Terese Dennison was cool with moving into what she called “the smallest house in Tucson,” an 824-square-foot adobe home just south of Reid Park.
She was more concerned for her two cats.
Dennison, a literature teacher at Green Fields Country Day School, kept her playful pets, Titus and Bella, indoors, for fear that they might scamper into traffic or fall victim to dogs, coyotes or any number of other Tucson critters.
“It went against every natural tendency a cat has,” Dennison said. “I felt really bad for them.”
Looking for some freedom for her furry felines, Dennison turned to friend, welder and artist David Voisard, for help.
His solution: An enclosed, steel-enforced “catio,” geared toward giving the animals some much-needed space and relieving Dennison of any undue stress or worry.
Over the course of four days, Voisard constructed the catio along the length of the west end of the house, using recycled steel T-posts, recycled aluminum panels and 2-inch steel panel grids that run from the gabled roof’s edge to the corrugated tin fence that lines Dennison’s backyard.
Voisard, 55, had some experience in creating enclosures. He built one for his own cats at his home in Tubac after two of the four were carried off by “aggressive” coyotes.
Voisard, who moved to Southern Arizona from Napa Valley, also witnessed a mountain lion attack his Shar-Pei, Yogi.
“In two seconds, there were 137 stitches,” he explained.
Voisard actively sought out materials for Dennison’s catio that were both protective and inviting.
“We didn’t want to make it look like a prison,” he said. “We wanted the mesh that, once rusted, could blend in and not be ostentatious to the neighbors.”
The catio is equipped with a series of creature comforts.
A doggy door leading into the house, allows Titus and Bella, and even Dennison’s dog, a large mixed-breed named Niobe, access to come and go as they please throughout the day.
There is a tall tree post suitable for scratching and two large nylon shade screens that Bella likes to use as hammocks.
“She is usually up there when I get home, just watching for my car,” Dennison said.
A small sculpted kitten, made from recycled steel, sits atop the catio entrance from the backyard, while another steel cat — this one about 3-feet high with a bright orange fish in its stomach — greets you as you walk in the door.
“There are always artistic elements to my jobs,” Voisard said. “I’m in the service area, whether creating something for beauty or for function. So why not make it clean and beautiful, with some humor to it?”
Dennison has gotten just as much use out of the catio.
The space is equipped with several chairs and a decorated patio table where she likes to grade papers and entertain guests on the weekend.
“You are still in the elements,” she said. “It rains in the catio. The birds can fly in and poop on the table. It is very open, which is what I wanted.”
See more pictures and read more about how to protect your pets in Sunday's At Home section.