Caturday felids: cat ladders

There are all kinds of specialized cat websites: cats that look like Hitler, cats with naked people, cats that jump into boxes, but this one is up there with the weirdest. It’s Cat Ladders, showing all the weird and wonderful devices people have constructed to allow their kittehs free access to upper-floor apartments.  I’ve never seen one of these things, but apparently they’re not uncommon in Europe. Here are a few, but the site has many more: the author claims that “right now the website contains approximately 967 different ladders from 32 countrys” [sic].

From Switzerland, showing the characteristic Swiss tidiness:

London:

The Netherlands:

Germany:

And Switzerland again:

Finally, a video of one in use:

If you have a cat ladder, either inside or out, email me a photo.

37 Comments

  1. Posted August 27, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    We once had a cat that used to just wriggle through and then fling itself out of the tiny upstairs window. We could never work out why it did this, because it could easily have climbed down in complete safety. Indeed, it used to climb up from the ground and back through the same window.

    We never knew why it did this either, because we had a catflap.

    • RFW
      Posted August 27, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      Ethologists (students of animal behavior) have noted this kind of imprinting in other species.

      Konrad Lorenz, in his immortal book “King Solomon’s Ring”, describes how water shrews he housed in a aquarium-terrarium, when they first investigated their new surroundings, used randomly chosen routes to get about – and ever thereafter used the same routes to get from A to B.

      A cat I used to have, a fat tabby tom named “Harry Walter Henry Ignatius”, used to get onto the loveseat by climbing onto an end table, then onto the back of the loveseat, then down onto the seat itself. He was perfectly capable of going directly from floor to seat, but somewhere along the line had imprinted this peculiar, and unnecessary, route.

      • Posted August 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        In the wild I bet there is a great selective advantage to using a known-safe route instead of trying new ones. When I explore rough country, I always return by my same route, even if indirect and random, rather than risk running into cliffs or wasp nests (I am allergic) on a more direct route. OK, so maybe that means I have the brain of a water shrew….

      • Kathlean
        Posted August 29, 2011 at 7:06 am | Permalink

        I suspect if you introduced a cat-ladder you’d have to have the cat imprint on it immediately on moving in / during kittenhood. I built a cat-ramp for my 3-legged kitty, but he’s been getting along for so long without it (heroic leaps for only one back leg!) that it never occurred to him to take the easier route.

        Probably very adaptive to have not only a known but a marked route–smells like yourself, easy to find deviations from the norm and also broadcasts to other animals that this is your path. I’d also worry, with a cat-ladder, about something such as squirrels getting in!

  2. Bacopa
    Posted August 27, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Funny how we hear all the time how oppressed and regulated things are over in Europe. I’d bet that in over 70 percent of homes in the US you couldn’t modify your house like this due to deed restrictions or architectural codes

    • Posted August 27, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      Do Americans *really* think that Europe is an oppressed and regulated (whatever that means) place?

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted August 27, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        Only those who listen to Fox News.

        • AbnormalWrench
          Posted August 27, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink

          To be fair, that isn’t just a fox news thing. I have heard plenty of liberals hint at similar stereotypes.

      • Kathlean
        Posted August 29, 2011 at 7:01 am | Permalink

        Define “Americans.” Anymore we’re so fractured that I think we no longer share simple definitions of things such as what water is made of. If Texas secedes, we’re going to have a lot of very SANE illegal immigrants scrambling to get intellectual asylum.

        Yesterday I had to try to defend the European model of healthcare–the one where I wouldn’t be putting off surgery on something sorta-major because I have no corporate overlord (i.e. “health insurance”) to give the go-ahead.

    • Sili
      Posted August 27, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Are these the same Americans who aren’t allowed to air dry their laundry because it lowers house prices?

    • Grania
      Posted August 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      It’s one of those urban myths that even certain elements of the British press (or at least those of the Fox News mindset) like to perpetuate. It stems from a fear that Teh Evil EU will make us grow our cucumbers different and other such nonsense.

