Panthat Cattery

BY KAREN THOMAS, DVM
Panthat Burmese

Published January 2013

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Thomas is a small animal veterinarian with 40 + years in private practice, currently retired and providing vet service to local rescue groups and an exotic animal sanctuary.

Karen has been breeding sable, blue, champagne and platinum Burmese cats under the Panthat cattery name since 1978.  She and her husband, Rockey Tripodi, live south of Atlanta, Georgia where in 2007 they designed and completed the construction of THEIR new home that included a separate cattery.

Karen is the current breed council secretary for the Burmese breed in CFA.

In 2005, my husband and I decided to start planning and building our final house — the one we would live in until we died.  I knew I wanted to design everything to be pet friendly, especially cat breeding friendly. 

Our house is all on one level with wide doors, large open spaces, and large windows with deep window sills.  The flooring is ceramic, vinyl, bamboo, or cork — no carpet except on the wall of a hallway where there are shelves installed for the cats to rest on after climbing.  As long as everyone gets along, the Burmese girls live freely in the house. 

The Cattery Design

Having had a cattery in the basement of our previous home, experience had taught me there were things I wanted to be different this time. I wanted to make sure in the new design that my cats would have lots of light and access to an outside area.  The old cattery had wooden framed cages that were impossible to keep clean and sanitary — that definitely needed to change. Finally, after hauling cat show gear up and down the basement stairs in the old house, I knew the new cattery had to be designed to make packing and unpacking the car for show weekends easier. 

After reviewing what I didn't want in the new design, I then made a list of what I did want:

  • Four cages or pens for the girls
  • Separate but adjoining area for two males
  • Each indoor pen should have an adjoining outdoor area
  • Indoor and outdoor areas should be accessible through a lockable pet door
  • A grooming and kitchen area including a sink and fridge
  • Lots of storage for food, cages, carriers, show supplies, litter boxes, litter, towels and blankets, etc.
  • Easy access to the car

The design should provide:

  • Lots of natural light for the cats
  • Good ventilation
  • Easy heating and cooling
  • All materials must be easy to clean and disinfect.
  • The floor should be warm, comfortable and easily cleaned

Keeping all these points in mind, I had the luxury of designing and building a cattery from scratch.  We created a separate cattery by designing it adjacent to the side of our attached two car garage, accessible both through a door from the garage and from the house by way of a screened patio.  The concrete pad for the cattery was poured at the same time as the pad for the house and garage. The cattery shares one long interior wall with the garage.


The front of the cattery


The screened porch that runs the length of the cattery's external wall. Note the large roof overhang.

The exterior wall of the cattery was built with a 3’ 10” walkway around the outside so that we could enclose it with screening to provide an outdoor area for the cats.  There is an additional roof overhang of about a foot and a half that protects the outdoor runs from rain. The interior dimensions of the cattery are approximately 12 feet wide and 20 feet long.

Below is the floorplan of the completed cattery.


The cattery is divided into two separate rooms. The larger room contains four queen cages. A screen door leads to a smaller room that contains two large stud cages. Each interior cat cage has a window with a pet door that leads to an outside individual screened run.

The Queens' Room, Sink Area & Storage

The cattery shares its long interior wall with the garage.

About halfway down the wall's length is a door leading into the cattery from the garage.

The door has a sliding window in the top half so it can be opened for extra ventilation in the cattery when needed. 

The main cattery room is about 12 feet wide by 15 feet long.

The room houses four queens' cages on the long exterior wall while the interior wall includes a grooming and sink area plus cupboards and closets for storage.

Looking towards the back of the cattery room we see the screened door which leads to the separate stud cats' room.

On the left side of the photo you can see wall hooks for brooms, a step stool, etc.

A telephone is mounted on the wall that also has the door to the large storage closet.

Looking towards the front of the cattery room there is a large stationary window that provides lots of light.

Below the window is a through-the-wall heating and cooling heat pump, similar to a motel unit.  

I should have bought a heat pump that operates on a thermostat.  Fortunately, the room is small enough so it doesn’t take long to bring the temperature up or down when adjusting the temperature manually. 

On the left of the photo are the queen's cages.

Between the door to the garage and the front wall of the cattery there is a small countertop with a single large sink, an undercounter dorm-size refrigerator and overhead cabinets for storage of items like bowls, can-opener, etc

I installed an extra deep sink with a pullout faucet that has the option of producing a solid stream of water or a spray.

