Ccrappy cat cage conundrum
January 22, 2011 6:37 PM   Subscribe

Help me convert a very poorly designed cat cage into a comfortable place for cats up for adoption.

I recently started volunteering with an animal shelter that adopts cats out of a Petco store. Petco donated six of these cages. They are laid out like this. I don't have the exact dimensions on the cage, but the shelves are 18.5" by 9.5".

Petco thought they were going to have one cat in each small cage (?!?! don't even get me started). Instead, we have one cat in the top row and one cat in the bottom row. So, each cat has three section of cages that are connected. The litter box is in one section, the bed is in the next section, and the food and water is in the last section.

The problem is each section has a stupid indented silver litter pan and a shelf. It is impossible for the cat to eat or drink without having to be half in and half out of the litter pan. They can't play or bat any of their toys around because there is no flat surface.

My two questions:

1. What should I do with the shelves? They do not come out, and sawing them off is not an option. I was thinking of buying thin foam, cutting it to fit the shelf, and making a bunch of fleece covers to cover the foam and shelf. The covers need to be washable, so I was thinking velcro could keep the fleece cover secure. The cats have to walk on the shelves to go between sections, so it can't be too thick. I was thinking of only covering the shelves in the food and bed section and leaving the litter box section shelf the way it is. Any better ideas?

2. How can I make a flat, cleanable surface to cover the litter pan/ litter pan hole? I need to do this in all three sections, since we use a separate litter box. The litter pans have lips on the edges and are not completely flat. The litter pans come out to reveal a huge hole. I was thinking of taking it out, getting a piece of wood and having it cut to the dimensions of the entire inside of the cage. The problem is the cages do not come apart. The door is large but I'm not sure if it's large enough to get a piece of wood in there - see the back window on the cage picture above. The other problem with the wood is that the surface needs to be easy to spray and wipe down. There needs to be no possibility of food/litter/whatever getting stuck between the wood and the actual bottom of the cage. Can anyone think of a better solution?

I'm putting this in the home & garden category because I thought it had more to do with DIY than actual cats. Thank you so much for any input!
posted by shoreline to Home & Garden (3 answers total)
The Petco near me uses these same cages. They just leave the metal litter pans in each section, with some fleece in the bottom for cuddling purposes (in the non-litter sections, obviously). I often see cats happily draped on the shelves, which have no covers.

All the cats seem comfortable enough, really.
posted by shiny blue object at 7:13 PM on January 22, 2011

Assuming that there's adequate curling-up space elsewhere, I'd probably leave the shelves as-is. My cats have plenty of cosy places to sleep and relax--padded boxes, hammocks, beds--and where do they usually choose to sleep? The bare shelves in my laundry room. So I wouldn't worry too much about that.

Regarding the litter pans, it might be worth it to think about it on a room-by-room basis, for lack of a better word. A list of things that may or may not be helpful:
  • Put some fleece into the tray and let the cat use it as a bed.
  • Keep the cat's food and water inside the tray, which will make for easier cleanup but still maximize their floorspace.
  • Cut a block of wood that's ever-so-slightly smaller than the tray. Wrap wood in sisal rope, and pop that into the tray. You've just created a flat surface (certainly flat enough that toys would roll over it) and a scratching...tray, I guess.
  • Those lips won't be much of a problem to roll a toy over (I have bigger lips between many of the rooms in my house, and the toys, they still go rolling), so you could even just take a wood block and place that in the tray. Wrap the block in flannel, maybe. As long as the surface inside of the tray is roughly the same height as the rest of it, I think you'll be okay.
  • Have you considered covering the floor with linoleum or other relatively cheap flooring? To make it easier, you could leave the litter tray in, put a wood block (or whatever) in it, and then place the lino right over it--the slight angle created by the lip wouldn't be a problem for the cat, and it'd be dead simple to clean. If you're really bothered by the angle, you could take out the tray and put a thick piece of wood into the hole--again, about the size of the hole, but thick enough (or enough pieces of wood) that it'll brace against whatever's under the cage.

posted by MeghanC at 8:10 PM on January 22, 2011

To be honest, I think you're making the mistake of looking at the cat condos from a human perspective. Cats "in nature" are quite content without naturally occurring flat surfaces or fleecy beds.

If you really think they would prefer a flat floor, though, I think MeghanC's flooring idea is a good one--you could even just cut a sheet of sheet vinyl flooring to the dimensions of the whole floor, roll slightly to insert, and then remove it if it ever needs cleaning. For scratching purposes, you could put a square of carpet on one or two of the shelves, tacked down with carpet tape. Serviceable-for-cat-purposes carpet and kitchen flooring are the sorts of things you can pick up easily for free.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 4:53 AM on January 23, 2011

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