Even The Cat Highway Looks Lonely Tonight

The night is drawing to a close and even the cat highway traffic has disappeared.  It’s been a rough week for so many people across the world and even our house recently suffered the loss of a very dear friend at far too young an age.

Earlier in the evening 2 of our 4 were exploring these steps from ContempoCat and I so enjoyed relaxing and watching them play that I forgot all about taking a picture! I was fortunate to get in on a contest offered through Hauspanther and we installed these a few days ago.  If you visit Hauspanther you can see some beautiful photos of the steps in action.

Any new installation is met with curiosity by 3 and suspicion by the other 1. Junah treats all changes in the environment as threats to his very existence however being the most agile I believe in time he’ll enjoy these the most.  His fears are nothing that a little work with a feather toy can’t overcome.

Check out the shelves.  They are sturdy and have great grips built right into the surface.  The clamps called pelican clips give the shelves a classy and clean look that makes the wall look interesting and modern.  It’s even better when a cat is sitting there!

As we all know cats and dogs are excellent companions during times of grief or even just an average not so great day.  My wish for you is that if you don’t have one in your life yet that you go to your local rescue and save a life.  If you’ve had a rough week please take time to enjoy watching your cats or dogs or other animal companions as they move through life.  Their peace and calm can be a gentle oasis in chaotic times.

*In honor of Robin Williams please, if you or a loved one is experiencing depression or addiction seek help immediately.  You can call the National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 1.800.273.8255 any time day or night.  Your call is free and always anonymous if you’d like it to be.


Decrease Naughty Cat Syndrome by Adding a Catio

I’m going to show you the catio (outdoor cat enclosure) that my 4 cats and various foster cats have used since April 2013 and one move which involved re-configuring the enclosure set up. We had plans and still do for building our own custom design however until then I wanted something that would come together quick and within our budget which at the time required my set up to be dirt cheap!

I researched, I read, I watched My Cat from Hell, I read every post from Hauspanther, I took my introverted self to Denver and stood in a line of sweaty people (me included!) to meet Jackson Galaxy and basically obsessed for several weeks over the best option.

I’ll show you some photos of how it looked in the beginning at our old small town house and how it looks now in the city townhome and then I’ll leave you with a product list and relevant websites.


The photo above shows the catio almost completed.  We used a 2-in-1 dog kennel from PetSafe which has 2 options for floor plan which you can see here:   You can see the plywood insert over the office window  in which we later installed a small cat door from PetSafe.  The ramp is a 2×8 with metal wire making a tunnel  tunnel


After I formed the wire I set it off, added strips of wood across for climbing ease then used heavy wire staples to secure it to the board.  As you can see in the photo the top is too peaked, once I had the wire secure I pressed down that peak into a much more rounded arch.

We added an Army tent turned tarp over the top to provide shade and used zip ties to secure poultry wire across the top as all our cats are amazing climbers. Later we added more seating areas for ourselves and periodically I would add boxes from Costco for entertainment and play.

Total cost was $275.00 and as you can see we chose function over form to save money.  It took me a few hours to set it up by myself which I don’t recommend! Get a helper and it can be done in a couple of hours with another few hours to build the ramp if needed and install the window pet door assembly.

When we moved into town we had to configure the 2-in-1 kennel into the other option which is 5 feet wide and 15 feet long given the size of our new backyard.  It was just big enough to set down on top of the window well which leads to the basement. Here’s how the entry looks now:







We used flagstone and concrete blocks to build a staircase from the basement window and again the access point is a small cat door.  Now the cats can go in and out more easily. Juniper Hoot has an old injury in his hips/back from his feral days so jumping in and out is not an option for him and the staircase works just fine.

Here is another view of the entrance:


Since we lost access to grass we added a large raised garden style bed with a roll of sod in it.  We’ve discovered if you put good composted dirt in the bed, roll out the sod on it and keep it well watered it will grow and provide nice snacking and napping spots.  At any time day or night there is usually one or more cats curled up in the grass box.

CatioLabeledThe sod bed is scrap plywood and a 2×8 from Home Depot, with sections of 1×1 board in the corners all screwed together with deck screws, Make sure none of the screw tips come through so that kitties don’t end up scratched!  You can see Juniper Hoot laying on an older piece of scrap sod that won’t last long since it’s lying directly on flagstone but they can enjoy it while it does last.

The table that Tonka (orange tabby) is hiding under was a giveaway wicker foot stool.  The table Grit the tortie is lying on was built again with scrap plywood, a carpet sample from the local dollar store and leftover 4×4 posts from when we had the wood fence replaced. I asked the workers to leave us the excess fence posts which they were happy to do and we’ve turned them into tables and scratching posts.

CatioGritI tend to go with scrap structures because I like changing the set up in the catio about every six months and switching out the carpet pieces when they get funky so I’m not too worried about looks.  If I was it would be pretty simple and very inexpensive to throw a couple of coats of paint on the garden bed and the table.

