While outdoor cats have been recently exposed as prolific serial killers, not all felines are sneaky, adroit backyard hunters capable of stalking, pouncing, leaping, and ambushing. Many kitties are afflicted by a somewhat common neurological disorder called cerebellar hypoplasia (CH) in which they exhibit, well, very un-cat-like symptoms. According to this CH-awareness blog, symptoms include impaired motor skills, balance, coordination, and the ability to focus. Or they might walk like a “drunken sailor.” And if they’re anything like one of my favorite CH cats, a super self-conscious tabby named Merle, they’re extra lovable.
Realizing the unique needs of displaced CH cats, a group of students from the Graduate Architecture Club at the City College of New York’s Spitzer School of Architecture have gone about building the Meowhaus, a feline group home specifically designed to “enrich the lives of cats with special needs” while addressing “practical issues of ventilation, clean-ability, and build-ability.” The challenges presented when building such a unique structure: “How do you create a stable environment for cats in a constant state of instability? How do you design stimulating architectural features when the smallest surface change can be dangerous? How do you create a space where cats can be cats, even if they lack the cat's signature trait of balance?”
Located at Angel’s Gate, a nonprofit hospice and rehabilitation facility for critically ill, injured, and/or physically disabled animals in Dehli, N.Y. (yes folks, it’s in the Catskills), Meowhaus is a fully self-contained and insulated 12’ x 20’ structure with about 19-square-feet of floor space and features such as elevated, ramp-accessible cat cubbies for each of the 10 resident felines, litter and feeding areas, and outdoor roaming space. The structure incorporates green design principles including the use of reclaimed materials:
The design incorporates the use of recycled materials sourced locally, including windows, doors, siding and roofing salvaged from unused structures and featuring over 100 wood shipping pallets from local stores. The shipping pallets create an exterior shell, or sun screen around the interior core building. Combined with lots of big windows in the interior core, the pallet shell provides shade, ventilation, and also a myriad of shadows to entertain the cats throughout the day.
Here’s the thing: Although construction commenced on the structure back in early July, Team Meowhaus needs your help in further funding the project. And so, they've have taken to IndieGoGo to help raise much-needed moola to cover the costs of construction materials such as lumber, plywood, lighting, fencing, and insulation that will allow them to finish their special needs kitty house. The total needed by team is $3,000 and as of now, they’re pretty close to reaching their goal ($2,295 with 10 days to go). And since this is an IndieGoGo campaign, there are various perks with donated to the cause including Meowhaus bumper stickers, T-shirts, and postcards. Big donors ($500 or more) will get their names engraved on the structure itself once completed.
Head on over to the Meowhaus Project IndieGoGo campaign page to learn more about the project and donate a few bucks, if you're so inclined. Lots of updates and photos on the Meowhaus Project Facebook page, too.