Some of John Creviston’s projects look like outdoor art — floating staircases encircling backyard trees.
Others are more basic, a box-like structure on a back deck with shelves at various heights to offer views of the yard.
The black wire mesh serves two functions — to keep domestic cats from wandering off their property and to protect songbirds from falling prey to the natural hunters.
Creviston, a former zookeeper at the Calgary Zoo and curator of the Crystal Garden Conservation Centre, has been building outdoor cat enclosures for homeowners for the past five years.
He explained his reasons for starting his company, Catscape: Beautiful World Living Environments, in an interview from his Brentwood Bay home, with his maincoon, Moonie, comfortably nestled on his lap. “I grew up seeing a lot of cats being killed on roads, a lot of lost posters,” said Creviston, 54.
After leaving the Calgary Zoo, Creviston worked at the SPCA’s wild animal recovery centre in Metchosin and saw a number of wild birds brought in, victims of cat attacks.
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“At Wild Arc, we traditionally gave people hell for people [letting their cats] do that,” said Creviston.
He worked with an Ontario company that built components for cat enclosures and later decided to go into business for himself.
Creviston fell back on his knowledge of building exhibits and tried to give cat owners what they were looking for — giving their cats an expanded quality of life “but without the risks.”
Susan Nash hired Creviston to give her three rescued cats — Molly, Charlie and Minou — access to her Saanich backyard.
The result has pleased both Nash and her cats.
“It’s amazing — it’s great for the cats because they can go outside anytime. When we’re outside, we find they go out, too,” said Nash.
Her cats can leave the house near the living room window and follow a series of platforms, passageways and ramps through the backyard.
“It goes over a garden and you can walk under the enclosure,” said Nash.
There are several runs going in different directions so her cats don’t have to cross paths.
“I find the very end spot is the prime location, so one cat will wait for the other to leave that spot,” said Nash.
“I feel this gives the cats an outside experience. They’re out there all the time.”
Many Canadian cities have adopted bylaws that require cats, as well as dogs, to be licensed.
Cats in those areas are not allowed to wander or the owner can face fines.
“I think we’ll see it more and more in large cities,” said Creviston. “I provide an option to keep cats safe.”
Coyotes pose a threat for cats and small dogs in many urban areas as well, said Creviston.
Typical enclosures cost $800 to $1,000. Access is typically through an existing window or cat door. Some are attached to the house while others are freestanding.
Creviston has built close to 100 enclosures at homes on the Island, the Lower Mainland, Princeton, Kelowna, Calgary and Edmonton.
“Each one is unique, each one is a mental challenge for me,” said Creviston
He has done enclosures in high rises and condominiums and he has built backyard enclosures on wheels.
“People want something that makes their cat happy,” he said.