A TOUR OF MYTHICBELLS (MY HOME)
When I was researching catteries, I loved finding a website where the cattery owner opened her doors to visitors and showed us how the cats live. Most were formal catteries -- in other words, they had separate rooms and nurseries for the cats and kittens, the studs and queens, etc. They varied in scope and size--some basic, some quite elaborate. Many had reason to be very proud of their set ups.
One of my goals when I began breeding was to make the cats an intimate part of my life. With a small number of cats and only one stud, this was possible. However, it became more difficult as the number of resident cats increased and is, in fact, one of the factors in my retiring as a breeder. My house was my cattery. I have a small house, but it is spacious with custom built cat areas a large cat-safe outdoor area (catio/enclosure).
One of the first things you see as you enter is the custom built Kitty Hi-Rise over the entry door where the cats have a bird's eye view of both inside and out, as well as baskets and a shelf to sleep and sun themselves. In the photos below, kitties enjoy the view. Pigeons roosting on the high beam outside provide endless kitty entertainment. I don't know what the pigeons think of their audience?
Near-by is a free standing cat tree, also for climbing and sleeping. At about 9 weeks of age, the kittens are able to climb to the lower basket of the cat tree, and are on their way to further climbing adventures. Ten week old kittens lend new meaning to the term "cat tree."
As you turn to the right, you will find the hallway leading to the studio/office which was the kitten nursery. I think I warned you that I'm an artist as well, and you can see that I tend to paint on everything.
At 3 - 4 weeks of age, the babies started crawling out of the nest. At that time, I set up a little corral around the nesting box. The latest improvement in my methods was the addition of a large, soft-sided kennel for a nesting and birthing box. Below, you can see a photo of the corral after the nesting box was removed. The corral is 4 ft square and 12 inches high, made of masonite panels hinged together with carpet tape. The panels on one side overlap so they can be clipped closed or swung open. It was on a piece of linoleum for easy cleaning and kept them contained until they were almost 5 weeks old. By that time they were completely litter box trained and given free access to the room. With this method, the kittens began using the litter box and developed good habits without any mistakes right from the start. The kittens also started weaning in the corral. This was a relaxed process in which mom was fed in the corral and the kittens watched and learned. Most were usually eating solid food by the time the corral was taken down.
Below is a video over-view of the kitten nursery after the corral was taken down:
From about 5 weeks on, the kittens had free run of the house except at night when confined to the nursery either by a see-through gate over which the big cats can leap or a French door depending on how protective the queen. Below left, a litter of six greet me first thing in the morning with breakfast on their little minds. Right, you can see the nursery door closed. The gate is hinged on the same frame and you can see it open out into the hall. I had a "thing" about NO caging, and an OPEN feeling throughout. I also liked to SEE and be seen by the kitties, however even in a small cattery, it is often necessary to sequester cats and/or kittens for one reason or another. A shade fits over the nursery door if the queen needed more privacy.
I also felt that I needed a "cat door" for the downstairs bath so that it could also be used when needed. I built a custom door so that I can sequester and/or quarantine a sick cat, etc. The top panel is screened to allow air flow, and the center panel can be removed. (Photo below shows the view from in the bath, looking out) You will be relieved to know that the normal door is still in place for human use of the bathroom!
Looking up from the living room, you will see the stairs soaring up to the kitty balcony. Railings are fenced off with plexi-glass to protect smaller babies from falling through. Sisal wrapped boards and sisal mats are placed throughout the house and used extensively by all the cats.
Below is the master bedroom upstairs.
Video tour of the interior:
Here you can see Auntie Nugget showing the kittens how to eat and big sister, Gypsy Rose, supervising a little chinchilla baby. These photos are from my early litters when Tiny Bear was the queen. Not all queens are as relaxed about allowing the other cats near the babies.
The cats are also allowed supervised access to my spacious back yard enclosure. I also been allowed kittens to experience the outdoor environment when they were about 8 - 12 weeks old. This is controversial among breeders. Some believe that it gives them a "taste" for the outdoors and is not good for indoor cats. I don't know if this is true or not, but I found that kittens who experienc new sights, sounds, smells and loud neighborhood noises seem to be very confident little kittens in their new homes.
I've installed a cat fence kit around the perimeter of my yard to keep my cats in and neighborhood cats out. In 2008 I changed over to a "new" fencing kit (http://www.catfence.com/) which I like better than the old one. It looks neater, has more sturdy brackets, and doesn't extend out into the garden as far. Below are some photos of it.
The back stretch, about 75 feet:
Below is the section along the front entry area where the gate meets the house. I had to get a little creative to get the netting and bracket to meet the house with no escape gaps. You can see that there is one tree I refused to cut down and decided to simply run the netting around it. A bracket is screwed to the tree and the cats can climb as far as the netting:
Below: the garden area directly outside the living room
In early 2008, I made a video tour of the enclosure as seen in April and May which you can see below. This was before the Home Owners' Association installed the new fencing and I upgraded to the new cat enclosure kit shown above:
Nugget looks down from a pine tree in the garden. Unfortunately, I had to cut this tree down as it was too close to the netting. However they still have plenty to climb on. Gypsy Rose (one of Tiny Bear's kittens) finds the bird bath an interesting thing to climb.
Below: Gypsy Rose in the bird bath and Simba Kahn dipping his tail into our small pond.
Tiny Bear, when she was a kitten, makes a pretty picture with the garden flowers.
I hope you enjoyed your tour.