Designing A Cattery

The most important management requirement for a successful breeding program will be the design of the cattery. In most instances, the cattery itself is part of your household, be it a bedroom, a spare room, or a special room built in the basement. The care and comfort of the cats is of primary importance when designing the room that will serve as the cattery, and it will pay in the long run to take the time to properly plan your cattery area.

Just as there is no perfect cat, there is no perfect cattery. Most breeders must work within the confines of available space, number, sex, and breeds of cats to be housed. Financial considerations are always a factor.

There are, however, a few general things to think about. If possible, have the cattery on the ground floor. Hauling litter up and down stairs should be avoided. Have the cattery easily accessible and keep no more cats than you can comfortably take care of. Above all, keep the design simple.

In addition to cages, you want storage space and a grooming table. A kitchen counter unit will provide drawers for medications and grooming utensils, under counter storage for cleaning paraphernalia, and a top service for mixing and serving food. A grooming table should be provided with strong light. All food and water dishes should be nonporous unless disposable paper plates are used.

Many things must be taken into consideration:

  • sufficient space requirements for the number of cats that will call this room home
  • cage size
  • cage interior lining to allow for ease of cleaning
  • shelving and scratching posts in cages and colony areas
  • lighting (whether artificial or natural)
  • temperature control
  • air flow and ventilation
  • ease of maintenance and sanitation
  • food storage area
  • waste storage area
  • carrier storage area
  • bathing and grooming area
  • isolation area

Decisions made in these areas are ones that you and your cats will ultimately have to live with so it will benefit all to spend considerable time on the design of your cattery.

CFA has set minimum cattery standards that detail the proper care and handling of food, primary enclosure standards, food and water requirements, and recommendations for cleaning and sanitation.

Cattery Design

Cattery layoutThis diagram shows a workable cattery setup for a room approximately 11′ x 14′. Plans include 3 cages for females, 2 floor-to-ceiling walk-in male cages, a nursery/play area for kittens, and a bathing/grooming and storage area.

The three female cages can be expanded to six cages if stacked two high. An alternative is to have these three cages built on top of cupboards that will expand your storage area, and make the cages easily accessible for cleaning purposes. This setup will allow the females to run the room and live in a colony, and only be caged when necessary (i.e in season, have kittens, etc.).

Stud males must, of necessity, be caged and will require a large area to enable them to get the required exercise and be comfortable. Floor to ceiling walk-in cages, with numerous shelves at various levels and a scratching post, are recommended. A special area for young kittens to play in is a good idea, especially with a scratching post for early training.

The bathing/grooming and storage area would be a three sided counter top with storage cupboards below. A deep, double sink is suggested for ease in bathing. This area will also serve as a food preparation area.

CAUTION: It is suggested that electrical outlets be above the counter top level, and all electrical outlets in the room should be covered with “kid proof” caps when not in use.

Preparing the Space

As the health of the cats is of prime concern, surfaces that are easily cleaned and disinfected are vital. Proper ventilation, natural light and adequate space for each cat is essential.  The recent development of polyurethane and epoxy paints is a boon to breeders. These paints form a plastic film on surfaces that is nonporous, long wearing and easy to clean and disinfect. Avoid carpet at all costs. It is impossible to disinfect, holds odor and can harbor fleas. Linoleum type flooring is porous and holds urine and spray odors no matter how often it is mopped.

Cross ventilation is essential to prevent the spread of disease. An exhaust fan installed in a window will do the job. If this is not feasible, a small bathroom exhaust fan can be installed and vented to the outside. Along with good air flow, a good source of natural sunlight – windows, glass doors – is beneficial.

Recommended Reading:
FELINE HUSBANDRY, “Cattery Design and Management”, Neils C. Pedersen, DVM, PhD and Joan Miller. A wonderful 45 page chapter on the design and management of a cattery – complete with photos, plans, standards and guidelines. Highly recommended.
** This book is out of print, but used copies are sometimes available through amazon.com.

PDF files of the chapters in this book by Dr. Pedersen are available for free download on the UC Davis Center for Companion Animal Health web site.