      QI did a show aimed at debunking this:

  3. Matthew Cobb
    Posted August 27, 2011 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Yet another example which sadly underlines the fact that, whatever the geography, the UK is *not* part of ‘Europe’. Never seen or heard of these things. Amazing. We have a roof and a cherry tree that do the same trick.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 27, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      And then your cat comes down the chimney? :)

  4. AbnormalWrench
    Posted August 27, 2011 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    At a previous rental, I actually built something very similar to first one, although it was only one story down. It took the cats over a week to figure it out. I’d put them on the first step and they’d freak out and run back inside.

    • Jackie
      Posted August 27, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      They may have known perfectly well what it was for but trying to force it may have made them anxious. I built a nice ramp for a cat and spent 10 minutes trying to encourage him to use it, against adamant resistance. Finally I gave up and just enjoyed his company. Five minutes later, off he went.

  5. Joey Frantz
    Posted August 27, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Shouldn’t they be called cat staircases?

    • Posted August 27, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      Kind of like the whole “Jacob’s ladder” translation thing, surely.

  6. Posted August 27, 2011 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Oliver, much-loved cat who passed in 1989, would climb a vertical trellis and then meow outside a second-story bedroom window to be let in. Eventually I built a cat door in the window so that he could have all-hours access. One day I came home to find an eviscerated rabbit inside the house — Oliver had carried it up the trellis and through the cat door.

  7. Heleen
    Posted August 27, 2011 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I once had a cat ladder rather like the lower part of the ‘Netherlands’ one, from the garden to my balcony. From the balcony my 3 cats had to jump up (outside) to a shelf, and then take the upper part of the kitchen window to get in. Or out. The ladder to the balcony did not have wall support, but was standing like a real ladder. As a consequence, the wooden backpart swung a bit. I vividly remember the irritated face of my eldest cat when I put her on up that contraption the first time, with a nice tidbit on the balcony as encouragedment. They all learned it quickly. And brought in young rabbits (in half eaten stage, I don’t know why they like the viscera better than the legs) and pigeons (that is, wing feathers and feet).

    • Charles Minus
      Posted August 27, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      I think most carnivores go for the viscera first. Being a vegetarian, I always like to bring that up to people who claim to be carnivores.

      • Bacopa
        Posted August 28, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

        Organ meats rot quickly and are also high in vitamins. The muscle tissue can wait until they are hungry for seconds. Not sure which advantage provided the selective pressure to create this preference.

        You might notice that the stinkier a can of cat food is, the more they like it. They want to has noms on the gutz.

  8. Jacob
    Posted August 27, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I’ll bet those cats have storeys to tell. Ba-da-dum!

    Haha! Get it? ‘Cause…yeah…I’ll just let myself out…

  9. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted August 27, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    My previous house had a very steep indoor stairway/ladder leading up to a loft above my home office. Meant for humans, but it didn’t take the cats long to figure out how to climb it, which they did at every opportunity. I had to stack file boxes on the rungs to stop them.

  10. Hempenstein
    Posted August 27, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    If Watson or Crick had a cat and lived in a apartment, their’s would look like the first one.

    • Dave
      Posted August 27, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Yes, but every once in a while it would come completely unraveled!

      • Bacopa
        Posted August 28, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

        And then interlocking ladder parts would attach to each half-ladder and then you’d have two ladders.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted August 27, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      There’s a footbridge over the railroad tracks at Amgen’s Seattle facility that’s known locally as the DNA bridge due to its helical architecture.

  11. Shaggy Maniac
    Posted August 27, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    So, I know I’m treading on sacred ground and, honestly, some of my best friends are cats ;-), but…WHY IS THIS OK? Why is it OK for people to let their subsidized predators run around free? If you built such a thing for your dog and taught it how to use it you’d either get a citation and/or your dog would be picked up and taken to the pound.

