A catio for our cats

We have been talking about getting a catio for our furry girls pretty much since they came into our lives, and they’re five now so it’s been an epic conversation! I’ve never had house cats before, in fact I never considered it, but when we moved into our house, our previous cat, Willow, was hit and killed on the road, so we made the decision (controversial to some) to keep our girls as house cats. They were tiny kittens when we adopted them so they’ve never known the outside world. I wouldn’t keep a cat inside that was used to going out.

Over the last few months we’ve been home with the girls a lot more and have had more time to consider and research the catio. There are a number of companies who sell ready made catios, but boy are they expensive! We started looking at them and then did some research on YouTube and decided that we’d be able to build our own at a vastly reduced financial outlay, so I got planning.

The catio is essentially a wooden frame with cat safe wire mesh attached to make it secure, but it was actually harder than I anticipated to design it. The basic shape was easy enough, but then I had to consider exactly where the screws should go to avoid drilling into another screw where three lengths of wood needed to be joined, and I had to bear in mind the width of the mesh and where we would need additional struts to allow us to attach it. Even with all my meticulous, pencil-chewing planning, we still had to tweak the design as we went along, but we got there.

I think we ended up with three trips to B&Q for supplies.

It’s a good job I’ve got quite a long car because we needed eight 2.4 metre lengths of wood in order to make the catio big enough to clear our back door.

Our first attempt went a bit wrong – I’m still not entirely sure how it happened, but I think it must’ve been something to do with the conversion from inches which we measured in, to centimetres which we cut in! We won’t dwell on that!

Newly measured, and double, triple and quadruple checked, we got going again – luckily we were able to reuse most of the bits of wood that we’d cut so we didn’t waste much, and this time the frame fit over the door and window. We decided not to include a door because this would’ve made the design more complicated and expensive, and we have another door into the back garden so it’s not necessary.

So far, so good!

The timber we used was only thirty eight millimetres wide so the frame was quite flimsy whilst we were still assembling it so we had to be really careful as we moved it around.

Soon we got to the stage where we could staple some of the mesh onto the frame so it became more stable.

We chose the mesh carefully because the cats may decide to climb it which could hurt their little paws. This mesh is plastic coated and is sold as animal proof. We made sure that all the edges are secured and/or tucked away so curious paws can’t find them.

I picked up a few hanging pots to go on the outside of the catio, as well as some quirky additions to prettify the whole thing and I moved some of my existing posts to make a feature of it. We picked up some cheap fake grass for the bottom to soften the look. We’re really pleased with how it turned out.

I picked the plants up from Webbs last weekend. I needed plants that wouldn’t get too big for the four around the sides, and two that will trail for the top corners. Obviously they all had to be cat safe too, just in case!

I’ve wanted an ornamental kale for ages and this was the perfect opportunity.

The cats were a bit hesitant about the whole affair to start off with …

… but they’re getting more and more used to it now. Tink even scratched the door to ask to go out there yesterday.

Next job then, it would seem, is to get a cat flap so they can let themselves out there whenever they fancy. It’s nice to know they can get outside in a safe and secure way to get some air and some sunshine.

Harry Potter Home Office

It seems that I’ll be working from home for the foreseeable future, and even when I do go back to the office I think it will only be for a couple of days a week with the rest of the time working from home. So, with that in mind, I decided to put some of my last three week stretch of furlough to good use and I made my home office/spare bedroom more functional and comfortable.

Unfortunately I was so eager to get going that I completely neglected to take before photos so I’ll have to describe it instead. My desk was in the alcove to the right of the chimney breast so essentially I was staring at the wall all day. The end of the bed was immediately behind me so I couldn’t properly turn in my chair. There were heavy curtains that blocked out the little light that makes it past next door’s forest and it had grotty carpet that was here when we moved in. Oh, and it wasn’t Harry Potter themed!

It is now!!!

I decided I wanted laminate on the floor, and I’d already decided that I was going with a Harry Potter theme (as you can see from the wall art), so I chose laminate that looks like a stone floor to emulate Hogwarts Castle.

