Last month, a cat named Pebbles from Fresno, California, got a new scratching post — a handsome two-tone sisal rope affair bought on sale from the supermarket — but its existence has yet to register in her Scottish Fold brain.
“Look, Pebbles,” said owner Stephen Rose, holding the $8.99 post in front of the cat and wiggling it for perhaps the hundredth time. “It’s your new scratching post. Want to scratch it?”
Pebbles demurred. In fact, Pebbles appeared not to be aware of the interaction at all. She instead looked at her foot.
“At first I thought it was the room — maybe she doesn’t like scratching in the living room,” said Stephen, who cycled the post through the kitchen, the guest bedroom, and the hallway, then the bathroom and the den and the entry and even the walk-in closet.
“She wouldn’t look at it anywhere,” he said. “She literally cannot see this post.”
Dr. Carol Ashland of Pets Forever and Ever in Washington, D.C., said Pebbles should be able to see the post, given that her eyesight is fine and it’s a post and it’s right in front of her.
“As hunters, cats have great eyesight,” she said. “An $8.99 post should be no problem for a cat like Pebbles to see, or for any cat to see, really.”
Animal behaviorist Marge Lawson of Daytona, Florida, spent some time with Pebbles, and she agrees.
“A cat can see a cricket from 30 yards away,” she said. “This medium-sized post with that two-tone sisal and the carpet base, all arranged together and set on the floor directly in Pebbles’ line of sight? It should give her no trouble, despite the price tag.”
To help Pebbles see the sale item, Lawson devised a series of training routines intended to make the cat encounter it. In one, she led Pebbles through the house by placing a trail of Pop-Tarts on the ground. After several hours of quietly eating the breakfast treat, Pebbles finally reached the intersection of the Pop-Tart trail and the scratching post. Instead of noticing the post or even acknowledging the fact that a large object had appeared in front of her (by perhaps circling around it or God forbid scratching it), she lay down and fell asleep.
“I waited all afternoon, but my services cost $30 an hour and Stephen works in food delivery, so we thought it was best to stop the session,” said Dawton. “But my official assessment? It’s a post. Pebbles can see a post.”
Stephen isn’t so sure.
“I once caught her looking out the sliding glass door, so I gently slid the post between her and the glass,” he said, describing an incident from late February.
Did she see the clearance item?
“I don’t think so. She sort of sighed, though.”
Stephen says he considered returning the post but couldn’t find the receipt, and he’d had trouble returning things to that particular store before.
“Is the post a little too plain?” Stephen suddenly asked this reporter.
I assured him it was not, that any cat would be delighted with a fine post like that.
“They had ones with cat boxes and perches and toys hanging off the side. One had a place you can clip your iPad for cat games.”
Stephen looked at his cat, who was off to the side of the post, keeping the post just out of her direct line of sight.
“I think the two-tone really brightens up the room,” he finally said.
The new scratching post joins other things Pebbles cannot see, including her water dish, all of 2014’s Christmas gifts, and Stephen’s girlfriend, Mary.
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