    If all they ate were English sparrows, European starlings, and house mice or, in the UK/Europe they only ate North American gray squirrels it might actually be tolerable. Or if they didn’t crap and spread toxoplasma around maybe it would be all right. None of which, of course, is the kittehs’ fault – where are the responsible pet owners? Nevermind the public nuisance, how is it good for a beloved pet to be running around where it can get run-over etc.?

    • Hempenstein
      Posted August 27, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      You’re getting dangerously close to suggesting that cats require licenses, like dogs, and that could get you branded as a looney (but not by me!).

    • Posted August 27, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      Your last sentence is why Baihu, though born feral, is strictly an indoor cat.

      Any hunting he’d do outdoors would be fence lizards, sparrows, and crickets — and we’ve got plenty of all those to spare.

      But outdoor cats die at half the age of indoor cats. Cars, dogs, disease — an outdoor cat is unlikely to live much more than several years before dying an unpleasant death. Baihu, on the other hand, should have a couple decades ahead of him.

      When the weather cools down we’ll be back outside — but together, with him on a leash (and most likely half the time on my shoulders). Because he was born feral, he’s terrified of non-Ben humans, so we’ll have to start working on acclimating him to some. I’d love to take him to some of our desert parks (again, of course, on a leash), but that’ll have to wait until he doesn’t panic at the sight of another person.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Posted August 27, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        It is great to know that some cat owners are conscientious of the enormous damage that cats do to wildlife, especially birds. Wish everyone was conscientious, but most cat owners do not seem to be.

        “Subsidized predators” is a great term, Shaggy!

        • Shaggy Maniac
          Posted August 28, 2011 at 10:33 am | Permalink

          Thanks, but I can’t claim it as original – it came from a discussion somewhere, sometime that I can’t recall re: the impact of domestic cats on native bird populations.

  12. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 27, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Never seen one of those before.

    In fact, the Swedish Board of Agriculture has regulations that says open access spaces (say, balconies) must have cat nets if you have cats and the spaces are 5 m above ground. The reason is that hundreds of cats (both outdoors and indoors) are severely damaged by falls every year.

    So I can assume most of those constructions would be prohibited here.

  13. daveau
    Posted August 28, 2011 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    The Spousal Unit keeps bugging me to make a small platform for teh kittehs in our birch tree in the back yard. My issue is how to create the stairs so that they can get up there by themselves. I hada couple of ideas, but there’s tons of solutions here.

  14. still learning
    Posted August 28, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Slightly OT, but there’s a photo on Jeff McMaster’s blog of downed trees post-Irene…with a cat climbing on the top of the pile, of course.

  15. Susan Robinson
    Posted August 28, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Just wondering, wouldn’t human children be safer if they were kept indoors all the time?

    And how many other species would some of you condemn to an indoor-only life?

    Do you know what your world would be like without outdoor cats? You would be knee deep in rodents.

    Dogs are regulated due to their tendancy to bite and/or kill humans. You shouldn’t equate cats with dogs.

    And why do people put out bird feeders? Isn’t that damaging the wild birds’ abilities to care for themselves?

    Humans decimate bird populations. Better tear up all the human’s buildings, homes and parking lots to give the land back to the wildlife. Oh but wait, we’re special, we’re entitled.

    Humans — the ultimate predators — daring to claim they are concerned about felines damaging wildlife! The hypocracy, it’s glaring.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted August 28, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

      Yes, humans damage wildlife. And of of the ways they do it is by maintaining artificially high populations of small predators and letting them run loose. More than half the songbirds in England meet their death in the jaws of a domestic cat. This would not be the case if humans did not keep cats as pets.

      Note that I’m not arguing against pet ownership. I’m arguing for responsible pet ownership, which includes minimizing the impact your pet has on the ecosystem, just as you would try to minimize your own impact. I don’t see any hypocrisy in that.


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