Cat Tidbits and miscellany

Here’s a good question : How do I stop my cat from jumping onto my countertops and kitchen table? Personally, when asked this question I fall back upon the old fashioned remedy of placing aluminum foil around sites I wish to safeguard from our cats predation. This preserved a seashell collection and a plant or two for me when we had a house full of kittens. We only had two, but it seemed like a herd of elephants rampaged through the halls nightly – wherever did Carl Sandburg come up with the poem, entitled  “Fog” : “The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over the harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.”? Like toddlers, kittens are only quiet when they’re up to no good.


Cats do not like to walk on aluminum foil. It moves and crunches and they don’t like its shiny reflection. It is a decent, cheap deterrent readily found in most kitchens, never mind that it does little to improve your homes’ ambiance. Or feng shui. I’ll bet it doesn’t make the list when decorators consider feng shui. Foil wraps around ledges and conforms to odd shapes like the base of expensive vases (which our toddler broke anyway, neatly solving both the cat concerns and any airs we had hoped to put on about it). Moving on, there is also the oils in orange peel, a strong deterrent to the sensitive cat sense of smell. They avoid places covered in orange peel. This one I rarely mention, because who peels citrus every day just to keep their cat away?


There are new, innovative objects out there to try now. Rubber kitchen mats with raised spikey bumps will make a counter surface un- cat friendly. I don’t find it any more attractive than foiI. I was unhappy to find that there are some mats that give out tiny “static sensations” – sounds to me like tiny electric shocks – which can be laid onto couches etc and respond to “activations”. Whoa there! No, no, no!


There is a motion-sensor odorless spray that sets off when your pet (and presumably you) are near – the spray is meant to startle the offender. Be careful here – you could find yourself jumping into walls if you forget where you last set the darned thing. The sprayed gas is harmless. They said so. And there’s another fabulous gadget that rests on a firm surface (not the bed). This sensor picks up surface vibrations and screams for 2 seconds. May I just interject here that I turn off the automated cat box cleaner every night before bedtime or otherwise I would never get a full night’s sleep. The very thought of something screaming haphazardly has my nerves on edge just writing about it.


But wait! I have come across something ingenious! A double-sided sticky tape that comes in tape rolls or sheets. You press one side against the couch you’re trying to protect from use as a scratching post, peel the protective backing off and voila! Your cat will HATE getting his or her paws sticky! I’ll bet this does work. Although they claim the tape doesn’t leave residue, I noted they also mentioned (see the fine print) that it can damage “certain” surfaces – like wood, leather, microfiber, painted surfaces, vinyl and wallpaper. Oh. And I don’t advise anyone to lean against it wearing nylons. Or silk. Or, well, probably anything. Goodness knows what children would do to it. Stray hair would be a magnet. That said, it might work.


So why do cats scratch the furniture? The most commonly believed reason is to mark their territory, as they have scent glands on their paws. Mine, mine! It’s no accident it’s also your favorite recliner – your cat loves you and is staking its claim on you and your fabulous pettings. Scratching will also help shed the outer nail sheath – unlike dogs, cat nails do not grow out continuously, but new sheaths form under the old, which is shed about every 8 to 12 weeks. By scratching a nubby surface they pull off the outer covering which has outgrown its blood supply. The new nail is tiny and comes sharply pointed.


And why do they jump onto countertops in the first place? Curiosity, for one. Seeking food. Their predator-prey instincts tell them to observe their surroundings from the mountain top, the better to be away from other predators and to search their own prey. The view is always better from the top!


Christine B. McFadden, DVM

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