The ScatMat. It’s a lifesaver that keeps me from being woken up by cats earlier than a normal person should be up. It delivers a low-voltage jolt to discourage your pet from approaching an area that you don’t want them to be around (i.e. couch, counter surface, the front door, etc). I’m going to get a lot of flack for this because the concept of it appears inhumane, but trust me, it’s not. This is a godsend and was even recommended to me twice by two different veterinary behaviorists, and I’ll tell you why.
My husband and I don’t allow our cats to sleep with us in the bedroom for many reasons, the most important one being that we need our sleep and the cats would otherwise wake us up at 4 AM to be fed. Actually, it’s mainly Lando who does this because he’s a hungry monster. Kingsley could care less about food. In any case, even when we keep them outside, Lando has perfected the art of continuously jumping on the bedroom door handle in an attempt to wake us up to let us know that he’s hungry. He really can be such a pest, but I still love him so much. =) We tried locking the door, but that doesn’t deter him from incessantly beating on the door handle.
So after countless ‘this is way too early to be up’ mornings, we spoke to a couple of behaviorists who both recommended the ScatMat. By the way, a quick little shout-out to veterinary behaviorists out there. If your cat has anxiety or behavioral issues, a veterinary behaviorist is highly recommended. I actually believe they’re way underutilized. They’re veterinarians so they can prescribe medication, but they specialize in “Surprise!”—behavior! They provide really detailed information for owners to make both their pets’ and their own lives better. They’re not cheap, but if you have ever looked at their notes and recommendations, you’ll see why they charge what they do. They’re extremely detail oriented, knowledgeable, and thorough.
Ok, back to the ScatMat. Like I said, it has been a sleep-saver. On the first day that we implemented it, my husband and I actually tested it out on ourselves to make sure that it was not going to be too traumatic. I kid you not. It is a little jolt, but it was enough to prove to Lando that he (or bystander Kingsley) would never want to touch it again.
Humans: 1, Cats: 0
However, it evens out because there have been multiple occasions thereafter where either my husband or I have literally jolted ourselves awake having accidentally stumbled onto it coming out of the bedroom disoriented from slumber. It does take some getting used to and remembering that it’s there, but since then, it’s been a blessing to have. We actually purchased a couple more for other areas around the home.
So why the ScatMat? The key with negative reinforcement is that it has to be immediately after the negative behavior, which is what the ScatMat does. Furthermore, you want it to be done by an external force so that you are not tied to the punishment. Otherwise, you run the risk of the cats fearing you and not the punishment. This is why I’m not a fan of using water to spray pets for bad behavior because in the end, they just become afraid of you and water. Not to mention the fact that by the time you punish them for whatever it is they did, they have long moved on and don’t make the correlation.
So overall, the ScatMat gets 4.5 Paws! Here’s the breakdown:
Effectiveness: 5 paws. It does its job well. ‘Nuff said. Once the cat hears the clicking sound the ScatMat makes when there’s nearby motion, the cats know not to touch it. Do my cats like it? Nope, but that’s the point.
Quality: 4 paws. If you decide to get this, consider the cord version which is a separate purchase. This is because while the battery version is great for portability, the battery compartment can be short-lived and we have had to tweak it on numerous occasions, wedging in cardboard or folded-up paper, to try to secure the battery better. There was a point in time where the battery stopped working and the door handle thumping resumed. Cats are smart. They know when it’s off or on. Sometimes, I’ll even find a cat toy on the ScatMat—I’m thinking they put the toy there to try to see if the ScatMat is on. I also think I underestimate the intellect of my cats.
If you’re looking to find a place to discourage your cats from accessing, this is a good option. And if you yourself have one and are a fan, I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts!
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Theresa Loo