Why felines never use that hundred dollar scratching post you lovingly bought, but instead always use your favourite chair.
A while ago, aunty Robyn pointed me in the direction of this Buzzfeed video. Ever since Google took over Youtube it sucks big hairy balls (use Vimeo), so I’ll just tell you what the video is about. It pretty neatly demonstrates five so called “life hacks” for cats.
If you don’t know what that is: a life-hack is a simple, cheap, minimalist something (a thing, a craft, a method) that anyone can do and that can make your life easier. Example: if you drink tea, then don’t throw those used tea leaves in the rubbish. Instead, spread them out across your garden or mix them through the water you’re giving to your indoor potplants. This helps your plants to absorb nutrients, it produces a nice smell, plus it attracts some wanted insects and repels some unwanted insects. And the answer to your question, mister Doofus, is of course: “yes, take the leaves out of the teabags first”.
Anywhooties, the cat life hacks demonstrated in the Buzzfeed video were:
- how to make a challenging cat toy out of old tupperware;
- how to make a minimalist scratching post;
- how to make a portable box bed allowing the feline to hang out with the human whilst the human is at work;
- how to prevent a cat from jumping up furniture you don’t want it to jump on;
- how to make a portable, lightweight cat-shelter out of an old clothes hangar, an old t-shirt and a piece of cardboard.
After seeing this video my dad insisted on building me a scratching post, so he enthusiastically dusted off his pneumatic drill and pickaxe only to discover he didn’t actually need them. The video itself explains it better, but this picture gives a pretty good summary of the instructions (all images courtesy of the Buzzfeed video):
Unfortunately my dad went a bit overboard. Instead of making a small scratching square – like the instructions told him – he made a whopping tabletop sized scratching surface, mounted against a cubicular wooden construction frame with six support beams and a two-story removable sleeping spot on top.
That’s not a scratching spot. That’s not even a scratching post. For me, that’s a scratching Empire State Building! Here is a picture of me sitting on top, but keep in mind this is only showing the top half…
And now – of course – for the million dollar question: am I actually using it? Noooooooooo, of course not, don’t be silly! Once in a while I sleep on it, or sit on top watching the world go by, but scratching is still being done on the (quite expensive) couch.
My parents used to think that I scratched on the couch to get attention. After all: I can scratch anywhere I like, but only when I scratch on the couch they shoo me away. Thankfully my dad looked a bit deeper into this behaviour and discovered the real reason.
You see, I don’t just scratch for fun. My claws are very important to me, and so I take good care of them. The observant human might point out that I only use my front paws when scratching. That is correct, I use my mouth and teeth to maintain my back paws.
I realise that, especially in the USA, there are people who declaw their cat. STOP THAT! IT’S ANIMAL CRUELTY! Declawing causes immense physical pain as well as huge psychological damage to a cat. A cat DEPENDS on their claws for hunting, climbing and social interactions. A cat without claws is incapable of being a cat.
Scratching serves three purposes:
1. it helps to discard old nails. This keeps my claws nice and sharp. Sharpening my nails is not like sharpening a knife, it’s more like growing a new knife inside the old knife. Once the new knife is big enough, the old knife is no longer needed and thus discarded. If you are owned by a cat, have a look at their scratching place: you probably will find (parts of) old, discarded nails there.
2. it is essential to keep my clawing mechanism in good working order. When a cat is using a scratching post, have a close look. You will notice the cat alternates between left paw and right paw. This is an exercise in quickly exposing and retracting the claws: a skill which is crucial during hunting and climbing.
And now for the reason why it is always your favourite chair that gets it:
3. We felines, we are Mother Natures lean, mean hunting machine. Which is why we have necessary hunting tools in the form of highly advanced senses of smell, sight, hearing, general awareness plus a lot more. All these senses are vastly superior to yours. What most humans don’t realise, is that hidden in my front paws are scent emitting sensors. I use these to leave a trail of my personal scent, or my signature if you prefer. So, yes, that old saying is true: literally everything I touch or walk on becomes mine. Including you – the one that feeds me. By mixing my scent with yours, I let the whole world know that you are mine. And where do you, my human, leave most of your scent? Exactly: the place you sit the most; your favourite chair.
I will leave you with the answer to two related questions. Firstly, if there are multiple humans in the household, have a look which chair or which side of the couch is used as a scratching post the most. The one who sits there, that’s my favourite and you will find that that is generally the one who usually fills my feeding tray.
And secondly, will I ever use that thousand dollar scratching post you bought
online in that lovely, friendly, independently owned, family run pet shop with the personal touch in your local community? Well, I might eventually, providing that that scratching post starts to carry your scent. You might try hanging a (worn and not yet washed) t-shirt or pair of socks over it. But once we felines have picked a favourite spot to scratch, we tend to stick to it.
It’s not because we hate your couch, it’s because we love you. You should feel honoured.
P.S. If I feel like it, then after the weekend I might explain why we cats bury our poo. You’ll be surprised to learn that actually we don’t.