We had to take up the dingy old carpet and underlay and then clean the floorboards underneath and then operation laminate commenced.

We’d never laid laminate before, but it’s pretty easy. The hardest part is measuring it properly and going round awkward pipes and edges.

Once the floor was down we got all the furniture back in and rearranged so that I was no longer shoved in a corner with no space.

I’d already painted the Free Dobby mural on the chimney breast. I had to do this freehand – there’s woodchip on the walls so stencils or stickers are a no go.

For once I don’t mind that we have woodchip because it fits in quite well with the old and shabby nature of Harry Potter.

Now came the fun bit – accessorising!

I upcycled a box table that I’ve had for close to twenty years which had seen better days.

I gave the bottom two coats of red and used gold paint around the edge of the lid. These are Gryffindor colours, the house that Harry, Ron and Hermione belong to at Hogwarts. I then drew the HP on the side and painted it gold, and finally I stuck Marauders map wallpaper on the top and added a sheet of Perspex on the top.

I also added Harry Potter wallpaper to the existing bin, an empty and thoroughly cleaned tin of chickpeas and a shelf.

Next I Potterised a cheap paper light shade.

I cut golden snitches out of gold card and attached them and I made wings for some keys and hung them from the bottom. The golden snitch is one of the balls that are used in the game of Quidditch and the flying key appear in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

I found stickers on Amazon for the light switch.

These are the spells to illuminate the end of your wand to see by, and then extinguish it.

I got rid of the heavy curtains and added a plain white blind instead, and I stuck the crests of each house, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin, along it.

I decided to create some more wall art.

Again, freehand because of the woodchip. These are the Quidditch goals and the golden snitch.

I continued with the creativity and pimped up the litter tray area.

I found this amazing piece of wood in B&Q and made a screen by painting it red (leaving the amazing bark at the top) and drawing on a Harry Potter silhouette. I attached some legs which I’d painted gold.

I made the sign by painting a bit of wood that I picked up from B&Q’s reject bin and adding a sticker that I got from Amazon and a cord that I made from some cotton yarn. We also invested in some bigger litter trays to be doubly sure that little furbabies don’t miss and christen the new flooring! The sign says ‘this way to the Ministry of Magic’ and the significance is that in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, witches and wizards gain entry to the Ministry by standing in a public toilet and flushing themselves down!

On one wall I created a portrait gallery.

These pictures don’t talk to you like the ones at Hogwarts, but it’s a good way to showcase all our photos from the Harry Potter studios in Watford and from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.

You’ll also spy Crookshanks, Hermione’s pet cat just disappearing off the edge of the photo, and in the corner is Marilla the mermaid which was the project in my last Little Box of Crochet. Perfectly timed! She’s joined all the other magical creatures.

On the final wall I was umming and ahing about possibly maybe painting a dragon across the whole wall. The silhouette wall art is one thing, but a realistic dragon (because clearly they exist!) in colour is quite another prospect. Whilst I was still pondering, I came across some cross stitches and a long stitch piece that I did in 2000 and had never got round to framing, and they’re perfect for the theme. I quickly found a framer, and yesterday I picked them up.

I LOVE them!

There you have it. A very productive furlough and it’s so much more pleasant ‘going’ to work now I have a magical room! I’ve got a few ideas of little improvements to make, but it’s pretty much finished. On to the rest of the house now then!

Safari Lodge Bathroom Reveal

I’ve been waiting for the final piece of the jigsaw to arrive before I wrote this post, and finally this week it arrived so I can have my ta da moment!

Our bathroom had become what can only be described as dingy so we decided before Christmas that the time had come (and probably passed several months previously!) for us to do something about it.

See what I mean? It was clean, it was just impossible to make it look clean!

We didn’t want to rip all the fixtures out and add to landfill when there was nothing wrong with them functionally, so we chose instead to work with what we already had. My Dad, DIY extraordinaire, had previously fitted panels to my brother and sister-in-law’s bathroom as well as my Aunt and Uncle’s, so we decided to go down that route and had the panels and various paraphernalia delivered just before Christmas.

