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Product Review: Solvit Kitty'scape Play Structure Cat Furniture
Cat Furniture? Seriously!
"Cats need these things," my vet told me: "A place to hide where they feel safe; a high place; a window to sun themselves; and an interactive habitat." The windows came with the house; me, my husband, three active dogs and our animal-focused lifestyle provided the interactive habitat. They still needed a high place and a refuge all their own. They needed ... cat furniture.
Yes, cat furniture. It wasn't enough that they dominated the house and ran rough-pawed over the dogs. It wasn't enough that they had cat crinkle tunnels and scratching waves and a scratching post we hand-made just for them. The incessant stream of incoming fleece mice and feather-tufted stuffed balls and teaser wands and a plethora of other cat toys wasn't enough. No, they needed their own special place to dominate. Their wonderful inner-lion selves needed a place to climb and tease each other and reach down and bat each other on the head.
Versatile Modular Design
I looked at cat towers (or cat trees, or various other names) at the obvious places nearby: department stores, CostCo, PetsMart, and the guy who is invariably on the side of the road with his own hand-made carpet-covered cat furniture. As much as I would have liked to honor the local craftsman who made cat furniture, I wanted a different approach. I kept coming back to the Solvit Kitty'scape cat "play structures" I saw online. What attracted me was the modular design I could adapt to my cats' preferences -- and design to fit wherever I wanted to put it. Did the fact I love making and building things, and that the Kitty'scape reminded me of hours spent with Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys in my youth, influence me? Absolutely! I couldn't wait to build it -- just the way the kittens and I wanted.
The Kitty'scape can be built long and low to fit beneath a window, or tall and lofty so the cats, with their ever-superior bearing, can look down upon the world and its denizens. Like those wonderful Habitrail sets I loved as a kid, the Kitty'scape can be added to and expanded. If you have an odd-shaped corner or a narrow dead-end to a hallway, you can adapt the Kitty'scape to the space available. I was hooked on the idea. Naturally, I had to have the "Deluxe Kit" which, as you might expect, had more stuff than the Basic Kit or the Intermediate Kit. It was like getting the biggest box of Crayolas, the one that even had periwinkle. I couldn't wait for it to arrive.
Intelligent design? It'll Make a Believer of You!
I'm not just a sucker for things that require assembly. I love products with intelligent design. That Mr. Coffee coffeemaker I've got that won't fit under a cabinet, sloshes coffee out the decanter each time you pour, and requires you to move a special drip-arm back into place every time you put coffee in the brewing port? Loser! The Kitty'scape? Definite winner.
Here's one of the standards I have when evaluating a product: is it intuitive enough to assemble that I can bypass the instructions? Now, I don't recommend my approach to others -- take the time and read the guide. Count all the parts in the parts list. Be sensible. But in a classic example of "take my advice, I'm not using it," I follow in my Dad's footsteps by tossing aside the instructions until I get things so bass-ackwards I have to humbly retrieve them. A truly intuitive product will make it so easy to assemble that you may not need those instructions. The Kitty'scape passes this test. The only part of assembly I cheated on was putting the Penthouse Canopy together (I didn't want to risk tearing the fabric). Dad would have forgiven me.
Depending on whether you order the Basic, the Intermediate, or the Deluxe kit, you receive a variety of platforms, several columns to add elevation (at least one of which has a seagrass scratching surface), a padded top platform or Penthouse Perch and maybe even a Hammock Hideaway, a Teaser Toy and wand, and all the hardware to secure the pieces together -- and a special wrench to tighten the top caps.
Now, I know I'm easily amused, but as a lover of intelligently-designed products, that wrench impressed me. Ever try to hand-tighten a carriage bolt or other smooth-sided low-profile piece of hardware? Worse, ever try to loosen them once they've been installed? It's not for wimps. The designers of the Kitty'scape anticipated this. The top caps have a series of curvy slots on top in a design that reminds me of a stylized paw print. The special wrench has extrusions that fit the slots. You insert the extrusions into the slots and easily tighten the cap with no slippage.
Really, there's almost no way to go wrong assembling the Kitty'scape. The pieces just make that much sense.
Cats, Curiosity, and Assembly -- Oh Boy!
When my kit arrived, I laid out the pieces on the bedroom floor, sat on a big cushion, and figured out what layout would work best for Froggy Isabella and Shotgun Willie. Those two were immediately interested in the project. No sooner had I taken the Penthouse Canopy out of the wrappings than Froggy had claimed it for her own. She marched to it, crawled inside the limp canopy before I had inserted the upright hoops, and looked out at me happily.
Willie, for his part, couldn't wait to play in the box. For a moment I was fearful it would be yet another example of spending $150 on an item only to have the animal ignore it in favor of the box it arrived in, but fortunately, Willie soon turned his attention to the platforms -- and my construction efforts. These cats clearly knew this was to be theirs.
The Teaser Toy? Irresistible. However, it was short-lived. Read on below under "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly."
Layout for the Layabouts
I vaguely determined how I'd configure the Kitty'scape before starting out. Obviously, the Penthouse Canopy goes on top -- there's no changing that. I figured the cats would spend most of their time on the unit by lounging about, and because there is no high spot for them to climb about in the house, I wanted it to be the highest cat-accessible location.
