science of scratching
Can tech meet cats’ natural needs? A cat scratcher is a must have if you want to keep your cat’s claws - and your couch - in good shape. But what if tech could take the benefits of scratching to the next level?
We looked at the science behind natural cat behavior, then at how science could help us better meet the needs of the apex predator snoozing above your radiator.
Why must cats scratch?
Ever seen a cat strop? No, we don’t mean when they stalk off, tail in the air, because you’ve had the nerve to lift them off your laptop. Stropping is the technical term for feline scratching, and it benefits your cat both mentally and physically.
In nature, cats strop vertically against tall, sturdy surfaces to remove old husks and keep their claws short, sharp and healthy. This action also gives them a full body stretch and releases endorphins, helping them relax.
Why do bright lights beckon?
However cuddly your kitty, cats are natural - and formidable - hunters. They’re wired to chase, stalk and pounce, and this ability provides them with stimulation and exercise for both brain and body.
A quick scroll on social will show you how much they love to chase lasers, which, as well as keeping them fit, is unfailingly entertaining for human bystanders.
They’re not averse to a bit of TV either. If you’ve ever put Attenborough on when your cat’s around, you’ll have noticed they’re as fixated by shoals of fish swimming in the deep as we are.
How, we wondered, could we use technology to satisfy our cats’ natural needs and instincts? Could we design a product that brought about the benefits of hunting and stropping and helped us humans engage and connect with our cat companions?
Our answer was to begin with the way cats interact with technology, and build this insight - quite literally - into one product every cat owner should have: a scratcher. From there, we engineered the Switch, a cat scratcher with over 1,200 irresistible light modes, as attractive to our eyes as they are fascinating to feline ones.
What makes a satisfying scratch?
If cats are to get the full benefits of stropping, they must be able to fully extend their bodies and put their weight behind the downward motion. This means the surface they are stropping against must be sufficiently tall and stable.
We began by compiling data to determine the average height of a cat when fully extended, as well as analyzing other scratchers on the market. We calculated that designing our scratcher 20% taller than average would make it 50% taller than the average cat, giving even bigger breeds the height they needed to stretch to the maximum. At 33", the Omlet Switch stands 6" taller than the average scratcher.
For cats to scratch with confidence, a scratcher must have the strength to withstand the full force of their weight. Our designers countered this with anti-topple technology, a weighted inner chamber that, once filled with either water or sand, gives the Switch a low center of gravity and provides an extra 5.5lbs to increase stability by 45% without the extra shipping weight and cost.
Furthermore, we selected 100% biodegradable sisal for the sleeve, with vertical grooves and rough texture to emulate tree bark, and recreate the sensation of stropping in the wild.
the best scratcher on, and for, the planet
We didn’t stop there. Having designed a scratcher tall and stable enough to help our cats relax, we asked, how can we make it sustainable enough to give us peace of mind? Scratchers are made to be ripped, torn and shredded - it’s what they’re for - but does that mean they must be disposable? Many scratchers have short lives and inevitably end their days at the dump. We wondered, can we design a scratcher to be destroyed and live forever?
Beginning with the base, we chose materials suitable for purpose - and posterity. The Switch has a bamboo base harder than white oak, which will never need replacing. With a fully biodegradable sisal sleeve replaced roughly every six months, we worked out that the Switch can save 74lbs of landfill and 110lbs of CO2 over a cat’s lifespan. So, whether you choose the cream or coffee colorway, the Switch is green from every angle.
SWITCH, CAMERA, ACTION
"This takes scratching to the next level!"
"The coolest cat product!"
Baku and Yuki going wild for their Switch scratcher.
"The different settings keeps the cat entertained for hours."