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The Art of Home: ‘Catifying’ a home needn’t make it look like it’s gone to the dogs

An open mesh "skyway" allows cats to move about above the ground, which is where they often like to be.
(Courtesy Diane Armitage / Weekend)

“Cats don’t define floor space like we do. They define space floor to ceiling.”

This is Jackson Galaxy talking about decorating. The man who became known for his ability to quiet the wildest of cats through his Animal Planet TV show, “My Cat From Hell,” can talk at length about home decor — at least when it comes to accommodating the furry pets.

“The cats need to own the vertical world as well as the horizontal,” said the man known for his unique facial hair in a recent interview. “I have been begging my clients to build up. I would get a lot of resistance because no one wants to have what looks like a crazy cat woman’s house.”

Then he partnered with Kate Benjamin on the book “Catification,” and people started paying attention.

The book talks about “cat mojo,” meaning cats feeling confident in their surroundings. And that means having places for them to climb unhindered by dead ends or blockages and to rest and hide, to feel safe.

These natural climbers need vantage points from which to survey their environment, “Catification” says, and a cat “superhighway” that allows them to navigate a room without touching ground — with multiple lanes, exits and onramps so they don’t feel trapped. This is especially important in a household with multiple cats who might not always get along.

“In keeping with their evolutionary base, they wake up and want to hunt,” Galaxy said.

Diane Irvine Armitage of San Juan Capistrano understands the theories and is setting about redoing her 1,100-square-foot home to make it more cat-friendly after having already created a “catio,” an outdoor play area for her feline pets.

She said she and her husband “want to set up a cat superhighway around the perimeter of the living room.” So far, they have a couple of wave shelves, which are curved resting or jumping-off spots, on a wall. And they added two cat trees and a treadmill, which looks like a hamster wheel.

The cats can “leap from one cat tree to the next and over to the antique pedestal,” which is covered with a bed pad for them to lie on, said Armitage, who is featured in Galaxy and Benjamin’s sequel, “Catify to Satisfy.”

Though a home could end up looking cluttered or overly “catified” to some people, Galaxy said redoing a home for the cat residents doesn’t have to ruin the humans’ aesthetic.

He recalls working on a “really beautiful luxury apartment in Austin” with a resident who was firm about the look of his place, and yet the guy had Savannah cats, which are a cross between a serval and a domestic cat and have needs that are “off the charts. They need to get up and get around the world.”

“So the finished product was one of our best moments,” he added. “Kate and I were saying if Jacques can be happy, we can make anyone happy.”

Armitage agreed with Galaxy that it’s about melding needs and compromising.

“Being an artist, I have a major aesthetic,” said Armitage, who does oil paintings of cats. “I collect antiques and [tend toward the] Edwardian, so how to you marry that with ugly cat trees?”

She said the book was “very helpful in taking it from utilitarian to making it more artistic and expressive. Like the catio thing. I put in wire mesh and added stained glass. I took it from function — getting the cats from here to there — to something beautiful.”

Armitage said she and her husband have done the catification work themselves, estimating that they spent $3,000 in materials for the catio.

“The tunnels themselves were probably $1,000,” she added.

Galaxy, who is working on his fourth book and filming the seventh season of his TV show, wants people to understand that cats haven’t changed much over time.

“That wild nature is very much a part of cats,” he said.

He said the misconception is that cats are “smaller, more sarcastic dogs.”

“If you look at cats through dog-colored glasses, you are in for a big surprise. Cats are very unique, behaviorally, emotionally. You won’t get anywhere with them unless you appreciate their uniqueness. They will always win in that battle.”

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SHOPPING TIPS

Armitage likes to shop online. Here are her recommendations.

•Wave shelves: shop.hauspanther.com

•Outdoor cat tunnel and stairs: bit.ly/CatsDen

•Cat fencing system: bit.ly/CatFencing

•Cat exercise wheel: onefastcat.com

•Recommended cat climbers: Molly and Friends brand bought on Amazon (bit.ly/CatClimber)

•Cat paintings by Armitage: facebook.com/DianeIrvineArmitage


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