It's My Cat's House, I Just Live There

It's My Cat's House, I Just Live There

There is a trend in housing design lately to include more features to enhance accessibility. Architects and designers are responding to people's desire for houses with features to make life easier and safer as one gets older, or if you become disabled. Wider doors for wheelchairs, handholds in the shower and even spaces left for the addition of an elevator. This is a good trend, and shows that designers are thinking about how houses are really used, rather than just what looks good.
But, I wish to register a complaint.
The majority of people in this country own pets, yet houses are designed with complete disregard to this fact. If houses are truly to become more user-friendly, it must be realized that creatures other than just humans use them. Here's my list of things to consider.
Bathrooms. People aren't the only ones that have to go. If I were designing a bathroom, one of my top considerations would be: where's the space for the litterbox? And this means a built-in space in every bathroom in the house. Too often people end up putting the litterbox in some spot that's out of public view, like the laundry room. Then you end up with a cat that starts house soiling because the spin cycle in the washing machine engaged while the cat was doing its business. Why would any sane cat go back to The Litterbox of Ultimate Terror?
Open floor plans with no way to block off rooms. If you have an animal that doesn't want to be caught, you can end up literally running in circles — sometimes up one set of stairs and down another — trying to round up your critters. I would like hidden screens or partitions that could be pulled out when necessary.
Double door closets that can be pulled open by hooking a paw underneath. And no way to secure them other than by tying the doorknobs together. Magnets don't stop cats getting into The Small Forbidden Room of Mystery and Intrigue.
Why aren't there cat doors inside the house? You close off a room to keep heat in or noise out. The cat wants in, then out, then in, etc. I want a miniature door that looks just like the big one — made out of wood with door frames and a doorknob that locks — for the cat. Something that looks like it was designed to be there, built in and integrated. Not like you cut a hole in the wall and put a rubber flap in it. Every room should have a small second door.
I would like interior doors to have a small horizontal window about twelve inches from the bottom. That way you could tell if there was a cat lurking on the other side just waiting to bolt out. And you wouldn't be violating the privacy of the room. Well, unless you got down on the floor to peer through.
And then there's dining. There's a dining room for people. It's usually a room you'd never want your pet eating. Pets usually get fed in the kitchen, underfoot. Cats need a place to eat where they feel safe. If they feel insecure, they will either not eat or gulp it down too quickly — which can lead to vomiting. This becomes even more important if you're feeding raw and want to keep the place the cats eat separate from the area where human food is consumed or prepared. Or if you feed frankenprey and have trouble with the cats running off with their meals. Let's formalize this and have a small, quiet, easily cleaned room as the pet dining room. This could double as a room for a sick animal that needed to be kept isolated and quiet.
I think some of the problems that cats have adapting to a life indoors could be eliminated — or at least reduced — by having environments that take their needs into consideration. House designs that made things easier for the human side of the pet-human relationship would go a long way towards keeping pets in their homes.
If you're an architect, or if you know one, please pass along these ideas. Maybe someday we'll get to choose senior-friendly, child-friendly or pet-friendly houses.
Oh, and by the way, why are electrical outlets placed at the approximate height of a spraying cat?
Margaret Gates is the founder the Feline Nutrition Foundation.
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