I don’t know about you, but my cat will be the death of me…or of my couch, chair, table, etc…. Here are some tips that will help stop kitty from destroying your furniture.
- Reasons not to declaw.
- Scratching is natural behavior for cats.
- Why do cats scratch?
- Provide your cat with an appropriate scratching post.
- How to get your cat to prefer the post.
- Trimming your cat’s nails.
- Soft Paws ®–Vinyl nail caps for cats. An excellent alternative.
Your sofa and your nerves are in tatters! You’re scolding your cat, knowing all the while that it’s futile. This is not a Cocker Spaniel you’re dealing with. This is one of nature’s most pragmatic and self sufficient creatures. Worse, you’re well aware that your cat considers your behavior aberrant. She looks at you as if you’ve gone slightly mad. “Why the Fuss?” she seems to say. “What are you raving about? I’m simply doing my thing–what’s with you?
You’re at an impasse. What to do?
Don’t jump to the surgical solution: don’t declaw your cat.
The trick to managing scratching is to train the cat to use a post AS SOON AS THEY COME INTO YOUR HOME. You may need to buy a few different types of posts to find the one that your special new friend likes, but spend the bucks. Praise Kitty when she uses your new post. Locate it near to where she sleeps because scratching deposits pheromones in the paw pads on the environment, and when Kitty wakes up, she wants everyone to know that this is her special territory!
A cat’s claws are a vital part of its anatomy, and are there for a reason: their survival. Surgical removal of the nails involves an irreversible surgical procedure that typically involves amputating at the last joint of the cat’s toes. It is a painful procedure with potential for complications. Pain management with medications is essential both during and following this procedure. Another procedure, called tendonectomy is even more controversial.
Cats are designed with a delicate balance—just watch them walking, run, stalk, climb, and jump and you will be thrilled with their agility! You’ve observed cats climbing trees, teetering perilously on a single branch, leaping incredible heights to land on a pre-selected spot, or threading in and out of complex arrangements of knickknacks without disturbing a single ornament. (unless, of course, they choose to do so!) These are acts of balance requiring their claws in part.
In addition to being an intrinsic part of a cat’s normal conformation, front claws are a cat’s “front-line” defense. Once declawed, there is no replacement or re-growth of the claws. You may think, “My cat never goes outside.” But what if your cat accidentally gets outside and you can’t find her? She is now at a disadvantage in a potentially hostile environment.
Some cats may not do well after declawing, especially those that are declawed later in life. Here, healing is slow, and adaptation to the new condition is poor in many instances. If signs such as urinating on your favorite rug or spraying your antique armoire occur, they can indicate poor adaptation. Kitty may become hostile to people (including you), and to other cats, and become more apt to bite if poor adaptation occurs. Some consider the procedure inhumane, and in wild felids kept in zoos, it is considered universally unacceptable.
For more information on declawing, please visit http://www.declawing.com
Say it again, scratching is a natural behavior for cats.
This isn’t exactly a revelation, since you probably have the evidence everywhere–in the tattered corners of your sofa, the shredded drapes, and in your frayed nerves. Though Kitty’s natural propensity for scratching might not be new news, it is a fact that you’ll need to take into account if you’re to make any headway in winning the battle to keep her from scratching in places you consider undesirable.
You can’t keep your cat from scratching!
What you can do is stop her from scratching those items you value and want to keep in their relatively pristine state. Bear in mind Mark Twain’s advice, which applies universally: Never try to teach a pig to sing; it frustrates you and annoys the pig. Translate this bit of wisdom to your dealings with cats and you’ll avoid a good deal of futility and frustration. You can’t make a cat do anything she doesn’t want to do. And getting her to stop something she enjoys and is programmed to do is just about as difficult. Therefore, you have to think smart and re-channel her location preference.
A word about punishment–Don’t do it!
Cats don’t understand physical punishment. In addition to it being wrong to hit your cat, punishment simply doesn’t work and is likely to make your situation worse. Clever though Kitty is about many things, she won’t understand that you’re punishing her for scratching the couch. She will only compute that sometimes when you catch her she is treated badly. This may make her insecure and stimulate her to scratch more or develop other undesirable behavior problems. Eventually you will break the trust and security that is the basis for your cat’s relationship with you, and you will find it very difficult to catch her for any reason at all. Cats have excellent memories and hold serious grudges.
