Cats Need to Scratch
Many cat owners wonder if it is even possible to have a cat and nice furniture in the same house. When cats cause damage to furniture some owners can get so frustrated they turn to declawing the cat. Other owners just assume that to declaw the kitten or cat is just “what you do to an indoor cat.” Declawing is a surgery whereby the veterinarian amputates the end digit and claw of a cat’s paws-similar to cutting a person’s finger at the last joint. It is painful and life changing for the animal. The Humane Society of the United States opposes declawing and it is outlawed in many European countries. Scratching is a natural behavior for cats.
The effect of declawing is to change the feet and take away one of the cat’s normal defenses. Cats don’t defend themselves with their teeth by choice, they defend with their claws first. If you declaw cats, you have taken away their means of being polite and giving warning first.
Declawing may be able to be avoided by understanding the cat’s needs and providing good alternatives for scratching, along with patience, consistency and praise.
Why Do Cats Scratch?
• To remove the dead outer layer of their retractable claws
• To mark their territory by leaving both a visual mark and a scent-(they have scent glands on their paws)
• To release pent-up energy or emotional stress
• To exercise, stretch and flex
Redirect the Scratching
The first step to solving the problem is to realize that this is a normal feline behavior. She is not doing anything bad or trying to cause damage- she simply uses the best scratching post she can find! We do not want to prevent her from using her claws altogether, just redirect them to an appropriate scratching post or pad.
Getting the Right Scratching Post
You may need to experiment with several scratching posts/objects until you find the one that your cat will like. The post’s location is just as important. Observe the physical features of the objects that your car is scratching.
• Vertical or Horizontal- This is a matter of your cat’s personal taste. They may like both- so several different posts should be offered. Posts should be at least 28” long or tall. They want to stretch so taller posts are better.
• Texture- soft or coarse? Cardboard or sisal rope are typically attractive to most but actual logs with bark may do the trick
• Location- Put posts near where your cat tends to scratch now and/or where you are. Good choices are locations your cat goes by often in its daily routine. (ie. A spot that would be passed going to and from the litter box) Kitchens and bathrooms are places where you can notice and praise your cat for using the post. Don’t put the post in an out of the way place like a spare bedroom or basement. Cats need to know you are happy with their behavior.
• Stability- Scratching puts a lot of pressure on the scratched objects, so be sure it won’t fall over, as this may frighten the cat and deture future use.
• Apply cat nip to make posts attractive and fun.
• PRAISE! PRAISE! PRAISE!
Like most training the earlier you start , the better. Remember though, kittens younger than 6 months generally do not respond to cat nips as well as adults. You may need to try other incentives.
Fix Trouble Spots
In areas where your cat has scratched that you do not approve of, try these techniques.
• Use double-sided sticky tape
• Inexpensive pet repellent or citrus sprays -but be sure not to use if appropriate post will be placed in the area. These work best if applied to area daily until the cat is retrained.
• Move something to interfere with area where unacceptable scratching is happening. (i.e. door stop, magazines, footstool) These may be moved later when scratching posts are being used consistently.
• Keep furniture covered until your cat has been using the post routinely and no longer attempts to get at the furniture.
• Routinely trim cat’s nails. We can show you how.
Should you replace old posts?
Now the cat is faithfully using the post, So much that it’s now shredded and mangled. If you lovingly rewrap the post, or get a new one, there’s a good chance your cat’s not going to like it! They had gotten that post the way they wanted it, with all the visual and scent markings! Don’t get rid of the post. Rather, get an additional post and place it nearby so they’ll have a great new scratching option. Retrain to this new post.
Scratching isn’t just for maintaining the health of the nails, but also for marking and emotional expression. Remember, scratching is normal and is part of the “package” of owning a cat!
Call us with any questions!
Animal Care Hospital of Reynoldsburg