The time each kitten spent scratching each scratcher was compared.
September 15, 2019 10:30 PM   Subscribe

"Preference of kittens for scratchers" in Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, Vol 21, Issue 8, 2019.
Two-choice preference tests were conducted to compare scratchers and preferred scratchers with or without additives (ie, catnip, catnip oil, cat hair) in six studies. Kittens (n = 40, <8 weeks old) had access to two scratchers on the floor of a simulated living room for 20 mins and interactions were video-recorded.
posted by spamandkimchi (34 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
My cats like the flat cardboard scratchers, with or without nip. The orange fluffyboi also likes nip in a cardboard box so he can be supported on all sides during his mad somersaulting.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:39 PM on September 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


My cats prefer the furniture. Buying a scratcher is a waste of money. They don’t use them. Jerks.
posted by azpenguin at 10:47 PM on September 15, 2019 [11 favorites]


Figure 1p: The cat hair, evenly distributed on the S-shaped cardboard

That's... quite a lot of cat hair.
posted by typify at 10:50 PM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


My cats love the cat furniture I designed and made them. They scratch the sisal rope wrapped around it, at all heights, and they sit in the basket and salad bowl that are attached to the shelves. There's enough sitting spaces that they don't need to both pile in to one basket, but they do anyway.

It was a huge pain in the ass to make, and probably not cheaper than buying one, so I'm real glad they like it. (The reason I tell myself it's worth it is that It's a design unlike others I've seen - it goes up to the ceiling, where it's held in place by tension. There's some leveling feet that smoosh the rubber feet on the top up into the ceiling, and it's real tight so it's quite stable, while still having a small footprint.)
posted by aubilenon at 10:53 PM on September 15, 2019 [13 favorites]


Kittens (n = 40, <8 weeks old)
Everybody knows kittens that age don't...
The lack of active responses to catnip in kittens may be explained by immature brain development, especially the opioidergic system. A supportive study found that the effect of nepetalactone in mice was blocked by the opioid antagonist naloxone.13 Another study reported that endogenous opioids are not fully functional in infant cats <2 months old.14 Catnip is believed to activate the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus (VMH), the brain area that is involved in regulating many physiological activities. Among these are mate recognition and sexual behavior, even in the absence of gonadal hormones.5,15 The VMH expresses different types of opioid receptors and is part of the multiple reward circuitries, such as sexual reward.16–18 The behavioral responses (eg, rolling over, chin rubbing) in cats following the exposure to catnip are similar to the behaviors expressed by female cats after mating or those induced by an opioid receptor agonist (ie, morphine).
Sorry, carry on, this paper is amazing.
posted by Sequence at 10:55 PM on September 15, 2019 [18 favorites]


simulated living room

whoah
posted by thelonius at 11:01 PM on September 15, 2019 [6 favorites]


simulated living room
Wait, if they're doing this in my apt, how have I missed this?
posted by evilDoug at 11:04 PM on September 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


The S-shaped cardboard was preferred over the scratcher covered with bubble wrap
Some of these results are less surprising than others.

Also, the randomly offset dots and crosses to indicate significance is a very strange choice. As is changing the definition of a dot and a cross between figures. My love of absurdity and cats is battling with my love of the efficient representation of quantitative data. But, I can't say that I'm not jealous of these researchers' jobs. Nice find!
posted by eotvos at 1:44 AM on September 16, 2019 [6 favorites]


simulated living room

The natural habitat of F. domesticus is, of course, the living room. (The natural habitat of its wild ancestors would be scrubland of some sort, but that's not the sort of behaviours they're researching.)
posted by acb at 2:10 AM on September 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


I can't think of an better experiment to make young people (and old people) fall in love with science, and what a great way to demonstrate the scientific method!
posted by Miss Cellania at 2:47 AM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


The natural habitat of F. domesticus is, of course, the living room.

I dunno. If my cats are the measure, their natural home is the new chair I bought for the bedroom. They usually give each other 2-3’ of space, but will cohabitation in that chair. My use of the chair is deeply contested.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:10 AM on September 16, 2019 [10 favorites]


Me: Hey girl, it says right here you should prefer your $100 fancy catnip-infused hemp-covered climbing and scratching structure.

Zooey the Tuxie: Lol wut human I prefer dis nice rug!

Me: but SCIENCE!

Zooey the Tuxie: /scratches carpet with an innocent face
posted by spitbull at 3:34 AM on September 16, 2019 [13 favorites]


My cats love the cat furniture I designed and made them.

