She created a mini Moroccan door for her cats; now the HGTV designer wants to see how you’ve made your house more feline friendly

July 27, 2011 01:00 PM

Chaplin the Jack Russell terrier was getting fat – and home designer Candice Olson knew exactly why. So, the Design Star judge did what she does best: She designed a small doorway that would allow her cats to get to their food while keeping out porker Chaplin.

“It’s actually a piece of a panel from a Moroccan door,” Olson tells “It has this beautiful carved top edge, so the cats can go through it – and my increasingly fat dog can’t. Had we not designed this, he would be 400 pounds.”

As judge of Purina’s Tidy Cats Pet Projects Design Challenge, Olson is looking for the innovative ways that you’ve retrofitted your home to suit your felines. Whether it’s a custom “catio,” a unique scratching post or a kitty gym, she wants to see cat owners flex their design muscles for the chance to win a $10,000 prize and a trip to New York City for the unveiling of their design. Two lucky designers’ projects will be chosen (for contest rules, click here).

“Cat owners get very creative,” Olson says. “We’ll see everything from full-blown play gyms to cat climbers to something as simple as embellishing an existing food bowl or litter box. It could be a simple idea or something very extravagant.”

Olson is happy to be channeling her design smarts toward the furry creatures she’s loved since she was a child. She had two cats up until a few months ago, when one passed away. Now, Chevy, 18, the remaining cat, and Chaplin, 17, have fostered a unique relationship.

“It’s just like a marriage. It’s this weird kind of courtship,” she says. “They can’t just meet eye to eye; there’s gotta be a little bit of a banter back and forth.”

The biggest point of contention: food. And as cool as Olson’s cat door is, it isn’t without its flaws. “[Chaplin] did manage one time to squeeze through,” Olson says. “He literally shape-shifted into a snaky body and weaseled through it. He ate every last drop of cat food – he was so stuffed and fat that he couldn’t get out. He was busted.”

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