Starting from Scratch

Damage to furniture from scratching is second only to litterbox lapses in cat owner complaints—but a shredded couch need not be a given. Cats scratch for three reasons: 1) to condition and groom their claws; 2) to mark their territory visibly and with scent from glands in the paws; and 3) to stretch and exercise. Addressing each of these issues will direct your cat’s scratching post choices and limit damage.

First, trim your cat’s claws. Monthly nail trimming removes the outer shell and sharp tips. Use cat nail scissors and clip only the clear, hooked portion of the claw. If you nick the pink quick, it will bleed. Dab the nail with cornstarch to stop the bleeding.

Provide your cat with a sturdy scratching post covered with sisal rope and carpet. Lure him to the post with a dangling toy. As he reaches for the toy he will scratch the post and leave his scent. His scent will entice him to return to the post. Some cats also enjoy cardboard posts that are catnip scented and easily shredded. Because cats frequently stretch and scratch after waking, try using a post with a cradle or platform top on which she can sleep. Even better, get a tall, multi-level tree on which she can climb, jump, and exercise before and after her naps. Remember your cat likes to be near you, so put her tree in the room you use the most.

After trimming your cat’s nails and providing him a scratching post, make the previous choices for scratching (i.e., couch, curtains) less desirable. Mask his scent with a citrus deodorizer. You can also make the surface unpleasant to use with double-stick tape or a sheet of aluminum foil.

If you follow these guidelines with patience and positive reinforcement, it is possible to share your home with your cats and your nice furniture.

For other tips and behavior advice, call Pam at For Cat’s Sake, 301/933-KITY.

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