Mine does, too (the one I made, not the one you made). It's simpler than yours -- just a carpet-covered base and top with a rope-wound 4x6 upright pillar. It's also far cheaper than the store-bought concoction that he rejected outright. That one went back to the store.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:50 AM on September 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


My cats prefer the coir door mat or the sisal covered 48 inch high scratching post. Carpet is a close third in scratch desirability. I solved the fabric sofa scratch option by covering the scratch prone areas with clear stickyback carpet protector film. Odly enough, I didn't protect the carpet....

But, don't worry, they find other ways to torment their human.
posted by mightshould at 3:52 AM on September 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


We solved the sofa option by getting one of these. The aesthetics are not awesome, but the cat likes it.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 4:48 AM on September 16, 2019 [9 favorites]


MetaFilter: The aesthetics are not awesome, but the cat likes it.

Also, the AAFP are good folks, and feline vets have a particularly rough go of it, so I always go out of my way to praise them when I can. Feline vets often have to deal with the most fractious cats, and their business suffers because people generally don't bring their cats to the vet as often as they do their dogs, and when they do they tend to spend less on their care. Thank you, feline vets!
posted by Rock Steady at 5:07 AM on September 16, 2019 [14 favorites]


Frank Gehry will be delighted, I guess.
posted by ouke at 5:08 AM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


My cat prefers my stomach. This is my only chance at having abs via the buildup of keloids and scar tissue.
posted by srboisvert at 5:18 AM on September 16, 2019 [6 favorites]


aubilenon I would love to see the cat tree you made, I'm currently trying to plan one myself
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:39 AM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


If I had known “kitten researcher” was a viable career opportunity I would not have wasted my life such as I have.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:33 AM on September 16, 2019 [27 favorites]


There's an experimental issue, which I noticed because my boy is definitely a tall post cat:

They put the S-cardboard scratcher and the tall post in the same room. The kittens prefer the tall post, though not by a statistically significant amount. Same with tall post vs. hemp. Then they never test the tall post again! You can't go from that to claiming the S-cardboard was more preferred.

Presumably they kept going with the S-cardboard because S-cardboard vs. hemp, S-cardboard won (statistically significantly.) As one of my all time favorite "huh good on you getting a paper out of that" articles points out, the difference between significant and not significant is not itself statistically significant. They need to do head-to-head match ups with the post.

I know repeating experiments endlessly can be tiring. The counterpoint to that is they get to work with kittens instead of undergrads. I don't see why they aren't jumping at the chance.
posted by mark k at 6:43 AM on September 16, 2019 [6 favorites]


Haven't been around much lately, but I figured I should at least stick my head in here. (Username origin story: name of long-deceased darling Felis catus.) Now, I'm not a scientist, but I feel that this is the kind of research that must be replicable in the real world (i.e., a non-simulated living room), and I'm volunteering mine, which is currently equipped with a carpet-and-sisal commercial cat tree, an old and apparently deliciously clawable sofa, and an even older and more deliciously clawable wicker chair. Slarty, you're welcome to declare yourself visiting kitten researcher. Now we need kittens. Lots and lots of kittens.
posted by scratch at 7:03 AM on September 16, 2019 [5 favorites]


Oh, we have the scratcher they tested as a "tall post." Specifically, we have at least three or four around the house. They're excellent because they are stable tall posts for everyone, including my roommate's monster 18-pound tall cat who can get up to three feet if he wants to stretch out and scratch. They're so popular that no one even threatens the sofa. (The cats do also insist on having flat scratchers, so we also have a couple of cardboard scratchers lying around which get used as well as a set of wooden pet stairs with sisal pads attached to them which are popular for scratching and perching.)

I would like to see this experiment done in adult cats, not kittens, for several reasons:

a) as mentioned, I would like to see the catnip tested for cats who are old enough to perceive the effects of catnip
b) size and stability is a big aspect of cat scratcher quality for cats, and many scratchers are produced which are really far too small for an adult cat to scratch it without knocking it over or destabilizing it
c) at any given time, far more of us keep adult cats than keep kittens; kittens are a temporary stage on the way to cats, and knowledge about adult cats is more generally useful than knowledge about kittens, especially kittens who are less than two months old

Honestly, I'm just... not very impressed with this study, and a big part of it is the choice of kitten as a model. Kittens were chosen because they are "more playful," but scratching isn't necessarily a play behavior, it's a communicative behavior and a grooming behavior (in the sense that it's used to remove dead claw shells). What is the applicability of this to pet ownership and the general problems of cat scratching that people deal with? There's a lot of reasons to motivate this study, but there are all these small aspects that feel rather poorly thought out when it gets into the actual design.