My Dad and C were on standby to assist when my new nephew arrived, and he was due in February so we decided to wait till he’d said hello to the world before we got cracking on the bathroom. He arrived safely, and, thank goodness, before the lockdown so he could meet his Grandparents.

Welcome to the world Leon Rye (more about that bunny blanket another time – one of my creations!) I’m glad you don’t know how crazy things are at the moment!

So, sometime towards the end of February my Dad arrived on a Saturday with the contents of his workshop in the back of his car, and we got cracking.

Shower came off first. I was just trying to work out why both the taps are in the ‘on’ position, and then realised it’s because we’d turned the water off. D’oh!

Then we started the process of cutting the panels down to size. Mantra of the day: measure twice, cut once! It gave my Dad the perfect reason (excuse?) to buy a fancypants new jigsaw. My multipurpose tool came into use too. We ended up with blue snow all over the house, and it was really slippy! Cue much skating up and down the hall!

This is where we left it at the end of day one looking much better, and infinitely cleaner!

It doesn’t look like there was much to finish on day two, but it was deceiving. We did the window reveal and all the edging. Sometimes the smaller jobs take as much time, if not more, than the bigger jobs with more impact.

This is how it looked at the end of day two. Sooooo clean! I loved it immediately and my creative brain starting coming up with ideas for how to accessorise. This is where I come into my own!

The first thing that came to mind, was a giraffe that I knew I’d seen (and coveted) somewhere! Now this might sound a bit odd, but it’s where the whole safari idea started to form. Roll with it!

I started at the bottom and worked my way up. I found some amazing tiles from Wayfair, ordered them and then sat impatiently drumming my fingers until they arrived (I may have gone to work in the meantime, but I was mentally drumming!)

Here they are in the process of laying them. Aren’t they gorgeous!

I found the perfect shower curtain from Wayfair as well. I think it helps to make the conversion to safari lodge rather than just bathroom full of animals.

I found the Relax sticker in the background on Amazon and thought it added a certain je ne sais quoi.

By this time, the piece de resistance, the giraffe, had arrived and she now stands regally in the corner, surveying her domain. I’ve no idea where I originally saw them, but this one is a Fairtrade one.

I fortuitously decided to make a trip to the Dunelm and the Range the weekend before the lockdown and picked up the finishing pieces and also managed to find some tile paint in the perfect colour.

I’ve always hated the random patterns in some of our tiles …

… so I decided to paint them.

Turns out it was the colour that I didn’t like, not the pattern. Now they’re a lovely colour they fit in perfectly with the rest of the bathroom.

Here’s the rest of what I bought.

See that elephant hook? It’s balanced on a tack there, but I decided to be brave and drill tile for the first time ever! This necessitated a trip to Homebase to pick up a tile drill bit. The end result is, well, see for yourself.

I’d love to say I purposely gave them a jaunty head tilt, but that would only be partly true! The first one (on the right) ended up wonky due to, I guess, substandard drilling skills, so I did the second one on the slant too to balance it out. But hey, I have a head tilt due to the squint in my right eye, so maybe these heffalumps are just particularly empathetic to my plight! I’m counting it as a success! I didn’t crack the tiles and the hooks are fully functional!

The final touch is a well travelled monkey! I ordered a new light pull from Etsy and had it sent to work, but then the lockdown happened and we all had to work from home. It hadn’t arrived by then and, as it turns out, yours truly had somehow managed to put my work address with our home postcode! D’oh again! It finally made its way back to the seller and she kindly sent it out again to home and now it hangs on the light desperately catching its breath after all that to-ing and fro-ing!

It’s hard to get a decent picture of the overall effect, being the smallest room in the house, but here’s the best I could do.

I ummed and ahed about the monkey candle, but the first time I lit him, I knew I’d made the right choice.

So relaxing to have a candlelit bath.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my bathroom talk! I’m happy I’ve finally been able to do the big reveal. Massive thanks to Dad for making it possible. Just need to beat this corona business now so people can actually come and see it in person!