Weird Science

There’s something in the air at my house. No, really. There literally is. It’s odorless, colorless and, I have to presume, tasteless (not unlike my sense of humor). Let me back up a bit.


Dramatic reenactment of the scene in our living room last night

For several weeks, there has been a strange cat (by which I mean, unknown cat; technically, all cats are strange) who prowls around our house at night. I’ve never seen him, but often observe his little pawprints in the snow when I leave for work in the morning. While it tears at my heart to think of a kitty outside in the cold, my two inside cats are less sympathetic. The presence of this intruder on the borders of their already restricted domain has made my felines tense and irritable. They’ve been scrapping more often, leaving little tufts of black and white and orange fur around the living room carpet for my mom to vacuum up. Worse, they have stepped up their habit of marking their territory by scratching on any vertical surface their sharp, little toes can reach. Mostly, this is the sofa and recliner.

This does not please my mother.


CatScram. Cat scam!

Since every cat I’ve ever had scratched the furniture to some extent, I have had occasion to sample all the purported deterrents that clutter up the Internet. I tried CatScram, a device that emits an ultrasonic screech when a cat interrupts an infrared beam. Turns out, my cats enjoy ultrasonic screeches. Into the junk drawer it went.

I’ve tried double-sided tape. I’ve tried little plastic nail caps that have to be super-glued onto the cats’ claws. Trimming their claws only seems to rile them; immediately upon being blunted, they head straight for something upholstery-covered and get to work re-honing their pointy, pointy toes to scalpel-like keenness.


Pretty. Ineffective.

I’ve affixed sheets of clear vinyl to the patches they tend to assault most avidly; their response is to shift a few inches to left or right and begin again. I suppose I could cover the entire sofa in plastic, like Marie did on Everybody Loves Raymond. Classy.


Peep, demonstrating the form that made him World Sofa Scratching Champion three years running

What about scratching posts, you are no doubt shouting. Please. There isn’t a sisal-, carpet-, burlap- or corrugated cardboard-covered edifice that hasn’t occupied some corner of the living room – and subsequently, some disused corner of the basement.

Increasingly desperate to curb the cats’ increasingly destructive tendencies, I recently turned to science. I ordered two – count ‘em, TWO – varieties of Feliway products. These plug-in devices emit “a natural substance, odorless to humans, that mimics a cat’s facial pheromones to calm cats in stressful environments.”



pheromone perfume

Pheremone perfume: includes magical chemicals designed to attract the lonely and gullible (me)

Ah, pheromones. I am familiar with this concept, having once spent an absurd amount of money on a bottle of pheromone-laced perfume that promised to perk up my love life. How well did it work? I invite you to scroll to the top of this page and read the name of this blog on the banner.

Whether human beings produce and are affected by pheromones is controversial. But it’s pretty well accepted that animals use these chemical signals for all kinds of things, from attracting a mate to declaring their dominance to staking a claim on their favorite scratchin’ sofa.

Since Peep and Remington have been beating up on each other as well as the furniture, I selected two Feliway products: ComfortZone Multicat Diffuser, “proven to help reduce tension + conflict in multicat homes,” and plain, old ComfortZone, which purports to “prevent urine marking and scratching.” The label declares it “clinically proven to be 95% effective!”


Remington faces his foe

It seems I have the extraordinary luck to share my life with TWO members of that elite 5% who have no respect for science or the dedicated, white-coated technicians who toiled to produce this chemical marvel. I do have to wonder whether this clinical testing was done with real cats, or “simulated” fur friends like those robot cats they’re trying to pawn off on lonely senior citizens.

These are seriously creepy, by the way. I ABSOLUTELY need one.

In any case, since I found the cats tearing each other’s fur out DIRECTLY UNDERNEATH the “tension-reducing” diffuser last night, I don’t hold out much hope that this foray into high-tech deterrents is going to be anything less than “100% ineffective!” Time to try something else. Anybody know a good cat therapist?

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