November 18, 1996 12:00 PM

IT STARTED INNOCENTLY, WITH A FLOOR-to-ceiling, sisal-covered scratching post. Then came the elevated catwalk in the living room. Then the 23-step staircase, followed by a neon-lit, cats-only clubhouse. At this point, rezoning might be in order—Bob Walker and Frances Mooney’s San Diego home is the world’s biggest jungle gym for cats.

“It’s been a great excuse to buy a lot of neat tools,” says Walker, 47, whose new photo book The Cats’ House shows how the couple’s 1,500-square-foot home became a fantasyland for their nine felines (Jimmy, Jerry, Bernard, Denise, Frank, Molly, Louise, Charlotte and TomCat). That’s 81 lives’ worth of dashing through ceiling-height cat holes and dangling from 110 feet of walkways, all at least 7 feet high. “Cats,” notes Walker, “just love to look down at people.”

Co-owners of a picture-framing business, Walker and Mooney, 45, his wife of 23 years, moved into their hilltop home in 1986 and have labored on cat-friendly additions ever since, from the scratching post to the clubhouse—formerly shelf space atop the master-bedroom closet. “It’s a place where the cats can let their fur down,” says Walker. “No mice allowed.”

The couple, who have no children, rely on air niters and humidifiers to take care of odors, while Mooney, allergic to cats, stocks up on Primatene Mist. A backyard feline theme park is next on the agenda, but don’t think these two don’t know when to quit. “I have a friend with 15 cats,” Mooney says. “That’s a bit much.”


SCOTT LA FEE in San Diego

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