So here are links to the kennel, the cat door, poultry wire and the wood.  A roll of sod can be gotten almost free if you’re lucky enough to live near a turf farm but you can also find them as giveaways on Craigslist. However, if using Craigslist creeps you out as much as it does me these days, you can call your local landscapers or Home Depot to see if they sell single rolls.  They usually do and for a few bucks it’s nice to add a patch of fresh grass.

*for some reason if you’re on your cell phone the kennel/cat door links only go to Petsmart’s page – on the laptop/desktop they go right to the product – not sure why?

So anyway please ask any questions you may have and if you have any problems finding resources in your area feel free to send an email to us at cattyshackdesigns@gmail.com or you can use the contact form on this site.

If you would like your catio design written up to be posted here or as a guest post send me an email and we’ll chat!

FTC disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means if you use them and order I’ll get a teeny percentage of the sale which goes to support the blog and feral cat programs.




Did Somebody Say Chicken?

Did you know that there are a ton of plans out there for chicken coops and chicken tractors (moveable coops) that will also work for cat enclosures otherwise known as catios?

I like chicken coop plan because people have taken them to such heights of creativity! Some Home Owner’s Associations object to your classic dog kennel set up (whic is what we’re currently using) but who could say no to these attractive options?

Here’s a nice one that wouldn’t take up much space that you can find details about here:


Or you can go fancy as seen below here:


The nice part about having a little house attached is that your cats can be inside or out at their own choosing if you have to close them in there for a short time due to carpet cleaning or remodeling projects.  For example two of my cats absolutely adore visitors so if I have repairs being done they are terribly naughty about getting underfoot so I put them in our existing catio which only works if the weather is nice enough.

And check out this little number I found here:


For everyday use I would still attach these to our house with a cat tunnel and I would also want to be sure that I could easily access the house attachment in case of emergency.

And here’s one last option with a nice long run. This option could also work well in close neighborhoods where you may not want to or may not be allowed to have an enclosure that shows up much in your yard:



4 Out of 5 Cats Recommend Tunnels. The 5th is Claustrophobic.



Here are a few inexpensive options for cat tunnels which are used daily here at Catty Shack Designs. They are slept in, run through and used as points from which to ambush each other!  Models today are Tonka (orange) & Juniper Hoot (black) . The crinkle tunnel we picked up at one of the pet stores and the concrete form came from Home Depot and we just cut the bottom out because otherwise it rolled and scared them when they got inside. Usually we have a piece of fabric over it but I wanted you to see how easy it is to make fun toys. Following my photos you’ll want to read the awesome post reprinted with permission from Pam Johnson-Bennett author of Think Like a Cat explaining why they love tunnels and how you can use them to train and enrich your cats lives. Thanks Pam for permission to reprint!

HootTunnelBest TonkaFuss TonkaTunnel1



How to Use Cat Tunnels

Cats usually love to play by hiding in things. Whether it’s an open paper bag or a box, your playful cat will find a way to make a game out of jumping in it or will use it as an opportunity for an extra napping place. It’s an important part of environmental enrichment to be supply those things for your cat’s fun and convenience but those bags and boxes can serve an even more important function in your cat’s life as well. They can provide security.

The Value of Cat Tunnels

If you have a cat who spends most of her time under the bed or in the closet, because she’s too frightened to step out into the open, you can use boxes and bags (along with commercially available kitty tunnels) to increase her comfort zone. The use of homemade or store-bought tunnels will allow a frightened cat to be able to feel protected enough so she can start to step out from her anchored hiding spot.

A frightened or unsure cat often chooses to remain as invisible as possible when having to navigate around a room. She may walk behind furniture or stay on the perimeter of the room. To walk through the open, more exposed center of a room requires more confidence. If your cat spends so much time in hiding, increase her comfort level so she’ll begin to explore more through the use of tunnels.

Types of Cat Tunnels

You can buy soft-sided cat tunnels at your local pet product store or you can make your own. To make a paper bag tunnel, cut the bottoms of a few bags, then fully open them. Roll a one-inch cuff on the ends of each bag to increase the sturdiness. This will prevent the bags from collapsing so easily. Then, tape the bags end to end to form a tunnel.

To make a box tunnel, the easiest thing to do is to try to find a long box so you don’t have to tape a couple of boxes together. You can either cut the flaps off or tape them so they stay in the open position. If the box is big and your cat is small, you can leave one flap hanging down to provide just enough room for kitty to enter the tunnel while still offering more hiding ability.

Tunnel Placement

This part is very important. If you have a new cat who is still in her sanctuary room, place the tunnels so they form a path to resources. The tunnels don’t have to totally cover the room; they just have to provide a little bit of coverage for the cat so she’ll feel a bit less exposed when she needs to go from under the bed to the litter box or to the feeding station. The ability to venture out will encourage her to feel safely check out her new surroundings.

Increase Confidence

No matter how long you’ve lived with your cat, if she’s an under-the-bed hider or in-the-closet hider, you stand a much greater chance of getting her to risk putting one paw outside of her secure area if she feels protected enough.

If your cat tends to walk along the perimeter of rooms and never walks through the more open middle section, place a tunnel right in the center for her.

Include Play Therapy

Once your tunnels are set up you can enhance their appeal by doing interactive play sessions with your cat there. Even the most secure kitty will enjoy being able to hide in the tunnel to launch a surprise pounce on the toy, but for a frightened or unsure cat, the ability to hide will perhaps relax her just enough to try extending one paw toward the toy. That can be the start of your cat discovering there is safety, security and even fun when she comes out from under the bed.

Original Post from Pam Johnson – Bennett


Cat Friendly Times at The Litter Box in Ogallala, NE

The Litter Box  is a non-profit cat rescue in Ogallala, NE. It’s also entirely a labor of love owned by 2 families.  They take abandoned, abused and injured cats / kittens into their own homes as well as caring for the outdoor cats that can’t be rehabilitated.  Love and time are invested in having the cats who are social, vaccinated, spayed / neutered, and then finding them loving furever homes.
They practice trap-neuter-return (TNR) methods of population control in the area through collaboration with a local vet along with a local grant, their personal funds and donations.  They spend a lot of time educating people on the issues of cat overpopulation and provide solutions to end the killing of adoptable and feral cats.
Tanya and her family have 6 family cats and have done a great job of making the environment cat friendly.  Using easy to get, inexpensive shelves from Ikea she and her husband Chip have created links from one piece of furniture to another.  The lines here are clean and add to the look of the room rather than detract from it.
“We originally set up the shelves in our house because Jackson [Galaxy] talked about tree dwellers and bush dwellers and if tree dwellers don’t have places to go high they have no confidence. I have never been fond of the price of the really nice looking ones but then we found those at Ikea and liked the no bracket look. Those are the only 2 places we have shelves and my boys room looks different now, we replaced the smaller ones and he now has 3 big shelves in his room.”
On who uses the shelves Tanya says, “Cricket (tortie) likes to lay up there, Baler uses is as a raceway to chase someone down, Oreo  (the hefty black and white cat) uses it as a lounge area, Encore uses it to get to the top of the cabinet to sleep, and the other 2 really don’t use it…so out of 6…2 like to lay and lounge, 2 use it as a path, and the other two couldn’t care less about it.”
Take a look and see how you can do this in your own home to utilize existing furniture for cat perches and highways:
 Your Amazon purchases can help contribute to The Litter Box. Check it out at http://smile.amazon.com/ch/46-2356777 and donations can be made via PayPal to donate@thelitterbox.net  For adoptions please see The Litter Box

You’re Not Using That Wall Anyway

It costs very little time or money to start adding a few touches here and there to your home for your cat’s enjoyment and exercise.  The shelf and brackets shown here with my naughty cat Tonka sitting on it cost less than $20.00 at my local Home Depot including the gas to go get it.  TonkaShelf2

The shelf is a hefty 12″ wide and 48″ long which I love because as you can see Tonka is a bit on the hefty side himself and there are 3 other cats who will be jostling for space once they hear the news that a fresh perch has been installed.  This setup took a drill, some plastic drywall screw inserts which you really want to use in any place that you are not mounting a shelf system into a wall stud, a small level and about 10 minutes to install.

Before installing a shelf or perch I make sure that there are places to get on and off when other cats want to ahem…share…space. Look at your placement carefully.  If another cat decides it wants the shelf chances are one of them will shove the other right off the side so make sure there is a safe place to land!

In this case the shelf is over a bed so safe up, safe down and safe falling off angles are all covered!  Most shelves like the dark one shown here with Junah modeling in exchange for treats (cats really will work for food!) are about 10″

JunahShelfwide and 24″ long.  Ok for short naps and for my 2 smaller cats, Grit and Junah but Tonka and Juniper Hoot are large and so don’t use them as much. The smaller shelves are about the same price, less than $20.00 for a shelf and brackets.

Take a walk around your house and notice where your cats hang out.  Where does the sun come in? Which windows do they frequent the most?  See if there is wall space with safe places to get up and down from for a wall perch.  If you want fancy try Ikea they have a lot of very nice inexpensive options to try out!

Also keep in mind that when I first started installing perches it took treats and feather toys to get the cats to try getting on them at first.  After about 2 weeks everyone was using them at least some of the time so give it time and make shelves fun!

Fat Cats, Skinny Cats and Especially Naughty Cats

Fat cats need exercise. Skinny cats need perches.  Naughty cats need to be entertained and you can accomplish a lot with a little just by learning how to make some design changes to your home that go beyond a fresh new cardboard box!

This blog is dedicated to create conversations and to learn about on site services, DIY  projects for your cats and consultation services to help design your cat’s space.  We want you to know how to maximize living areas for your cats exercise and enjoyment, how to accommodate small homes and problem solve difficult living arrangements so that more cats are able to stay with their guardians even when life circumstances change.

My first recommendation? Go pre-order this book Catification by Jackson Galaxy and Kate Benjamin from Hauspanther – it’s going to rock the kitty world I can promise you that!