Thursday, March 27, 2014

DIY Cat Hotel

The kitties giving it a good sniffing!
 So last summer, my girls (6 and 9) and I started to volunteer once a week at the local animal shelter, Furry Friends Refuge. Furry Friends is a local non-profit no-kill shelter that deals with all sorts of small animals but we specifically go to see the cats. It's been a wonderful thing for both of my girls, especially my oldest who was having problems dealing with her OCD all last school year (long story short, she was terrified to go to school because she was afraid she would get sick). When she would start to worry, we would change the subject by talking about the cats at the shelter. We are happy for the cats when they get adopted, and we do what we can to help the animals at the shelter to feel happy, safe, and comfortable. The girls brush, pet, hold, play with, and talk to the cats, and occasionally, I can get them to help me clean up their litter boxes. What I never realized is how happy it would make ME to go to the animal shelter. Nothing will wipe away your worries like sitting in a room full of fuzzy purring baby kittens, or to be greeted by a furry friend with a good solid head butt.
Seriously, kitten therapy works EVERY TIME!

To be fair, Juniper LOVED this. So did Beatrice.

Sylvia and Valentine with his stylish lion haircut.
With Spring Break approaching, we were looking for a fun project that we could do together. Both of my girls are in Girl Scouts so we thought it would be fun to earn one of their badges over the break. They chose to earn their pet badges. Most of the requirements they had already filled with our visits to the shelter and by caring for our two cats. But one requirement remained, make a comfy place for an animal to sleep. So we decided to make a comfy place for a BUNCH of animals to sleep!

Here it is as we found it at the thrift store.
We thought of way we could make a structure that the cats could sleep and play on. Initially we wanted to find a second hand bookshelf, but we ended up finding a small TV entertainment center. It was sturdy, it had several cat sized openings, but it had a big center area we needed to think about. We did a little searching online and found the perfect solution, cat hammocks!

Before we could add the hammocks and paint the shelf, we needed to make a few adaptations to the original shelf. I had just had shoulder surgery on my right (dominant) arm, so we needed to call grandpa Tom for some help.

He helped us to cut some cat sized holes in the sides, on one of the front doors, and one on the top. We removed the narrow door to open up the small side nooks, and he helped us add two posts to the center of the large opening.
After we cut some holes, removed a door, and added two posts.

He used a hand jigjaw to cut the circles (it's exactly coffee can sized if you notice). He added a few screws to stabilize one of pieces that stops the large doors from pushing in, and he helped us to add the posts to support the hammocks. Luckily, grandma Sandy was there to help us carry the shelf back to our van, since I was out for the count.
The Carry-Van, because they carried it to the van...
Once we got it home it was time to figure out paint colors and the pattern for the hammocks.

We found an article online written by Oakland Animal Services that showed the hammocks they use in their shelter, we modeled ours after theirs. I found some small carabiner clips on ebay for 90 pc for $23.00, and had the fabric on hand. The eyehooks we bought at the hardware store when we bought the paint.
The hammock test.

Once the hammock test was complete, we started to paint. We sanded it lightly since it was a finished wood veneer, and then we applied a spray on primer coat.
Yes, I let my kids use spray paint with supervision. They are really quite capable! 

After the white coat dried, we rolled and brushed on the base color. The girls chose light green.  We masked off the area we intended to put carpet for climbing so the carpet glue had a better chance of sticking.
Be prepared to say good-bye to whatever clothes your kids paint in... 

Once the green coat dried, we penciled in the drawings and started to paint the cute designs. My girls are great little artists so the cat drawings are theirs.
Working on the details.

The finished art with the paper mask removed. 

Once we removed the paper, and the painting was finished, we applied the eye hooks where we wanted them, then we applied the scratching rope on the posts (we used 3/8" sisal rope attached with carpet glue), and remnant carpet with carpet glue on the sides. To start the rope, we tacked one end at the bottom with two carpet tacks, spread the carpet glue up the posts about four inches and started wrapping our way up. I tacked the rope each time I stopped to apply more glue.  It took two packages of rope, one for each post. To adhere the carpet, I first cut the piece to the approximate size we needed and then spread a thick coat of carpet glue on one side, stuck the carpet, and then laid the shelf down on that size to press the carpet into the glue. I did the same on the otherside only I used my folding tables to weigh down the carpet. We waited 24 hours and then trimmed the carpet and cut out the holes with a box cutter.

We cut small pieces of carpet to go inside each of the animal cubbies, but left these so they could be removed in case they got dirty. We had an old neglected pet bed that fit perfectly inside the large cabinet space at the bottom, so we donated that with the Cat Hotel.

When we brought our cat hotel to the shelter, it was an instant hit! The cats were so curious (perhaps because the remnant was our old living room rug that smelled like toddlers and cats). They tried every cubby and Mustard immediately got cozy in one of the hammocks. The girls were absolutely thrilled! If you would like to go see our Cat Hotel in action, it currently resides at 9 Lives Boutique and Thrift which is a fundraising thrift store for Furry Friends Refuge.

Pumpkin, Poinsettia, Beatrice, Mustard and Sylvia take a moment to pose with the Cat Hotel.

Mustard had dibs on this hammock. Just so you know. 

Mustard, Butterscotch, and Pumpkin give the Cat Hotel a good sniffing.