Lynn and Jim McIntyre’s garden is a bird sanctuary. Cedar waxwings visit each year to feed on red elderberry fruit. Nuthatches hop along the trunks of trees looking for insects. Pileated woodpeckers tear apart rotting wood in search of a meal, and sapsuckers riddle the ghostly birch trees with rows of sap-filled holes.
Chattery flocks of bushtits move through the shrubbery looking for insects and fleetingly decorate branches like little Christmas ornaments. Salmonberries, salal, Oregon grape and huckleberries attract towhees, pigeons, robins and many others.
In addition to the natives, Lynn McIntyre’s exuberant garden plantings provide an endless variety of habitats and food sources. Beautiful goldfinches and grosbeaks visit the bird feeders. Fanciful birdhouses created by Jim McIntyre offer cavities for nesting, and fountains with moving water invite birds to drink and bathe.
The neighborhood is home to a stream-fed pond that supports many varieties of ducks, geese, heron, owls, hawks and eagles.
All this bird activity is watched closely by a gorgeous, blue-eyed feline named Tresco. He is no comfortable house cat but a lean, agile cat who could be a great hunter if given free rein in the garden. Or if the tables were turned, he might not notice the quiet flight of an owl searching for a meal or the talons of an eagle diving down from above.
Early on in Tresco’s life, he had a close call. He came running home, speeding like a bullet, with a coyote on his heels. Fortunately, the back door was open and Tresco dashed inside.
Once the cat was safe, he and his humans were able to breathe a sigh of relief and take a good look at the large, healthy animal looking back at them. Tresco escaped harm that day.
Lynn McIntyre would find herself waking up every morning wondering whether she would see Tresco safe, and decided she’d had enough of worrying. Something had to be done to keep the cat safe without cutting him off from the outdoors. Once the problem was presented, Jim rose to the challenge and the cat enclosure project started to materialize.
Jim McIntyre has spent his life as a contractor and built their lovely home. The cat enclosure was a fun, simpler project, and once it was started, it became almost all-consuming. His creative ideas germinated into a place where people and their feline can while away many hours.
The area used for the enclosure was overgrown by salmonberries and a couple of medium big-leaf maples, and was relatively far from the house. The plants were partially cleared away but some of the maple tree trunk was preserved and used in the building of the enclosure.
Pressure-treated, 4-by-4 posts and 2-by-4s made of outdoor wood form the structure, and half-inch, galvanized-wire mesh is attached to the framing. About a foot of the wire mesh is buried below ground to keep animals from digging under, and the whole space is enclosed on top as well.
The enclosure evolved organically and without a plan to fit in with the house, the deer fence and the existing garden shed.
Tresco can come and go as he pleases through two cat doors built into an upstairs window. The air space between the two cat doors helps insulate the house in winter. Tresco can choose to stay on his “porch” built from Plexiglas just outside the window, or walk along a wire-enclosed walkway from the second-story window to a high entry to his enclosure.
Cats love being high up where they can survey their territory, so Jim McIntyre included several high platforms. He covered many of them with outdoor carpeting and solid roofing to keep Tresco dry and comfortable and to provide shade. The maple tree trunk serves as the central post for a spiral kitty staircase where he can walk to ground level or choose the long, sloping ramp.
Lynn McInture, in her true-gardener fashion, did not miss out on the chance to create a new retreat, and quickly brought in compost, gravel and stepping stones for a tiny, secret garden. Colorful flowers and established shrubs make Tresco feel like he is in a jungle, while the colorful bench invites his visitors to linger.
The gravel path is often used as a great back-scratching surface, especially when bathed in sunshine, and the outer catwalk serves perfectly to give Tresco a great view of the big garden and his people below. Jim McIntyre created more elaborate birdhouses to decorate the catwalk supports, and it is obvious that this has been a wonderful project for both the man and his cat.
Visitors are drawn by the cat enclosure, which has become the main attraction in a garden that is already full of beautiful touches. The birds are free to visit without worry of an ambush, and Tresco gets to watch from his cat perches just inside the house windows, or from his inviting outdoor space.
The project is a win-win for all involved, and has been welcomed by the cat, who now gets to spend most of his days and nights outside, safe and sound.