That being said.... glancing at the information on the authors, I'm willing to bet this is probably a really undergrad-driven project. As a learning experience, it's fine! As a set of potential information that can be cited later, it's fine. And you know, design issues or not, I'd rather have the study out there so it can be cited later than have it languish without being checked up on.
posted by sciatrix at 7:04 AM on September 16, 2019 [11 favorites]


If I had known “kitten researcher” was a viable career opportunity I would not have wasted my life such as I have.

Also you might not have to correct the all to frequent "research partypants" typo if the participants are cats.
posted by srboisvert at 9:19 AM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


My cat loves both his scratcher (standard upright rope-wrapped) AND my fucking couch. And that sticky tape stuff? Yeah his favorite game is figuring out how to get it off. With his teeth.

All that works is covering the couch with microfiber blankets, because he hates those. But that makes sitting on the couch hot in the summertime and also makes the couch look like a pile of blankets.

He also loves the carpet, but we are about to move to a place with wood floors so he might actually lose his little kitty mind.
posted by emjaybee at 11:32 AM on September 16, 2019 [5 favorites]


I read once in a cat magazine that a given cat tend to favor horizontal or vertical scratching, and that you can break them of using a scratching location you don't want them to damage by providing something similar as close as possible to that place. I've followed that advice with the 3 cats I've had since reading the article, and while my sample size is small that trick has worked for all of them and kept my furniture and rugs scratch-free.
posted by Blue Meanie at 1:15 PM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


My main issue with this study is a lack of photos of the participants.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 3:15 PM on September 16, 2019 [11 favorites]


I have an actual upright log in the living room for the cats. And a vertical scratcher made of several layers of burlap. And a corrugated cardboard scratcher. And a carpet-covered scratching post. They still prefer the door jambs and chair legs.
posted by Miss Cellania at 6:23 PM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


aubilenon: I would love to see the cat tree you made, I'm currently trying to plan one myself

Here you go [Allergy warning: picture also contains cats]
posted by aubilenon at 6:36 PM on September 16, 2019 [6 favorites]


(oops, that picture was before the salad bowl retrofit, where I replaced the lower basket with a large salad bowl so the cats could both cuddle together in it, because they were always squeezing into the top basket where it's too high for me to pet them. It didn't really solve the problem, they still sometimes do that)
posted by aubilenon at 6:37 PM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


That is a fab cat tree aubilenon! I'm nervous doing something supported by tension because my cat is large and chubby, but maybe I could screw it to the ceiling.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:12 AM on September 17, 2019


More on topic, my cats have a very large cardboard scratcher and they love. it. They leave the furniture entirely alone now, apart from dragging themselves along the bottom of the sofa on the floor like some sort of murder train.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:13 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


That is a fab cat tree aubilenon! I'm nervous doing something supported by tension because my cat is large and chubby, but maybe I could screw it to the ceiling.

I based the design off of this bike rack which very comfortably and stably holds two sub-thousand-dollar hybrid style bicycles (i.e., they're not extremely light bikes) along with locks and stuff.

The a small wooden square at each end is covered with a bunch of little rubber feet, which let it squish into the ceiling/floor pretty darn good, and have good friction. I'm pretty sure the leveling feet, which I adjust with a wrench, would allow me to apply enough upward force to damage the ceiling, though as one of my better decisions in recent memory, I have chosen not to do so.

The square on the top would have to deform or break off for it to fall over without the whole thing becoming shorter, since the whole thing is LONGER when slightly diagonal. It DID become a little loose once, which I could tell because the top was not in full contact with the ceiling, so it was resting on just one side of it, which meant it became possible to kind of rotate the whole structure. I'm sure if I left it without tightening it, it would have eventually wiggled around to the point where it would fall, but it definitely I had plenty of warning in which to re-adjust it. If you wanted to be more conservative in this regard, make the top piece a 20x20cm board or something.
posted by aubilenon at 9:52 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


(the reason I didn't screw into the ceiling is that I didn't want to have to find and position it under a joist)
posted by aubilenon at 9:54 AM on September 17, 2019


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