Jackson Galaxy believes home design and cat behavior go hand in paw.
The host of Animal Planet’s My Cat from Hell lives with 10 cats (five inside and five outside) and has co-authored two books on “catification” or, as he put it, “trying to make things work for you on an aesthetic level, and for your cat on a behavioral level.”
“Design is one of those key places where you can speak to that cat mojo, that confidence which is so important,” Galaxy said. A cat that is confident in its territory (your home) is less likely to act out.
That means if your cat is having behavioral issues or damaging your home, it’s time to catify. Here’s how to get started.
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▪ Know your cat. To find out what your cat needs from its environment, first observe.
“When the cat walks in the room, what do they do? Where are they looking? Where do they find comfort?” said Galaxy. A cat who likes to perch on the arm of a couch could use hangouts with a good view; one who nestles under chairs or in small spaces may need more cozy areas.
▪ Use vertical space. The first thing Galaxy suggests when catifying your home: “Make sure you’re operating on all possible points on the vertical axis.”
Cats see everything from floor to ceiling as part of their territory. Providing them access to more territory will make them feel more secure.
Cats see everything from floor to ceiling as part of their territory, Galaxy said, and providing them access to more territory will make them feel more secure.
If you battle with your cat jumping up on forbidden surfaces like the kitchen counter, provide them with a safe perch that gives them a similar view.
Offer treats to encourage them to spend time there instead of the off-limits spot.
▪ Build a superhighway. Cat “superhighways” are the ultimate use of vertical space.
“Start thinking about how you can allow your cat to walk around the room without hitting the ground,” Galaxy said.
For Keith Stachowiak Jr., a cat superhighway looks like scaffolding roads circling the ceiling area, but it doesn’t have to be that elaborate.
“There’s nothing a shelf can’t cure,” Galaxy said.
Shelves are easy building blocks for superhighways. Start with one or two, and as you add elements, keep in mind the traffic flow. A good highway should have multiple lanes, on- and off-ramps and rest stops.
▪ Create cocoons. If your cat likes to curl up under beds or in dark, enclosed spaces, it may be hiding out of fear.
Create safe, semi-enclosed “cocoons” in more readily accessible areas to help build your cat’s confidence while offering security.
A cat bed placed under an end table or desk makes a great cocoon. “Catify to Satisfy” includes a tutorial on making an AstroTurf-covered tunnel cocoon from a cardboard concrete tube.
▪ Discourage destruction. Claw marks on furniture may be a bane to humans, but they’re a mark of ownership to a cat.
Galaxy said there’s no magic upholstery that will discourage scratching. Leather, he said, may be one of the worst simply because it makes people so mad to see their leather furniture damaged by cat claws.
Observe how and where your cat scratches (horizontal scratching on the bedroom carpet? Vertical scratching on the couch?) and offer safe scratching areas that mimic those conditions.
“It’s the concept of no and yes,” said Galaxy. Every time you tell your cat not to scratch on something, offer an alternative.
Some DIY scratching post ideas from “Catify to Satisfy” include using a piece of an old tree limb (doubles as a decor piece), a yoga mat, carpet tiles, sisal rope or cardboard to make a scratcher.
▪ The litter box compromise. “It’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” Galaxy said of litter boxes. “There’s a way to make this workable from a human standpoint, but there’s a degree of compromise to successfully live well with cats.”
The book touts the “plus one” rule — count your cats, then add one to determine the appropriate number of litter boxes. But don’t put them all in one room.
Litter boxes are amazing territorial sign posts. When you have enough sign posts around your house, you don’t have to worry about them marking territory.
“Litter boxes are amazing territorial sign posts,” he said. “When you have enough sign posts around your house, you don’t have to worry about them marking territory.”
That means the boxes should be in significant spots in the house — not necessarily in the middle of the living room, but in places that humans frequent (that also makes it more likely that you’ll scoop them every day).
Get creative with concealing them. Catify to Satisfy is filled with examples from cat owners who have built litter boxes into attractive trunks or under-sink areas (with cat-sized access holes), hidden them behind decorative screens or made the litter box itself more presentable by using a painted wooden crate.
▪ Keep catifying. “This is a lifelong process,” said Galaxy. He said his house is more catified than most, but he and his wife of one year are still in the process of “Brady Bunch-ing” their animals and catifying their Los Angeles-area home.
If it seems daunting, don’t give up. “It is 100 percent always doable and possible to make your style and your cat’s needs meet.”