Almost two years ago, my wife and I were adopted by a cat named Gatsby. I’ve avoided posting photographs of him because cat photographs are a little thick on the ground. What would make my photographs different from the 2.93 trillion other cat photos out there (other than Gatsby’s obvious superiority as a cat)? But this posting is not about our cat, it’s about the Cat Park I’ve created for him in our back yard. This may look like another tale of cat obsession but it’s not - this is a story about Art. ;^)
When we adopted Gatsby, he came with a history of running away - he was on the lam from his previous owner, again, when he showed up in our yard. After we formally adopted him, we didn’t want him to wander off so he became an Indoor Kitty. But this is akin to a CAFO - in my opinion, cats’ natural state is to roam free. Gatsby was OK with it, kind of, but he was bored. So last year I rebuilt our back yard fences and installed a containment mesh all around the top. Since that time, Gatsby has been the ruler of our back yard and he is a much more active and happier cat.
When my friend Joni Kabana heard about the fence project and knew I could build things, she talked me into helping her build a Chicken Shack Bar out on her property in Central Oregon. That’s a different story but it’s related to this one in two ways. It triggered me to tear down an old awning/trellis thing we’ve been meaning to get rid of so I could salvage the old 4x6 cedar beams for the Bar, and it got me thinking about constructing with reclaimed materials and the value of aged-looking structures.
When the trellis was torn apart it left two tall 4x4 posts, supporting clematises, standing at the edge of our patio. I decided to build a cat climbing gym based on those two posts using materials reclaimed from the trellis. Because of the materials and its likely temporariness, I constructed the gym quickly to look haphazard and homegrown. But the main goal was that Gatsby love it.
The Gym has two towers, each of which is over 7 feet tall: the Crow’s Nest and the Grooming Gazebo. The towers are joined by a 12-foot-long Rickety Bridge. There are a series of platforms going up each tower that Gatsby can use to go up and down. There is an all-important scratching post at the bottom that he’s whittling his way through.
Gatsby spends hours of every day in the Gazebo, but he prefers to take his after-dinner nap in the Nest, where the evening sun gives him a final warming before going down. He has also been known to sleep on the Bridge.
The Cat Park also has a cherry tree that Gatsby loves to climb.
In the Spring, when all the cat-high undergrowth grew in under the cherry tree, Gatsby no longer went into the tree very much because he didn’t have a good launch/landing pad. So I built a cat ladder to bridge over the tall growth. Gatsby now runs up and down the ladder to get into the tree. This may sound a bit like cat pampering, but it is actually an important component of the overall art piece. :)
I achieved my goal of making a structure and yard that Gatsby loves. He spends almost all day, every day, outside. And because we’re spending a lot more time out there with him, our yard looks nicer than it ever has before. Not least because there’s an interesting cat gym structure in it.