Cat-Proof Your Stereo Speakers

Bored cats find that fabric speaker grilles make excellent scratching posts, but you can foil your feline without spoiling your sound by following these simple preventative techniques.
By Hattie Spector
January/February 1986
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In this design, two pattern pieces combine to protect the audio system.
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Leave Those Catalpa Worms Be

Like many things in nature, the catalpa tree and worm have a special one-on-one relationship.

"No animals in the house," my husband used to state adamantly whenever our three-year-old son, Toby, begged for a pet.
 
"Kitty, Daddy, pleeeaase," Toby would whine. His requests for a cat were usually prompted by old episodes of Lassie that ran every evening while I was putting the finishing touches on supper. It seemed that once a week, on the average, Lassie rescued a litter of kittens whose mother had been run down by a teenage drag racer, eaten by a bear, or wiped out by some other act of nature.

"No pets," my husband would repeat firmly. "Especially cats. They're destructive."

Lest a reader think my husband is completely hard-hearted, let me point out that he's been around the track a few times as far as pets are concerned. He knows all too well that cats, upholstered furniture, and stereo speakers cannot coexist happily in the same house. Now, our living-room sofa has been a writeoff ever since Toby perforated it with a mechanical pencil, but the audio equipment is another matter. Using income tax refunds and various financial windfalls over the past five years, my husband has lovingly replaced, component by component, the assortment of outmoded electronic junk we both brought to our union. The finishing touches were the speakers — tall, brooding rectangles covered by a black fabric that offers only minimal protection for the delicate inner workings.

Predictably, a skinny stray kitten eventually showed up at my parents' house, and they promptly presented her to a delighted Toby. The kitten — dubbed Patches — turned out to be appreciative, sweet-natured, and tolerant of the boy. And probably because of my husband's anti-cat tendencies, Patches found him irresistible. At every opportunity, she'd rub her bony body against him, purr loudly, and gaze rapturously at his face.

After a few days of such nonstop feline campaigning, my man grudgingly admitted, "Well, for a cat, she's not too bad. She can stay if you do something about the speakers."

He'd seen some covers a friend had made for his speakers after his two frisky kittens had shredded them. Basically, the material for the covers was thick enough to keep a cat's claws from penetrating and harming the grille fabric. My husband vaguely described the covers and left me to fill in the details.

Three Variations of Cat-Proofing

At a local outlet I bought five pounds (about eight yards, enough to make three pairs of covers) of a quilted 45-inch-wide, putty-beige remnant for $2 a pound. The cloth is the type used in making bedspreads and is quite thick and dense. The other supplies — a measuring tape, straight pins, scissors, thread, some fabric fastening tape, and a staple gun — I already had on hand. A zigzag sewing machine that can make an overlock stitch will make the seams on your speaker covers sturdier, but it's not essential. I zigzagged all raw edges; doublefold bias tape could be applied for a custom finish.

Initially, I came up with two cover designs. Exact dimensions of the covers will vary, of course, depending on the size of the speakers.

No. 1: These floor-length covers (see Fig. 1 in the attached image gallery) have only two pattern pieces and afford the most protection. A sketch of the back shows how I accommodated the speaker-wire connections. It took about two hours to make a set of these.

No. 2: These simple covers (see Fig. 2 in the attached image gallery) each consist of just one piece of fabric that attaches to a speaker grille by means of some Velcro snippets. They're intended to protect bookcase — type speakers.

Pleased with these two eforts, I relayed my findings to a friend, who has similar problems safeguarding his audio equipment. "It all sounds very nice," he commented, "but your cat is small and doesn't weigh much."

He had a point. His pet is a 14-pound neutered tomcat with a perpetual chip on his shoulder. Unsupervised, this lug devotes his afternoons to prying the grilles off my friend's speakers, even though they're supposedly permanently attached. Although design No. 1 would work well in this case, I came up with another variation (see Fig. 3 in the attached image gallery). This cover can be made quickly and offers fairly secure protection to stereo speakers that have nonremovable fabric grilles.

(Needless to say, to enjoy high fidelity from your stereo system, you should remove any of the homemade grille protectors before settling down to listen.)

Considering that I was able to make six fine-looking speaker covers for $10 and permanently annoy two cats at the same time, my sewing project was a great success.


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