When assembling the Kitty'scape, you'll start from the ground and work up. I initially decided to put the Hammock Hideaway on the bottom-most part of the structure, thinking any cat named Shotgun Willie would enjoy lounging in low places. I kept the three seagrass scratching columns towards the bottom two levels as well. The Deluxe kit gives you three separate platforms to work with, not counting the Penthouse. I put the half-oval platform, which is covered with a green surface that makes me think of an indoor putting green, in the center, offset slightly.
After I'd had it assembled for a few days, as my husband and I observed the kitties play with it and sleep on it, he commented that it was a shame there was no padded or carpeted surface on the top platform (just below the Penthouse Canopy). He noted that they spent much of their time there, either in the Penthouse or interacting with the other cat who may be in the Penthouse. I decided to reconfigure the Kitty'scape so that the Hammock Hideaway was suspended from the top platform, which would cover that surface with a fabric surface.
Let me assure you: despite my best efforts, I couldn't cheat and just remove a part here and there to re-model the layout. I had to take it almost entirely apart and work my way up from the base once again. Save yourself the frustration and just disassemble and reassemble the unit fully. The rebel in me likes to challenge the system once in a while -- this was one of many occasions that approach didn't work. I ended up having to nearly fully disassemble it. When building it, you have to work from the ground up. When taking it apart, you have to work from the top down.
When reassembling it, I kept the "putting green" offset so it could serve as a step for the cats as they climbed. With my second design, the structure had more stability -- somehow I balanced it out better.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Overall, this product deserves an A. Insightful design, quality parts, and ease of assembly are outstanding. As you can see from the photos, Froggy Isabella and Shotgun Willie were all over the structure -- literally. They love the Penthouse Canopy and they enjoy leaping from the top of their scratching post to the upper platforms of the Kitty'scape.
The modular design means you can replace specific parts, expand the unit, and adapt it to your needs. That's an A+++. The fabric shells of the Penthouse and the Hammock are hand-washable -- excellent! The base is good and heavy; although wobbly when I first assembled the structure, after reconfiguring, it is solid and balanced.
Faring less successfully is the Teaser Toy and wand. It was a victim of its own success. Before I'd even installed it, Froggy Isabella, the huntress, had snatched it. Growling, she ran away with the feathered teaser in her mouth -- wand dragging along behind. She promptly detached the feathers before I could even install the toy to one of the columns (toy mount included). As soon as the remaining toy (a stuffed pink ball suspended from the plastic wand) was in place, the kittens were on it like flies on carrion. They couldn't resist. They played tetherball until, not even an hour into the game, they snapped the wand off at the base. There was no fixing it. Since I anticipate similar results with any replacement wands, I don't plan on seeking a replacement. However, it will be easy enough for me to use a little ingenuity and devise a more durable teaser toy -- perhaps one with more flexible tubing as a wand.
The wood platforms are wonderfully solid with an attractive finish. I managed to chip one when reassembling the structure -- so be careful with those edges. It will be an easy fix with a dab of furniture scratch coat. I don't consider this a design flaw -- it goes with the territory when working with wood products.
I'm not crazy about the plastic look of the upright columns. They're durable, they're practical, and they're ridged enough that the cats have some toe-hold when climbing. It's just me: I'm not into plastic. Fortunately, those folks at Solvit have thought of just about everything. They now offer solid wood columns for those whose cats prefer table-leg scratching opportunities.
Finally, the seagrass cord worked its way wiggly on one of the columns within the first few days of use (I noticed as I reassembled the piece) but the looseness isn't visible unless handled. Time will tell if it works loose more or if it remains just slightly so. I have not requested replacement -- the issue isn't significant enough for me to be overly concerned.
Our Cats on their Kitty'scape
The Bottom Line
One factor in my decision to buy the Kitty'scape was the reasonable price tag for what you get. I paid $150 + shipping for the Deluxe kit. I initially thought I'd find far less expensive options among locally-available kitty trees. However, the non-modular cat towers at PetsMart were more expensive and offered less flexibility and fewer features. I didn't care for the towers at Costco ($80) -- they were basic cat trees without any of the features I'd wanted. Compared to comparable structures at other online vendors, the Kitty'scape was favorably priced.
For those who want a starter unit, the Basic Kit is available for approximately $75 while the Intermediate Kit can be purchased for about $105 (shipping charges may apply).
The Solvit Kitty'scape Play Structure comes with a one year warrantee covering defects in parts and workmanship. Keep your sales receipt.
Room to Grow!
Various expansion kits are available. Froggy and Willie may find the Scratching Tray and the Adventure Bridge under their own Christmas tree. A kit with columns, hardware, and an additional platform is also available -- so you can expand upward, outward, and all around.
Expand Your Kitty'scape!
Do Your Cats Have Furniture?
Do Your Cats Have Their Own Furniture?
For the record, I have no affiliation with the Solvit Kitty'scape company. I received no remuneration, gifts, or other compensation for writing my review. I affirm that the opinions I've offered here are my own -- and I stand by my assessment. You may have a different experience with the Kitty'scape -- if so, I welcome (appropriate / civil) comments below. If you find, as I did, that the Kitty'scape is a great product -- please share that as well!
Do You Own the Kitty'scape Play Structure?
What do you (and your cats) think of the Kitty'scape?
Copyright (c) 2013 MJ Miller
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