An artist photographs atypical ladders installed to help cats climb into their buildings in Bern

Cats ladders have made their apparition in many cities. These miniatures allow kitties to move up and down the stairs and hallways of their apartment complex with ease.

Bern, the Swiss city, is full of them. Consequently, graphic artist and author Brigitte Schuster has compiled a book about these unusual cat structures titled Swiss cat ladders.

A cat-sized hole cut into the pane of a second-story window, followed by a zigzagging set of wooden boards leading to the street below. That’s a typical cat ladder.

To go down the street in style, all a feline living in this building has to do is use these handy little ramps. These installations adorn many edifices in Bern.

Once Brigitte Schuster moved to the city, she became fascinated by them. Being a foreigner, she thought these cat ladders were fascinating and began taking pictures of them.

Not just cat ladders

 After five years, she decided to publish a book on the topic. Brigitte Schuster wanted to document the phenomena of cat ladders in Swiss cities or villages, by focusing on those found in Bern.

A topic that fascinates her is the constantly evolving installations, where new ramps are added and others removed. For her, cat ladders are a piece of Bern’s cultural heritage.

In a city where cat lovers are the majority, Schuster likens her photographs of cat ladders to an archivist’s work. In an interview with The Guardian, she explains the sociological dimension of her work.

The well-being of their cats is a major issue for cat owners. Therefore, the author attests that ladders play a role in this process of humanization.

“Cat owners help cats up and down, just as we humans use stairs or ladders”, she remarked

Ladders are designed to give freedom to the cat and its owner. They remove the need to open the door to let the pet. Likewise, checking if the cat has finished its break and wants to go home is no longer necessary.

There are many different designs for homemade cat ladders. For instance, treads attached to a drain pipe can create a makeshift vertical pathway.

 Sometimes people attach ladders to buildings years after they were initially built. Ladders can take the form of slats arranged in a zigzag pattern along an exterior wall or a narrow boardwalk connecting a tree and a balcony.

Cats may be nimble, but that doesn’t imply they’ll automatically use the ramps built for them. Learning how to use a cat’s ladder is a new skill for many cats.

The cat’s owner can train it to use the stairs by rewarding it with treats when it succeeds. Brigitte Schuster points out that while there are plenty of cats in various places across the world, cat ladders are not necessarily a regular fixture.

 “Thousands of stray cats in Istanbul use normal stairs and stairwells instead than the cat ladders that have been installed for them.”

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