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Freedom for swiss Felines Playing cats and ladders in Switzerland

One in three Swiss households has a cat. So it's no surprise that the Alpine nation's cat lovers go to extremes to make the lives of their feline best friends more enjoyable. One photographer has documented a peculiar widespread effort to help cats get out and about, no matter how high up they live: cat ladders.

These private gangways for cats are usually attached to building façades or drain pipes, allowing cats to traverse the often dizzying heights of Swiss apartment blocks. This allows them both access to the outdoors and the comfort of food and lodgings. Some ladders are more elaborate than others, as we can see in this selection of pictures taken from the book, ‘Swiss Cat Ladders’external link. While the apparatus exists in other European countries, cat ladders seem to have a high concentration in Swiss cities and villages; they’re not just popular as household pets, farmers also use them to catch mice and other rodents.

A cat’s right to roam

Fabian Gloor, responsible for tenancy law at the Swiss Tenants' Association explains that renters need permission before they go to the expense of installing a ladder leading up to their apartment windows. Cat ladders that stretch beyond their own balcony are forbidden without the consent of the property owner. If a building is listed, permission would be needed from the landlord and the local department for listed buildings.

A cat net, which acts like a net curtain around the balcony to keep house cats safe, can be put up without asking for permission, but many landlords don’t allow them – and this might be stipulated in the lease or in the house rules. For the ban on netting to have legal force, the owner would have to give a good reason, such as the building having important historical significance.

Cat facts

Switzerland has a feline population of 1.6 million.

Calculations put a Swiss cat’s average life expectancy at 15 years. The typical household expenditure on a cat amounts to around CHF 20,000. This is without potential vet bills due to accidents and illness.

Veterinary costsexternal link can be high for cats, amounting to more than CHF 1,000 during its lifetime. A tooth infection, for example, could set a caring pet owner back CHF 500 – 1,000, whereas a broken cat bone could add up to CHF 2,700 in vet bills.

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