When Senior Learning and Development Specialist Lesley Bart decided to live with her partner, she knew that catification would be essential to successfully combining four cats and two adults in a one-bedroom apartment. As Muddy and cat-lover, she recognized that cats are territorial creatures who find new situations stressful. But she hoped by making the space more cat-friendly, everyone could co-exist peacefully.
Now, as a new home owner, she has a lot more space, but she’s still looking for ways to appropriately catify for four cats. Catification helps give Lesley’s cats the stimulation they need, while helping them claim ownership of the territory they need to feel secure. To find out more about the ins and outs of catification, we sat down to talk to Lesley about her own philosophies on feline-friendly homes.
MB: Before we start talking about catification projects, can you explain what catification is?
LB: I think of catification as the process of turning a human-centric living space into a space that equally accommodates a cat’s need for enrichment and pleasure. Basically, it’s a strategy for providing more useful territory for your cats and helping them coexist more peacefully with you.
People hear the word catification, and sometimes they think it involves big and expensive projects. But catification can be very simple. Catification is about having some cat shelves, instead of a gallery wall full of pictures. It’s mounting a perch somewhere where your cat can see birds through a window. It’s negotiating between your cat’s need for stimulating territory and having a home that you like, too.
MB: What are some good beginning projects for someone who might be interested in catification?
LB: Inexpensive and temporary projects can be good places to start. You can use empty boxes for some simple catification. You can tape them together and cut holes in the sides and just create something that looks interesting to your cat. It might take a little bit of time, but it’s completely free. And when the novelty of the boxes has faded, you can recycle them.
Inexpensive, temporary catification also adds a bit of novelty to your cat’ environment. Even moving the furniture around can be pleasurable for them. Because even though cats are habitual creatures, they do like the stimulation that comes from moving things around.
We started catification in our one-bedroom apartment by installing some simple wall shelves on brackets. Because we had fairly high ceilings, we knew that our walls had the most potential for catification. Giving our cats that vertical territory also helped them travel throughout that space and allowed them to avoid other cats if they wanted to.
We looked for shelves that could hold the weight of two cats, and just placed them throughout the room so the cats could move between them. So, adding shelves that complement your aesthetic, and adding some felt or burlap to the top of them for traction, can be a simple catification project.
MB: I think it’s also important to mention here—that sometimes—if you don’t do any catification at all, cats may choose to be places that you’d rather they not be.
LB: It’s true. If you’re not meeting your cat’s needs through some catification, you may find that your cat will start using what’s around to get his needs met. Sometimes that’s perfectly harmless—I noticed that my cats love to hop around in brown paper shopping bags, so sometimes I leave bags in the guest room, so they can hop and play around in them. But if your cats don’t have somewhere to scratch or climb or run, they’re going to see what pieces of your furniture might work for that purpose.
MB: What are your favorite catification projects that you’ve seen?
LB: Right now, catios are the most exciting projects to me. It’s an advanced level of catification because you’re starting to incorporate the outdoor environment into your cat’s territory. Catios are essential patios for cats that are completely enclosed. Some are only a few square feet, while others are over a hundred square feet and incorporate trees and other outdoor elements into the design.
The Audubon Society in Portland holds guided tours of catios in Portland each year. It highlights this common ground between bird enthusiasts and cat lovers. The Audubon Society loves the idea of catios because they keep cats in designated areas where they can’t kill birds. So, they work to inspire people to build their own catios.
I think the best examples of catification I’ve seen occur when people think about catification as part of the overall design of their home. These houses have pathways or ramps built all around the rooms. They might have dedicated pathways that allow cats to get from room to room without ever walking on the floor to get there.
There’s been some really interesting designs where catification is built into the design of the house. I’d like to see more of that. I don’t think that anyone buys a giant cat tree covered in carpet because they think it’s an interesting design element. They buy them because their cats love them. But there are lots of opportunities with modern design to make catification a seamless part of the interior.
MB: Mud Bay encourages catification because it can be a helpful tool to maintain a healthy weight. Can you talk a little bit about the link between catification and health?
LB: Indoor cats don’t get the amount of exercise they would get if they lived outdoors. But there are a lot of good reasons to keep your cat indoors, ranging from health advantages to overall longevity. All houses will be smaller than a cat’s natural territory. But catification allows you to add more useable territory for felines in your space while keeping them safe.
You can create spaces that allows your cats to do the same activities they would do outside. We know that different cats have different location preferences. Some cats like to be on the ground, while other cats like to climb trees. Other cats like to stay in bushes. So, if you provide catification within the vertical space your cat prefers, your cat is more likely to climb, jump or run around.
There’s this common fallacy that when you leave the house, your cats will exercise themselves. That doesn’t happen with any regularity, but with catification, you might get them to play rather than sleep when you’re not home. Cats like to play in short bursts. So, they might run around a track, climb a pole or hop between shelves to amuse themselves.
We talk a lot about catification benefits for cats. But catification is also fun for humans. It’s fun to see your cats running around the room and enjoying themselves. Plus, I’d much rather see them running laps around the track I built rather than running around the top of my sectional sofa. And that’s what they’re going to do if they don’t have that space.
Senior Learning and Development Specialist Lesley Bart spends her workdays creating training classes to help Muddies learn more about dog and cat health and nutrition. When she’s not at work, she’s dreaming up new catification projects with her partner for their four cats: Prudence, Baby P, Fat Bunion and Apollo.