Hammocks for cats?

Photo 1 by Maggie Swanson.jpg
Volunteers at PAWS in Norwalk, Connecticut, make cat hammocks to ensure the shelter felines are comfortable and happy until they get adopted.
By Arin Greenwood

Being part of the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Network gives animal welfare groups all across the country the tools they need to save more lives, as well as the chance to work together to Save Them All.

Best Friends has network partners in every single state, and all of them are saving lives daily. We never get tired of hearing their stories, and that’s why we want to share them with you, too. So today, we're proud to present one from Pet Animal Welfare Society of Connecticut (PAWS) in Norwalk, Connecticut.

A picture is worth a thousand purrs

About five years ago, Maggie Swanson happened upon some pictures showing hammocks designed to make life more comfortable for cats living cages while they wait to be adopted. The hammocks provided the cats with a comfortable loft-type space above their litter boxes.

Maggie, a longtime volunteer at PAWS in Norwalk, Connecticut, was so inspired by the idea that she decided to sew up some hammocks for the shelter's cats. "They were an instant hit," she says.

The hammocks were just the beginning of the shelter's "catification," a decorating technique inspired by the work of the Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy. Catification helps make cats happy at home or in shelters by creating an environment in which they can thrive.

Two cats enjoy snuggling on a shelf

Natural cat behavior

Maggie and her husband, Rick Wetzel, whom she describes as a cat-loving, talented craftsman, have now “catified” four of the shelter's six cage-free cat rooms. They've built and installed cubbies, walkways, shelves and other accoutrements that Maggie says are all about "enhancing a cat’s environment in a way that reduces stress and keeps them more active and engaged. We learned that cats’ behavior could be modified by seeing the rooms from a cat’s point of view and making the appropriate changes."

Mike Burke, the shelter's executive director, says that these projects do more than just keep the cats feeling content while they are in the shelter. They also help the cats get out and into homes more quickly.

The new shelter remodel enhances the cats' environment, reducing their stress and keeping them more active and engaged

Cats as teachers

The catified spaces are happy, cheerful, and as Mike says, allow the cats to "just act like cats," which helps folks coming to the shelter get a better picture of what the cats would be like as family members.

"People get to envision them in their own homes," Mike says.

Maggie can't wait to get started catifying the rest of the shelter. She and her husband are always coming up with new ideas based on things they've seen online, in a book or on TV ― but mostly, Maggie says, from watching the shelter residents navigate their own environment. “Our main teachers are the cats."

Learn more about our No More Homeless Pets Network partners

This shelter cat approves of the new "catified" area

Photos by Maggie Swanson