He’s the ‘Cat Man’ - ski-bi dibby dib yo da dub dub – yes sir, he’s the Cat Man. When we imagine aging cat-lovers surrounded by the creatures for whom they’ve snubbed their fellow humans, the picture is usually of a decrepit, poorly-kept mansion stinking of cat poo and death. Not so in Cohen’s case. He’s created a technicolour dream house that people are queuing up to replicate.
House-builder Peter Cohen became a serial-adopter in the 1980s, after moving to Goleta, California, and inheriting his first cats.
“We currently have 22 cats,” says Cohen in a video piece for HouzzTV, “which sounds insane, and it wasn’t planned.”
Inspired by Bob Walker’s seminary feline architecture textbook The Cat House, Cohen started transforming his house into a feline fun-house in the 1990s. Using skills transferred from the realm of human house building, Cohen added 46 metres of cat tunnels, staircases, and skywalk to his interior, all in carnivalesque shades of yellow, green, and lilac.
The project has cost Cohen upwards of $50,000 (£38,000), while his annual cat food bill is around $5k.
The toll the project has taken on live-in partner Manuel Flores, and roommate Hiroyuki Furumoto is not known. While a network of fans has been installed to dispel the smell the cats leave, the fleet of autonomous anti-fur vacuum cleaners and rig of 25 CCTV cameras would be more than enough to unnerve the average tenant.
So what’s the rationalization behind Cohen’s idée fixer-upper?
“I love cats for many reasons,” Cohen told The Independent back in 2015, “but a large reason is the fact that one has to work very hard to gain the trust of a cat, especially a cat that has been traumatized by a human.
“It is when a cat decides to trust you that it feels so amazing. To have helped restore peace and happiness to such an innocent creature just feels good.
“Healthy cats are happy cats and we then enjoy their love back to us.”
It’s a beautiful location – Cohen may one day rank with the great outsider-artists like Henry Darger or Justo Gallego. But it does retain a certain nightmarish quality – particularly for dogs.
Cat-lovers, however, can get a piece of the action from the Cohen Cat Motel and support research against feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) by purchasing the cat man’s feline shelving solutions online.