Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Keeping the Boys at Bay

I'm still looking for a safe, effective way to prevent the cats from jumping onto the kitchen counter or the dining room table. About.com's Franny Syufy has several suggestions for putting a stop to counter-surfing. One product she suggested is the Ssscat:

Although it may seem to be a Draconian solution, there is an excellent product called Ssscat! which uses a three-pronged approach. An electric-eye sensor on top of a canister which detects the motion of the cat. A loud alarm sounds, coupled with a quick spray of harmless gas. The unit is adjustable, and the spray can be turned off for sound conditioning.

I ordered the Ssscat with the intention of using it to protect my cats from the dangers of the kitchen counter. But when it arrived and I had a chance to examine this product more closely I decided not to try it, based on what the back of the can says:

Warning: Avoid exposing your skin directly in front of the SSSCAT spout in the outgoing gas stream as it may cause frostbite . . .

FIRST AID TREATMENT:

  • If overcome by vapours, move to fresh air and contact medical centre or physician immediately.
  • In case of liquid contact with eyes, skin or mouth, flush with warm water for 15 minutes and contact physician.

I went and posted to a few cat forums, asking for advice. I read a report from the maker of a competitive product called Skat-kat whose web site bashes Ssscat claiming that:

The Ssscat sprays a chemical called Freon R134a which is the same stuff in your refrigerator. Not a good idea. There have been cases of cats being blinded as this device first beeps, waits a second, then sprays.

So just what is this stuff made of? The can says:

SSSCAT Refill contains 100% 1,1,1,2 tetrafluoroethane (HFC134a).

Tetrafluoroethane is indeed another name for Freon. Will this stuff really harm a cat in practice? Makers of a competing product would probably like you to think that Ssscat is dangerous. However, it seems unlikely to me that the Ssscat company would market the product without safety-testing it and the Skat-cat page is the only page on the entire Internet that makes such a claim.

That said, the Ssscat seems like a more radical solution than I need. I just don't like the idea of scaring my boys that much or of bringing more chemicals into my home.

For now, I'll just try some of Franny's free tips:

  • Apply Sticky Tape to the Edge. Cats hate the feeling of sticky tape, and will be discouraged after one or two tries. The disadvantage is that you may have to keep reapplying it indefinitely, and the sticky stuff may be difficult to clean up afterward.
  • Tape a Strip of Aluminum Foil. It's not only the feel of it on their toes, but the noise that deters cats.
  • The Pennies in a Can Trick. This is an old tried-and-true means of deterring cats from many forms of undesirable behavior. Drop a few pennies (or pebbles) in an empty aluminum can and tape the opening. When you see your cat start to jump on the counter, shake the can loudly. The problem here is that he'll learn it's okay to jump when you're not around.

    Another method is to place several of these "shaker cans" right at the edge of the counter with just two or three inches betweeen them. One jump will bring down all the cans, and make a terrific racket, which will also bring down the cat.
  • The Spray Bottle. I don't generally approve of using a spray bottle for discipline, because some people just get carried away and end up drenching the cat. However, ONE very quick spray set to fine mist will do the trick for that one time. If you can manage to do it so the cat doesn't connect you with the uncomfortable feeling, it may be a permanent solution. (However it's my opinion that cats are a lot smarter than we give them credit for.)

15 comments:

Jenn said...

These are all great (and cheap) solutions! My friend uses the aluminum foil on her couch and her cats hate it. Haven't scratched it since the foil was put on. The can of pennies/pebbles worked well on my old dog. It never occured to me to use it with Timothy...hmm...

Speaking as a sort-of new cat owner, the sticky tape is great! Don't bother with the expensive stuff, good old duct tape does the trick. Timothy "tested" it once and hasn't been on the bureau since.

Also, the water bottle works really well. Timmy now runs at the sight of the bottle so half the time, he doesn't even have to get sprayed.

Thanks for the info on Ssscat. I was going to try it until I read about the frostbite. It totally makes sense and I'm surprised that it's allowed on the market.

-Jenn (timothy dickens' mommy)

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Anonymous said...

My boyfriend's mother (who is Swiss and lives in Europe) has always used a water squirter to disway her cats from unacceptable behaviour. Every time one of them jumps onto a surface off limits, she squirts them with water. They eventually "learn" that this is a no no. PLUS it's a cheap way to train a cat. Go out and buy a plastic water spray bottle. Fill with tap water. Voila!

Anonymous said...

I found sscat and thought it could be the answer to keeping my cats from urinating in a corner (nothing else seemed to work) until I found out the ‘safe, non-toxic’ propellant used was anything but safe. Claims of being safe were researched:

HFC-134a is the 'propellant' used in the ssscat product.
Yes, it is the same product used in your car’s air conditioning.

- “HFC-134a has insignificant ozone depletion potential, significant global warming (GWP100 = 1300) and negligible acidification potential (acid rain). 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane is slowly converted to trifluoroacetic acid through a radical reaction in the upper atmosphere and leads to a detectable amount of several ng/L in acid rain.”
- “Toxicology - May be harmful by inhalation.”
- “Stability - Stable. May cause damage to the atmosphere. Incompatible with active metals, strong oxidizing agents.

- “HFC134a has been under review by the EPA, because of its impact on global warming.”

California has strict standards on the release of HFC-134a and I find it hard to believe this usage is OK. Consumer will soon no longer be able to buy small cans of R134A.

I currently have an email into MultiVet asking them to justify using HFC-134a compared to a ‘Compressed Air’ propellant.
All that’s required is air to scare a cat – not tetrafluoroethane.
Think about it, putting a mist of unsymmetric tetrafluoroethane into your house (depending on how persistent your cat is) several times a day.

If MultiVet were to produce an actual Safe, Non-Toxic, environmentally safe product – I’d (try to) be the first in line.
However, to expose my cat (not to mention my family) to ‘small quantities’ of HFC-134a just seems irresponsible.

Anonymous said...

I found sscat and thought it could be the answer to keeping my cats from urinating in a corner (nothing else seemed to work) until I found out the ‘safe, non-toxic’ propellant used was anything but safe. Claims of being safe were researched:

HFC-134a is the 'propellant' used in the ssscat product.
Yes, it is the same product used in your car’s air conditioning.

- “HFC-134a has insignificant ozone depletion potential, significant global warming (GWP100 = 1300) and negligible acidification potential (acid rain). 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane is slowly converted to trifluoroacetic acid through a radical reaction in the upper atmosphere and leads to a detectable amount of several ng/L in acid rain.”
- “Toxicology - May be harmful by inhalation.”
- “Stability - Stable. May cause damage to the atmosphere. Incompatible with active metals, strong oxidizing agents.

- “HFC134a has been under review by the EPA, because of its impact on global warming.”

California has strict standards on the release of HFC-134a and I find it hard to believe this usage is OK. Consumer will soon no longer be able to buy small cans of R134A.

I currently have an email into MultiVet asking them to justify using HFC-134a compared to a ‘Compressed Air’ propellant.
All that’s required is air to scare a cat – not tetrafluoroethane.
Think about it, putting a mist of unsymmetric tetrafluoroethane into your house (depending on how persistent your cat is) several times a day.

If MultiVet were to produce an actual Safe, Non-Toxic, environmentally safe product – I’d (try to) be the first in line.
However, to expose my cat (not to mention my family) to ‘small quantities’ of HFC-134a just seems irresponsible.