I don’t own a cat and I don’t foresee owning one in the near future. But don’t get me wrong — I do like them (well, about 70 percent of the many, many kitties I’ve met). In fact, I’m a bona-fide cat uncle (cuncle?) and have my own list of favorites (a big shout-out to Merle, Mona, Fiona, Mya, Glen and Jinxy and my apologies to the fine felines that I’ve forgotten).

There are a few reasons why I don’t commit to cat ownership. For one, I’m slightly allergic. And then there’s the issue of litter box logistics. I don’t really have the space for one in my Brooklyn apartment (no room in the bathroom, I think a litter box in the living room is gauche, and the hell if I’m putting it in my bedroom). I’m also not emotionally prepared for the shedding and  scratching. Nor am I financially prepared for trips to the vet.

So if I theoretically were on the market for a kitty, I’d be searching for a de-clawed, low-shedding rescue cat that comes toilet trained, is up-to-date on its shots, and is willing to sleep in a suitcase. And it has to be mature but look like a kitten. With these requirements, I think I’d have to import from Japan.

Another huge reason that I resist getting a cat? I love my stuff. And I don’t want to see it broken. My apartment — filled with a couple of towering bookcases containing not only books but breakable knickknacks that are very dear to me — isn’t exactly cat-friendly, and I don’t know how in the world I could go about cat-proofing it. I’ve witnessed firsthand the misery brought on by bored (or vengeful?) cats that with one swipe of a paw can bring an adult to tears. I don’t want that. But I’d also want my cat to be active and to be able to roam freely even if that means climbing up a bookshelf.

Enter the Cat-Library, a modular bookshelf from Belgian industrial designer Corentin Dombrecht. At its core, the Cat-Library is your average FSC-certified birch plywood bookshelf that can be reconfigured to accommodate your own storage needs. Nothing new there. But wait … depending on the configuration, users can create a kitty staircase out of the three basic modular shelving units so that Mr. Whiskers can make his way to the top without (hopefully) knocking over and breaking any of your prized possessions. Genius.

And what’s at the top of this feline-friendly bookcase? It’s a built-in cat basket available in “lo-top” (small kitties) or “hi-top” (larger critters) sizes. Plus, the entire shelving system is unpainted and un-oiled as to not make the cat staircase too slippery.

According to Designboom, Dombrecht, who just displayed the Cat-Library at the 2011 Stockholm Furniture Fair, was inspired to create the bookshelf/cat staircase after seeing a video about Pages, a former stray that lives in the Valley Center library in Kansas. 

Via [Designboom]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Cat-Library: A feline-friendly shelving system
Does Madame Fluff wreak havoc every time she attempts to scale a bookcase? Make things a bit easier for her —while keeping organized — with the Cat-Library,