Both the extra deep sink and the pullout spray make it especially easy to bath the cats. 

The small refrigerator underneath the counter is ideal for holding medications that need to be kept cool, or meat, etc.
On the other side of the door to the garage is the large storage closet which measures about 4’ X 6’ and contains wall-to-wall vinyl covered wire shelving. 

Show curtains, cat carriers, litter, food, blankets and towels are all stored in this closet. 

Because the closet is right next to the door to the garage, it is very convenient for carrying stuff to the car when packing for a show. 

Similarly, unloading after the show or carrying in bags of cat food is made easier . . .

The Queen Cages

While the sink area and storage occupy the long interior wall of the cattery, a row of cages for the female cats runs the full length of the room along the exterior wall.

The walls in the cage area are covered with FRP (fiberglass reinforced) paneling.  FRP panels are made of a polyester resin that is non-porous and impervious to cat urine, water, bleach, rot, mildew, stains, scratches, and dents so it is great for cattery walls if you can afford it.  It comes in a few colors but white is the least expensive.  Each panel has a decorative pebbled surface on the "front", while the other side is smooth. I installed it inside out so that the smooth surface is visible. This makes cleaning easier. The panels come in 4 foot X 8 foot sheets and are available from most home improvement stores such as Home Depot or Lowes.

Custom cage panels were ordered from CD & E Animal Cages in Texas.  The cage panels are made of a 1" square custom PVC tubing framework with 1" x 2" vinyl-coated wire attached. These cage panels are easy to clean, don't rust and are almost indestructible. 

 

The front of the queen's cage area is 15 feet long and 6 ½ feet tall.  Using side panels, the space is divided with into four equal sized cages approximately 45 inches wide and 45 inches deep each. 

Each of the three side panels that separate one cage from the next one has a small door that can be left open or closed. These connecting doors let me reconfigure the cages to allow a cat access to more than one cage space. The 4 cages can thus be divided into one and three, two and two, one-two and one, or whatever works best for the kitties. 

The queen cages all have a solid wood ceiling.  I had storage cupboards installed in the upper three and a half feet of space over top the queen cages.  These cupboards are used to store extra litter boxes and carriers. 

I have to use a step stool to reach them so I don’t store anything up there that I use too often. 

Each cage has a door that is about six feet high and 18 inches wide. 

Each door has stainless steel hinges and a stainless steel "spring loaded" bar latch which makes the doors extra security as they cannot be easily opening by an inquiring paw.

I love the latches; they are easy to open with one hand but positive locking so the cats can’t open them. 

The tall narrow cage doors are a bit too flexible with just one latch half way up the height.

A determined cat could pull or push hard enough on the bottom corner to create a gap to escape through — and I did have one cat accomplish this.

I solved the problem by installing barrel bolts on the bottom corner of the door on each cage.

Pet Doors In Each Cage

Each cat cage has a small window installed in the back wall.

We used standard windows that slide open to the side. The window frames and all exposed wood work are wood covered in white vinyl which makes them waterproof, almost indestructible and easy to clean.

We were able to find pet doors to exactly fit the space when the window was open.  All it took was a small panel above the pet door to fill in that space above the pet door.. 

The pet doors can be open or locked closed.  Each door leads out to an individual enclosed screened porch so that each cat can enjoy fresh air and watch the birds and butterflies.

Electrical

Good lighting is a must in a cattery.

Besides general lighting, each cage has a fluorescent light fixture installed in the ceiling.

Each queen cage also has its own ground fault protected electrical outlet that can be used for a heating pad. 

Every outlet is placed high on the wall to prevent a cat from spraying on it. Urine can conduct electricity and if the outlets were lower on the wall and a cat sprayed on it, the cat might be electrocuted. 

Cage Furnishings

Additional furnishings for the cages include plastic shelving units from Wal-Mart giving each cage three shelves and easy access to the windows. 

I keep the litter boxes in the outside porches which helps a bit with keeping the inside clean. When a queen has small kittens, a litter box is placed on the floor of the inside cage for the babies to use.

Each cage also has a homemade scratching post of PVC pipe with sisal rope wrapped around it.  One lesson I learned is that you must install a cover on top of the post or you may find a kitten inside the pipe in the bottom.  Fortunately since the bottom is open it’s easy to lift the pipe and free the kitten.  The pipes are held up by plastic straps fastened to the walls with plastic screws.  Cats can claw on the post or climb it, whichever pleases them. 