Why do cats scratch my valuable stuff?
Hey, this stuff is valuable to you. For them, it is just another scratching post! As mentioned above, this is their king-cat-dom, and this is why they mark the most visible portions of your house. It’s Kitty’s way of adding her own personal touch to your (and her) home. Her version of interior decorating is with scent glands of face and paws!
Scratching also serves to keep your cat in shape. The act of scratching stretches and pulls and works the muscles of a cat’s front quarters–a cross between a feline gym workout and Kitty Yoga. It also helps to remove the dead nail sheaths that if not removed by scratching, lead to serious nail overgrowth, lameness and potentially, nail bed infections. Hey! It also feels good to scratch (we think—by the look on their faces!). So give up the idea of reforming Kitty’s desire to scratch. Re-channel her into scratching where you want her to. You’ll both be happier.
Provide your cat with appropriate scratching posts.
Since your cat brings you so much joy, you decide to buy her the softest, prettiest and most luxurious scratching post you can find. You take it home and your feline friend gives you a blank stare and walks away. This activates your parental guidance mechanism and you decide to show her how to use the post by taking her front paws and making scratching motions at the post. She of course struggles till she gets free of you and then treats you with utter disdain for the rest of the day. Never make the mistake of trying to “show her how” to scratch anything. You’ll only offend her. She knows perfectly well how to do it. She just reserves the right to scratch when and where it suits her. Try a bit of catnip rubbed on the post. Place it where she normally scratches. Play near the post, which may help kitty associate the post with fun. Sometimes if you scratch the post, kitty will follow suit. Praise kitty when you see her using her post.
Usually, cats will appreciate more then one post, and be more inclined to use their scratching furniture as a result. In the wild, cats may scratch on trees with a variety of bark types, as well as on tree roots that run along the ground. Consider buying kitty a horizontal or “angle” scratcher as well as a vertical post to accomodate these two scratching positions. If kitty has three favorite places in the house where she likes to hang out, for best results put scratching posts in all three of those locations. When cats get the itch to scratch, they look for a place nearby; they don’t want to travel to satisfy their scratching urge.
We are saying– appropriate .
Bear in mind that your idea of desirable and Kitty’s may not coincide. Cats like rough surfaces that they can shred to pieces. The scratching post with the most aesthetic appeal to your cat is often a tree stump, though this is a bit unwieldy in a one-bedroom apartment. Whatever post you choose, it must be tall enough for her to fully extend her body, and most important, it must be secure. If it topples over even once, she won’t go back to it. Sisal scratching posts are ideal for releasing Kitty’s primal urges. This is a material she can shred to pieces with great satisfaction. Be sure not to throw it away when it is shredded, since that’s when she’s just broken it in satisfactorily, and she will not appreciate your tidiness!
How to get Kitty to prefer the post!
Remember that an important part of scratching is the cat’s desire to mark a territory. If it topples or shakes, she won’t use it though. It should either be secured to the floor or have a base wide enough and heavy enough to keep it stable. Have her chase a string or a toy around the post or attach toys to it, which will result in her digging her claws into it. Eventually she will learn to love it and regard it as her own. Cats like to scratch when they awaken, especially in the morning and the middle of the night. If space permits, a scratching post in every room of the house is a cat’s delight. The most important place is the area of the house in which you and Kitty spend the most time. I have many sisal posts in my house, yet often in the morning my cats line up to use the one in the living room.
If at first Kitty is reluctant to give up her old scratching areas, there are means you can use to discourage her. Covering the area with aluminum foil or double-sided tape is a great deterrent. These surfaces don’t have a texture that feels good to scratch.
Remember too that Kitty has marked her favorite spots with her scent as well as her claws. You may need to remove her scent from the areas you want to distract her away from. You will find pet odor removers in pet stores. Cats have an aversion to citrus odors. Use lemon-scented sprays or a potpourri of lemon and orange peels to make her former scratching sites less agreeable to her.
If Kitty still persists in scratching the furniture, try squirting her with a water gun or a spray bottle set on stream—but keep out of sight or she will learn to avoid you and do the behavior when you are gone. Another option is a loud whistle or other noise-maker. You must employ these deterrents while she is getting positioned for scratching for them to be effective. The point is to establish an aversion to the spot you don’t want her to scratch.
