the cats, like grooming tools, clickers or treats. The front of the compartment has a hinged door that is held closed with a strong magnet latch.
The Dumb Friends League did a fantastic job bringing this design to life and we are thrilled to see these happy cats enjoying their new Catified rooms! Next time you’re in Denver (when things get back to normal!) please stop by the Dumb Friends League for a visit! More information about their programs at ddfl.org.
Photos courtesy of the Dumb Friends League. Renderings by Kate Benjamin.