Are you making changes to your house or yard this summer? There are a plethora of books and television shows offering guidance to those who prefer the do-it-yourself route for landscaping, house renovations and interior design.

It seems, though, whether you do it yourself or hire someone else to complete the makeover, that almost as soon as you finish building something, it starts to become outdated. Still, most of us can't constantly replace our furniture or change the layout of our homes or yards.

There are times, though, when things are so outdated that changes must be made. A new coat of paint or a new lamp won't always suffice to bring things into the modern age. There often are safety concerns or improvements in technology that can be addressed only with a more extensive overhaul.

Zoo exhibits are no different.

We are continually learning more about the animals we work with and the best ways to care for them. When exhibits are built, they're designed according to the best information available at the time (within budget constraints, of course).

With the passage of time and the increase in knowledge and expertise, there comes a time when an exhibit is so outdated that it needs to be replaced. New logs, light fixtures, mulch and paint can only go so far. Lee Richardson Zoo has reached that point with the "Cats of the Americas," the home to our jaguars, bobcats and mountain lion.

With the help of our visitors and Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo (FOLRZ a 501(c)3 charitable organization that raises money to fund zoo improvements), we will create new homes for these magnificent cats.

The new exhibits will be located by the North American river otters, along with the other animals native to North and South America (bison, elk, pronghorn, swift fox, tapir, rhea, cavies, alpaca and giant anteater). "Cat Canyon," as it is currently being called, will offer larger spaces, both outside and inside, and more naturalistic exhibits for all the cats concerned.

The two jaguars that live at Lee Richardson Zoo are sisters. Like most family members who are always together, they sometimes get on each others' nerves.

With the new exhibit and holding, they'll have more room to give each other that extra space that can be so important in keeping harmony among siblings.

The more naturalistic exhibits will offer the jaguars, mountain lion and bobcats more opportunities to act like wild cats a water feature for the jaguars, trees and rocks for all to climb on and scratch and mark to their hearts' content.

The new exhibits will offer expanded viewing to our visitors. The indoor holding areas also will offer improved viewing to the keepers. In the current night quarters, the limited lighting and extensive cage mesh necessary due to the limited space create quite a challenge when the keepers check on the cats. Keepers are required to spend extra time with the black jaguars since they're especially difficult to see under these circumstances.

Whether a keeper is checking the cat for medical reasons or just to know where it is, the ability to see the cat well is important. You don't want to open a door without knowing exactly where your cat is, whether it's a bobcat or a jaguar or any other cat (or zoo animal, for that matter).

The inside caging also creates obstacles to enrichment, training and medical procedures. In the new holding area, these obstacles won't exist because the additional space will enable us to use another style of mesh.

"Cat Canyon" will offer improvements for visitors, keepers and cats alike, but we can't do it without you. While many zoo changes are funded through the city budget, this one is basically up to the Friends. Their fundraising efforts rely on you, our visitors and patrons. Individual or corporation, if you value the zoo and want to give the cats a new home, there are many ways you can help.

Buy a ticket for "Cat Tales," a production by Skip Mancini, and all proceeds go to the "Cat Canyon" project. Although some performances are already sold out, you can still attend. Tickets still are available for performances at 8 p.m. June 12 and 13, as well as the last presentation at 2 p.m. June 14.

When you visit the zoo, buy something at the Safari Shoppe. It's operated by FOLRZ so the money made there goes to zoo improvements. Buy a ticket to "A Wild Affair," an evening fund-raiser event scheduled for July 18, or simply send a tax-deductible donation to Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo.

There are still other ways to participate such as the Adopt an Animal program, Keeper for a Day and more. For more information, contact Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo at 276-6243 or visit the Web site at www.folrz.com.

Visit our award-winning Web site at www.garden-city.org/zoo.