Oz: Cats get in habit of scratching
Unfortunately it turned out that your favourite couch is also your cat’s
favourite scratching post.
Most of cat lovers get to experience this unpleasant behaviour. Some people find it unbearable and it is one of the most common reasons for surrendering cats to animals shelters.
Clawing by scratching inanimate objects is a part of a cat’s normal behaviour. They do this to sharpen their nails as a part of self grooming, to mark their territory, to exercise, and yes, also out of pleasure.
It is unrealistic to expect your cat to stop scratching. It’s better to try to guide your cat to scratch on legitimate items instead of on your furniture. In order to do that, you should supply your cat with alternative options. A scratching post is your best bet.
Some cats take to the post right away, others might need some training.
I know, you won’t find the scratching post in home decoration magazines, and this is probably the last thing you want in your living room, but remember, cats are social creatures. Because they use scratching to mark their territory I would place the scratching post in the common living area, preferably close to where it is used to scratching. The idea is to try to make the cat like and use the post.
Different cats have different preferences. The post you choose should be tall enough for the cat the dig its claws in and stretch. Cats tend to like it when there is a toy attached to the post and many cats adopt the post as their sleeping area.
Avoid fluffy posts—cats prefer rough and coarse consistency. Pet stores carry all kinds of posts. Buying more than one and placing them in different areas of the house, will increase the chances of your cat getting to like and use the posts.
In order to make the post more inviting, you can rub some cat nip on it.
It is OK to place the cat on the post, but don’t hold its paws and make it scratch, this can have a negative effect. Every time your cat uses the post, praise it with a treat or a hug.
If your cat continues to scratch on your furniture you can try a few other methods. First, do not punish the cat. This will not help. The cat will continue scratching but not in front of you.
Another way to try to break the habit is by placing aluminium foil on the area. This makes the area unpleasant for scratching.
Cats are also averted by citrus smell. Spraying the area with a citrus odor can help keep the cat away.
One more method I find successful is using a water spraying bottle to spray the cat every time it scratches the furniture. It is important that the cat not associate the spraying with you. The idea is to associate scratching the furniture with a bad consequence that “comes out of nowhere.” This not a punishment.
Some cats are very stubborn. You are more likely to train the cat if you start from early age. It might be very difficult to break the habit in an older cat. In order to prevent the damage done by the claws you can apply soft plastic covers, that are glued on the cat’s nail. They should be replaced periodically depending on the cat’s nail growth rate. This should only be used on strictly indoors cats. Cats that are exposed to the outdoors need their nails for self defence.
Some people choose to surgically declaw their cat. This is a permanent, drastic solution and is not done by all vets. Consult your veterinarian to learn all the aspects involved.
Protecting your furniture and other household items is not impossible but it may take a little effort and patience.
Moshe Oz is a vet who operates the Rose ValleyVeterinary Hospital.