An invention aims to make peace between felines and pooches.

NORWAY – A Maine couple have invented a contraption designed to lessen warfare between cats and dogs and, really, help all creatures – especially vexed pet owners – live more harmoniously under one roof.

Being touted with the slogan “Feed the Cat (Not the Dog!),” the small rectangular pine box is meant to protect cat dishes from dogs so that cats can eat unmolested.

Deb and Fred Sprague of Baileyville have the first pending patent for what they call a feeding station, and are hoping that animal lovers – who spend billions each year on pet products – will realize the benefits of their product.

“They can eat in a peaceful place, and you know they are getting their food,” Deb Sprague, 54, said of her cats, which use the device in her home. “It has been a lifesaver to us. It has made feeding time so much easier, and the animals are healthier, too, because it is not healthy for dogs to be eating cat food.”

Fred Sprague said he’s even noticed one of his cats growing fatter. Sprague, who has taught gym classes at Woodland Elementary School for 33 years, came up with the idea about five years ago.

As the family’s pet menagerie grew, with stray cats showing up at the back door, kittens being born, and more dogs being adopted, the Spragues, who have three grown daughters, found it difficult to find ingenious places to hide cat food.

Placing the dishes on the basement steps led to a couple near head-first falls for Fred. Closets and the garage were tried as well. Gating off parts of the kitchen or stairwells can be cumbersome, and placing food on counters is messy.

Fred, who’s 55, improved on the original concept through the years until enough friends who witnessed calm dinnertimes at the Sprague household told the family they should market their product.

Recently, the Spragues contracted with Oxford Pine Products Inc. in Norway to produce the feeding stations, which will cost between $130 and $145, according to Deb. She said she wants them to be attractive pieces of furniture. There are two models – one a rectangular box with two cat doors on either end and a hinged door on top for placing dishes inside. The front and back are made of mesh wiring for increased visibility.

The stations measure 16 inches high, 24 inches long and 9 1/4 inches deep.

The other model is a box, too, but is open in the back and when placed in a corner, creates an enclosed, triangular space for cats. The openings for the cats can be adjusted for different-sized felines and for that matter, dogs, so even the skinniest Chihuahua cannot squirm through, Fred said.

The boxes can be ordered from the Spragues’ Web site, www.doggonepetdesigns.com, which is still in the works. And the Spragues will sell the stations on eBay, as well as place them in pet stores and other local shops.

The Spragues are already dreaming about other pet products to make. And Fred, who says he came up with the idea for a VCR years before it appeared, also has an idea for a new kids game and equipment.

The Spragues are thinking big, but taking it slow. “We’re happy doing what we’re doing,” Fred said, but… “It would be nice to take an edge off, and make a few.”

After researching the pet market in the United States, Deb said, “I didn’t realize the extent that people pay and the things they will do to make their pets happy.”



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