The Stud Room

A screen door leads from the queens' room to the studs room at the back of the cattery.

The boy's room contains two cages, one on either side of the room.

A nearly six foot corridor separates the two cages.   The males cannot reach one another but they can see, hear, and smell each other.   


View from the Queen's room looking through the screen door into the Stud Room

The inside cages for the boys are 45 inches deep, 50 inches wide, and 10 feet tall — all the way to the ceiling — with a wooden support at the six foot level. 

The stud cages have solid walls on three sides and FRP paneling up the wall to eight feet high. 

While the actual ceiling height in the stud cages is a full 10 feet high, the FRP panels are only available in 8 foot lengths, so the extra two feet is painted with a waterproof paint intended for bathroom use.  All sheetrock behind the FRP is a special moistureproof and mold-resistent product manufactured for use in bathrooms.

Plastic lumber shelves are installed on one wall in each male's cage about six feet up. Burmese boys love being up high. 

A homemade, sisal wrapped pole allows the cat to climb up to the high perch and also provides plenty of post to scratch and sharpen the claws.

The stud cages have clear shower curtains inside or towels hanging outside the cages to catch any urine spray. 

I also use small rugs and towels on the floor inside the cage that can be changed and washed regularly. 

You can see one of the two floor drains placed in the cattery floor when the concrete pad was poured.  We did make a mistake by not clarifying with the builder how to slope the floor so everything would flow towards the drain.  

Just like in the queens' pens, each male has a window and pet door leading to an individual outside private screened porch.

An exterior door was installed in the middle of the back wall of the stud room. 

This door leads to a screened patio which can also be reached from the house. 


One stud cage and the exterior door leading to the screened porch

The Outside Screened In Porches

Each inside cage has a separate outside screened porch about 45” long by 45" wide, accessible through the pet door in the window of each cage.

The 2" x 4" framework supporting the screening outside is wide enough for the cats to sit on. Most of the porches also have a set of plastic shelves just like the ones on the inside. 

Each individual outside space is connected to the next by a screen door. This is adequate but a bit tight for walking through to empty litter boxes, which we do every day.   

The screening around the exterior walls of the outdoor porch is Metro Screenworks Pet Screen. This screen is manufactured to resist tearing and we have found it to be completely cat-proof.

We did add welded wire mesh to the screen doors that divide the runs because a determined cat can actually pull the entire screen out of the door frame.

 

One of the male cages has a triple sized outside porch since his porch goes along the side wall and around the corner along the back of the building. 

The other male's outside cage is actually built into the screened patio that is on the back of the cattery.

Cleaning

Beside the general daily cleaning required in any cattery, the cattery design allows me to lock the cats in their outside enclosures and remove everything from inside the cages to perform an extra-thorough cleaning. 

The shelves are washed and dried and the floor is hosed, scrubbed, rinsed and vacuumed dry with a shop vac. 

Every part of the cattery is waterproof and can also be bleached if needed, including the cat trees.

Flooring

I chose hard rubber flooring for the cattery — like you find in gyms and some animal hospitals.  It is laid in large sheets and the seams are heat sealed. Cat claws do not damage it. 

It also coves (curves) up the wall for about 4 inches and then there is a metal rim to seal it to the wall. This makes is easy to clean as there are no corners or baseboard. 

The floor product is treated with an antibacterial coating and can be sealed or not sealed.  I had it installed not sealed so it would be less slippery when wet.  I’m not sure if this was the best decision . . .

I tried an aftermarket sealer in part of the cattery and that is worse so I would either have it sealed commercially when installed or leave it unsealed. 

I actually have a love hate relationship with the floor.  It is comfortable and warm for the cats and kittens, I love that part.  On the down side it shows every dusty foot print and water spot and takes a long time to dry, I hate that part.  In balance I would use the rubber flooring again. 

Final Thoughts

I love how light-filled and spacious the cattery is for the cats — especially the boys.  I also love the flexibility which allows me to combine cat cages to give more space to each kitty when I have fewer cats.  The cattery is easy to clean and because of the location it is readily accessible from the house while keeping noise and odor out of the home.  

My biggest regrets about the design both have to do with the floor.  I will always wonder if I should have had the floor professionally sealed during installation and I will always curse the concrete guys for how the water puddles on the floor and refuses to run into the drains.  I also wish my HVAC unit had a thermostat.  

Still, when all is said and done, I (and the cats) love the cattery.

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