The animals at the petting zoo in the Chattanooga Zoo will breathe—and scratch easier this summer.  A group of UTC engineering students have designed several low-cost scratching posts for them to use.

left to right: Mark Pitre, Brett Smith, and Courtney Branson show off their scratching post they made for the petting zoo animals at the Chattanooga Zoo.

left to right: Mark Pitre, Brett Smith, and Courtney Branson show off their scratching post they made for the petting zoo animals at the Chattanooga Zoo.

The Chattanooga Zoo’s petting zoo has a variety of animals including a large Scottish Highland bull, miniature horses, goats, and camels. Previously, the zookeepers had to brush the animals by hand. Also, because the animals cannot scratch themselves, they could not “mark” their territory, which is part of their natural behavior.

“It was too time consuming for the keepers to get to every animal,” UTC Courtney Branson said. “So we made several large scratching posts to hang on the fences at different heights.”

After several designs, the team decided to use mats and doorstops to make their scratching posts.

“We were walking through the home improvement store one day, and saw the doorstops. We thought they would be perfect for our project. We then found large, industrial strength mats to attach them to. We spray painted the entire thing so it would better blend into the environment,” Branson said.

For student Brett Smith, teamwork is what made the project successful.

“It was great to do hands-on learning as opposed to just learning about theory, but it was hard. We had to come up with all the answers on our own as opposed to having a book tell us. Our team worked well together. It was a fun challenge,” he said.

Smith’s other teammates were William Bryant, Michael Milam, and Mark Pitre.

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