Deep Dive: Kitty Central

Everyone who gets a tour of the house starts at the same place: the front porch, followed by the foyer, which includes a coat closet and a storage room. The storage room, however, is not what it seems, and curiously, no one has ever questioned why it has a large window box. Friends, however, know the true purpose of the storage room: it's "kitty central."

In the initial drafts of the blueprint, this was the "mechanical room" (top right), a space reserved for the heating system, water heater, breaker box and other infrastructure. However, it subsequently became unnecessary, as I'd planned on using a heat pump system, with the internal blower unit located in a small attic-like space over the laundry (the central location makes the system more efficient). I'd also planned on using an on-demand water heater located in the bathroom for "instant" hot water. And the breaker panel would go in the garage, directly adjacent to the transformer outside.

With the mechanical room emptied of mechanicals, it became a storage area for outdoor tools and equipment, such as rakes and shovels, to be accessed via an external door; it would essentially replace a backyard shed. This appears on the final blueprint (center right).

But as I mentally worked through day-to-day life in my future home, it dawned on me that I could benefit from a space set aside just for "kitty maintenance"—a place for their food and water stations, as well as the litter box. After relocating the coat closet, I enlarged the storage room (bottom right) to make it big enough that the litter box was well separated from the food and water stations. I'd also planned to install a dedicated exhaust fan to draw out dust and odor from the litter box, something I'd done in a prior home which worked well.

When I struck upon this idea, I went all out and designed a "kitties-only" screened-in porch to create a place where they could safely enjoy fresh air and sunshine year 'round. I even had a footing installed for a small deck. By early May 2016, the area could be seen taking shape (below): the kitty porch roof is an extension of the main roof, with a kitty door just to the left of the human access door.

As framing proceeded, however, the enclosure became a frustrating challenge to build. A number of the pressure-treated timbers warped acutely after assembly, and replacing them would have been a great deal of tricky work. I later learned that it would have to adhere to all construction codes, even though the space wouldn't be used by humans, and this would require an absurdly complicated design. By November I'd scrapped the whole thing, and built a large window box where the access door used to be. You can see little Bobby testing it out, below.

It's not as if my cats will be short-changed on "kitty-friendly" features. All of the windows are set in walls that measure nearly a foot deep, so they'll have plenty of places to sit and watch wildlife, or sprawl and bake in the sun. There's also 35 feet of floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room.

Anyway, I've been thinking about a number of other kitty-centric touches. In the kitchen, for instance, are a number of spaces that would be awkward to utilize—and more or less unnecessary, since I'm not a packrat and don't need gobs of storage areas. These include, among others, the spaces over the refrigerator (below left), and above and below the oven (below right).

My thought was to convert one or more of these into kitty cubbies, where they can explore, hide and nap (they'd be lined with plywood and carpet, with human-sized access panels for maintenance). Also, for a long time I've been thinking about adding catwalks near the ceiling along some of the walls of the living space, giving them their own places to run and perch. Yes, I am admittedly a crazy cat dude. But they're my children, and I want what's best for their emotional—as much as their physical—health.

Update: I've been pondering some major revisions to this space, owing to an acute case of indecision.

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