Start them young.
As mentioned above, if you are starting with a kitten, consider yourself fortunate. It’s much easier to initiate good habit patterns than to correct undesirable ones. From the beginning teach your kitten the appropriate place to scratch. Use the methods already described, especially playing around the scratching post to capture her interest. Take advantage of your kitten’s desire to play and attach toys to the post. She will soon “dig in” to catch her toy and discover how good it feels to scratch this surface. Do not take her paws and make her scratch the post. This is a major turn-off and will only inspire a bratty “you can’t make me” attitude. Even at an early age, cats refuse to be coerced into doing what they don’t want to do.
If she starts to scratch an inappropriate object, immediately place her in front of her scratching post and begin petting her. Some cats will begin kneading when petted, thus digging their claws into the desired surface and establishing this as a fine place to scratch. Cats are creatures of habit. Start them off with good ones.
Trim your cat’s nails regularly
This might seem obvious, but setting up a regular schedule, putting the days on the calendar, and sticking to it is the way to go! You can defray some of your cat’s potential for destruction by carefully trimming the razor-sharp tips of her claws. You will find this endeavor more easily accomplished by two people, one to hold Kitty gently and one to trim her nails. If done regularly from a young age, with gentle handling, and plenty of praise, the event will become just another part of your regular grooming routine. Hear regular—keeping to a schedule of trims will help your cat understand that this is life…You may need to start by trimming just one nail per session, then if you are lucky, maybe two—the bottom line is never to force her to accept this grooming technique. Once you do, she has a memory of an elephant and will remember that when the trimmers come out, she should go and hide…or hiss and spit and do whatever… to get rid of this aversive event! Follow this link to learn how to trim nails in a gentle and effective fashion See our articleNail Trimming.
An excellent alternative..
If all of this is too time consuming and you have a strictly indoor cat, you have another very desirable option; a wonderful product called Soft Paws ®. These are lightweight vinyl caps that you apply over your cat’s own claws. They have rounded edges, so your cat’s scratching doesn’t damage your home and furnishings. You can find Soft Paws ® on the web by clicking here or call 1-800-989-2542.
Soft Paws ® are great for households with small children, as they guard against the child getting scratched. They are also extremely useful for people who are away from home all day and simply can’t apply the watchfulness necessary to train a cat to use a scratching post. An important caveat here, however; they should be used only on indoor cats, since they blunt one of the cat’s chief means of self-defense. Soft Paws ® last approximately six weeks once Kitty becomes accustomed to them. At first they may feel a bit strange to her and she may groom them excessively, causing them to come off sooner. She’ll get used to them quickly though, and thereafter they will last longer. It is amazing how well cats tolerate the Soft Paws ®— most don’t even notice they are wearing them.
Soft Paws ® come in a kit and are easy to apply. Just glue them on. They are generally applied to the front paws only, since these are what cause most of the destruction to your home. A kit will last approximately three to six months, depending on your cat. After applying the Soft Paws ®, check Kitty’s claws weekly. You may find one or two caps missing from time to time, and these are easily replaced using the adhesive included in the kit. To make application easier for both you and your cat, follow the instructions on how to acclimatize your cat to having her paws handled.
The great majority of cats tolerate Soft Paws ® well. The brattiest of my own cats, a princess who is hyper-fastidious, wears them with aplomb. On her, by the way, one Soft Paws ® kit last at least five months.
As a checklist, here are the pertinent things to remember:
1- Don’t declaw!
2- Understand your cat’s need to scratch—it is totally normal and will never go away!
3- Forget punishment–it doesn’t work—the movie says it: Cats rule!
4- Provide a suitable place for your cat to scratch
5- Make the scratching post attractive to Kitty (e.g., use sisal posts)
6- Make the place she’s been scratching unattractive (use physical or scent related deterrents)
7- Whenever possible, start cats young since if trained early, almost EVERY cat can be educated to leave your valuable furniture alone
8- Trim your cat’s claws (on a regular schedule, starting in kittenhood)
9- For indoor cats, consider Soft Paws ® as an easy alternative.
Remember, cats were scratching stuff a long time before we invented high priced furniture and drapes…be patient and your reward will be a kitty that knows your territory and hers!