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Architects for Animals designed homes for homeless cats in D.C. Dec. 5

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Architects for Animals and the Washington Humane Society on Dec. 5 unveiled designs for cat houses to keep homeless D.C. felines alive this winter.

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The American Institute of Architects' (AIA) lobby was filled with ingenious model homes for feral cats, designed and donated to the Washington Humane Society (WHS).

The winning creation was a "California modern" wooden, insulated house with sliding door and aluminum gutter and basin to collect rain water for drinking. Two of its three designers, from Bonstra Haresign Architects, house formerly homeless cats.

Architect Brian Forehand told me he took in the neighborhood's Siamese "stray" after it was hit by a car. Forehand paid $600 to an animal hospital for two rods in the cat's leg, vaccinations, and neutering. Forehand named it Louis, for famed namesakes architect Louis Kahn and trumpeter Louis Armstrong.

Of course, these designs are for housing homeless or feral cats (delete "stray" from your vocabulary) in their habitats.

Placing second was the "Corrugated Aerospace Tower Station" (C.A.T.S.) by Cunningham Quill Architects. The elegant design was a long, cylindrical tube with balls of catnip strung from the top, perhaps to entice the kitty. Although clever and sleek, the design could prove claustrophobic for a fat cat.

Third was "Here, Kitty, Kitty", fashioned as a black dog's head with red tongue hanging out as a wee ramp. The Parsons firm designed and constructed it of a sump pump, with a rest for a pressing iron as the tongue, and insulation from one of the architects' car blankets.

"It was fun to design and develop a practical, sustainable solution, and pro bono is important to us," said Parsons architect Teresa Davidson. Although she's feline-free, her colleague Jameelah Muhammad "catnapped" an Egyptian Mau cat "from my sister's ex-boyfriend," Jameelah joked.

Other participants included:

Suzane Reatig Architecture: Their "Browniehaus" had an image of a feral cat named Brownie inside the doorway of the cooler-like, non-Bauhaus house. "We wanted something you could build yourself, with materials from a hardware store. It fits together like a puzzle," explained Nooni Reatig of the family firm.

Hickok Cole Architects: The squat white exterior resembled a Hummer, and its silver reflective interior was like a fun house maze.

R2L: Architects: Their star-shaped structures were swathed in plastic wrap.

Francis Cauffman Architects: Each of their three black cubes was decorated with a skyscraper skyline.

Danielle Bays, manager of community cat programs at the Washington Humane Society, wore a button saying "I (heart) feral cats" on her cat-decorated t-shirt saying "Protect Your Citizens!"

But not all citizens and communities are so hospitable to feral cats. Should they be?

Bays notes that feral cats:

  • Are part of our communities, "like colorful neighbors."
  • Help eliminate rats and mice.
  • "Removing feral cats does not resolve the problem. The long-term solution is trap, neuter, and spay (TNS) them." (Click here for Washington Humane Society's TNS program that saves about 2,000 feral cats each year.)

And yes, Bays cares for a feral cat named Gigi.

Nothing like a home for the holidays.

And nothing like a holiday photo of your own pet with Santa, offered by WHS on weekends beginning Dec. 7 and ending Dec. 22 at various locations (check here for details).

For more info: Washington Humane Society, www.washhumane.org, 4590 MacArthur Blvd., N.W., Suite 200, Washington, D.C., 202-735-0330. (To report cruelty/neglect and animal emergencies, 202-723-5730.) Organic wine was provided by DiVinoDirect.com, 202-241-7227.

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