Cats everywhere enjoy sleeping on - and sometimes in - washing machines, so a resourceful vet in Portugal is using these kitchen appliances to house the stray cats of her home town.
Ana Silva, the vet in Monchique, a picturesque town in the mountains of southern Portugal, was so concerned at the numbers and poor condition of street cats that she set up the Aqui Há Gato (Here is a Cat) project to provide them with care and shelter, the Correio da Manhã daily reports.
The brainwave came when she treated two kittens in her practice and they made straight for a faulty washing machine awaiting collection in her yard. "So I put in some blankets, and they've never left," she told the paper.
The local council gave her its backing, and is placing the appliances around town, once school students and a local graffiti artist have transformed the potential eyesores into street art.
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The washing-machines are not only comfortable, with "rooftop terraces" for the cats to bask in the sun, but also serve a practical purpose.
They keep the strays out of garden sheds and back yards, as they provide an even temperature in Monchique's cold winters and hot summers.
They also make it much easier for the vet to care for the cats - she managed to sterilise 50 of them in one week this month, she told Correio da Manhã.
Not everyone in Monchique has welcomed the "cat mansions", which number five so far.
"There are people who are less keen on animals, but they are balanced by the people who do," Dr Silva told Lusa news agency , adding that the school has led the way by caring for a stray in its own broken washing machine.
"It serves a useful teaching purpose, so children can see that cats aren't harmful, and parents have even joined in decorating the machine," she says.
Now that Dr Silva's campaign has caught the attention of the national press, she hopes to extend it to the rest of the country.
To this end she says all old washing machines and dryers will get a "warm welcome" in Monchique.
Reporting by Martin Morgan
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