Bob Walker and Frances Mooney share their space with several cats. But thanks to Bob’s ingenuity and Frances’ eye for color, this couple from San Diego has given their feline housemates a spectacular playhouse that keeps the cats stimulated and sitting pretty.
What started as a floor-to-ceiling scratching post and room-dividing beam in 1987 has turned into an intricate series of seven-foot-high catwalks and passageways that allow the cats to venture from room to room without having to descend. Bob even included a ramp and a staircase for easier cat access to the walkways. He also published a book about their home called The Cats’ House, to show other cat owners how they, too, can elevate their cats’ lives.
Frances and Bob met in 1970 and were married three years later. “Cats have been central in our relationship ever since,” Bob says. “Frances was the type that would bring cats home in a basket on her bicycle and say they followed her home, whereas I only had one cat growing up.” On their wedding day, they adopted a cat from a friend. The cat, Beauregard, shared their home from that day on.
Since 1973, they have adopted the rest of their cats from shelters. Most of their feline companions have come from the National Cat Protection Society (Nat Cat), where Bob and Frances also volunteer their time. They have already designed a cat habitat at the society’s Newport Beach, California, headquarters and are now hard at work on Paradise, a cat retirement community, at the society’s Spring Valley, California, location. Bob explains their motivation, “We try to improve the daily life of the common cat.” And what cat wouldn’t appreciate these digs?
Many of us may not have the time or energy to create as complex an environment for their cats as Bob and Frances have done, so HealthyPet asked Bob to suggest some modest enhancements that readers could incorporate into their own homes:
- Rearrange your furniture. “Cats love to look down on us— figuratively and literally. They like to get up on high places. Create stepping layers so cats can go from chair height to the top of a bookshelf, for instance. Just make sure you remove all your valuable, irreplaceable objects, or Velcro or glue them in place.”
- Create a cardboard box village. “Take large cardboard boxes, cut out various openings, and put them together. Depending on how elaborate you want to make it, you can have a whole kitty city.”
- Make a bed. “You don’t have to buy a designer cat bed. Stack a few cardboard flats (like the kind that come under canned cat food) within each other so the flats are nested. Our cats love using that as a bed—and it’s free.”
- Build a catwalk. In The Cats’ House, Bob details how to construct a catwalk. His main advice is to make it wide enough and make sure it sits far enough away from the walls so cats can turn around. Having more than one entry/exit is also wise. “If you have more than one cat, you’ll get road hogs that will just sit there and won’t allow other cats to go past them.”
- &Clear; off a window ledge. “Cats like sun, so just clearing some space on your window ledge can be enough to make them happy. If you don’t have room on the built-in ledges, you can use L brackets to create a shelf in the sun.”
- Put a bird feeder outside your window. “It definitely gets cats’ attention.”
- Buy a carpeted cat tree. “It’s traditional but can keep cats entertained.”
Bob also suggests that you enrich areas where you spend your time. That is, don’t bother building a catwalk or box city in a back room that you never use. “We all say that cats are independent, but that’s not completely true,” he says. “Cats aren’t going to be doing all these wonderful things, showing off their fantastic moves, somewhere you’re not. What’s the point of doing all this, unless your person is saying, ‘Oh, what a leap!’ The bottom line is that your cats want to be with you.”