A compassionate veterinarian from Monchique in Portugal has found a novel way to turn trash into treasure, repurposing old washing machines as shelters for stray cats throughout the town.

Ann Silva came up with the idea when she was caring for two little kittens in her vet practice. The adventurous pair curled up inside a broken washing machine destined for collection in the backyard and made themselves right at home.

“I put in some blankets, and they’ve never left,” said Silva.

Silva regularly sterilizes stray cats and returns them to their colonies, but often worries about them not having shelter to rest and recover. She decided that this was the perfect solution.

After getting permission from the local council, Silva began depositing unwanted, broken washing machines around the town. The machines are decorated with art created by local students and graffiti artists to transform them into funky street art. By involving local children from the local community, Silva hopes to teach them that cats are not harmful and instill the values of compassion and empathy for the future.

There are five of these stylish cat “houses” dotted around town now — spread out through residential areas and one at a local school — but Silva is hoping to grow the initiative further and is accepting donations of old washing machines and dryers.

“The project has only just started so we are welcoming donations and soon hope to place more shelters for our cats.”

The machines make fantastic shelters for the stray cats, keeping them warm in winter and cool in the hot summer months.

The veterinarian also says it’s much easier to keep tabs on and care for the stray cat populations in the area; she was able to sterilize an impressive 50 cats in only one week this month.