With 26 cats in one house, the odds are not in one’s favor when it comes to said house’s cleanliness or endurance.
But upon entering Peter Cohen’s beautiful Santa Barbara, Calif., home, one isn’t immediately struck by the mass of cats roaming, lounging, playing, fighting and sleeping, but, instead, the home’s spaciousness and serenity.
“When people hear that I have this many cats, they literally think I’m crazy,” Cohen tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “And I believe they imagine a very dirty, crowded, smelly house and when they come to visit, they’re always surprised that’s not what they see.”
Cohen bought the house in 1988 with his brother, with the intention of remodeling and flipping it. But it came with two stray cats — and, when the housing crisis hit, he decided to keep both the house and the felines for himself. From then on, Cohen, who grew up with dogs, became “addicted” to adopting cats.
Thanks to his background in construction, Cohen also transformed, or “catified,” the home for his growing furry family. He built nearly 300 linear feet of catwalks, which lets his cats tread precariously around walls on the second floor. Add in 15 tunnels, eight bridges and a hugely entertaining cat wheel, and you wind up with kind of an amusement park for cats.
“I liken it to living in an aquarium of cats,” says Cohen. “Because they’re above you, they’re at your eye level and they’re below you.”
Cohen calls his home the House of Nekko, “Nekko” meaning “cat” in Japanese. Several of his cats also have Japanese-inspired names: Hidari, BokuMo and Me-Gi, for example.
Even having one pet can be expensive. But 26? Cohen admits it’s a costly hobby, estimating he spends $3,000 to $4,000 a month on all cat care, which includes food (800 cans of wet food, 50 pounds of dry) and vet visits. And he guesses he’s spent between $100,000 to $150,000 on all the cat-friendly renovations over the years.
It also can make for a startling revelation upon meeting new people. When it comes to dating, Cohen says, “Any relationships I’ve had, the people know they have to like cats or it’s not going to happen.”
Especially since Cohen is blunt in stating his preferred species. “I honestly prefer cats over humans,” he says. “I have trouble with humans, and the human world. I find it hard to understand the violence and the chaos.”
He continued, “Cats don’t plot against you. If a cat’s mad at you, it will scratch you, and two seconds later it will expect to cuddle with you. They don’t hold grudges.”
Cohen’s also been a crusader for cat causes. His non-profit Zen By Cat works to raise awareness and money to find a cure for Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). The disease is closely related to human HIV and kills about two percent of felines in the world, including lions and tigers, as well as house cats.
Three years ago, one of Cohen’s cats, Smokey, was miraculously cured of FIP at a UC-Davis drug trial.
“To pay it forward,” Cohen says. “I told the researchers I would set up Zen By Cat as a non-profit to raise money to help them end FIP for all cats.”
If you have allergies and even the thought of being in a home with this many cats makes you sneeze, there is a solution: Check out Cohen’s 24/7 live feed of his “kitten room” on YouTube.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: