Kitty clawing habits are a huge source of frustration for cat owners. Trying to curb these destructive behaviors is often a frustrating cycle of increasing poor pet behaviors, which baffles owners and often results in unhelpful tactics of punishment. The first thing a cat parent really should understand is that cats need to scratch. Scratching helps remove a clear sheath that grows over the claws. Additionally, it provides physical activity, enjoyment and helps mark territory. Scratching is a natural instinct to cats, and a difficult one for them to overcome. Your favorite armchair looks like any other scratchable surface to your cat—you can’t blame her for being confused! The first step to helping your cat stop scratching stuff she shouldn’t is to offer her okay-to-scratch alternatives. Choose scratching posts and pads that are covered with thick, tough materials such as sisal. Open-edged cardboard is a great alternative. Ensure that these okay surfaces are at least three feet long or high – cats like to stretch out while they scratch. These can be placed in spots where your cat already scratches. Sprinkling catnip on and around these scratchable surfaces will encourage your kitty to explore. Often, a proper scratching surface is all that’s needed; once your feline friend discovers the wonderful texture, they won’t return to your antique table legs again. Another method that might be helpful is to trim your cat’s claws or apply plastic nail caps. A groomer or vet can often handle the claw-trimming for you, but it’s easy to complete at home, as well. Trimming your cat’s claws won’t eliminate scratching, but it will lessen the impact. Plastic nail caps are easy to apply at home and make it impossible for your feline friend to get his claws in your favorite sofa. (Remember, de-clawing a cat is rarely the solution – the risks far outweigh the benefits.) Remember to reward good behavior! Whenever you catch your kitty scratching an approved scratch spot, offer her a treat, praise and plenty of petting once he’s done. The same goes if your cat behaves nicely during a claw trimming or nail cap application. Never use physical means to rebuke your pet when she practices bad behavior; this teaches her that you’re the schoolyard bully, and will actually cause her to act out more. Loud noises can be useful reminders, but if your cat starts becoming skittish when you talk loudly, you’re definitely overdoing it. Cover areas the cat frequently scratches with double-sided tape. Cats hate the sticky feeling and won’t enjoy scratching there anymore. This can be an unsightly item in your home, but often, it’s a temporary necessity. After a while, your cat will associate stickiness with that spot and won’t return. If the item being scratched is too beautiful and important to cover with tape, find a way to limit the cat’s access to it. Finally, make sure your cat is getting exercise. Toys that encourage cats to pounce, stretch, run and flex their paws are excellent diversions. They help your cat get the same exercise that he’d be getting from stretching out to scratch your couch but has benefits for his health and happiness—and your sanity!
Posted on 2011-09-01 by Amanda Harper