Cooling Your Cat’s Fever to Scratch
It’s generally not personal when your beloved kitty decides to redecorate your favorite furniture with a few scratch marks. In most cases, scratching is instinctual; cats are compelled to find a (usually) vertical surface and … shred. But whether it’s a direct message to you or an ancestral need, one thing is certain: You want the furniture shredding to stop.
But cats scratch furniture, walls, cabinets and other not-specifically-for-scratching objects for several reasons. They scratch for health and comfort, as their claws build up a layer of dead material that needs to be removed. They scratch for territorial reasons, leaving visual marks as well as scent-based reminders by expressing the scent glands on their paws. And they also do it simply to stretch their bodies, from claw to tail.
So now that you know that you kitty isn’t going to (and shouldn’t!) stop scratching, you can switch your focus from prevention to protection. Protection of your furniture, that is.
Better ways to scratch that itch
The easiest way to redirect your kitty’s couch-killing claws is to simply give him or her more appealing options. Cats, perpetually particular, likely won’t like the first surface you provide, so try to offer options with different shapes and textures. Though most kitties tend to prefer tall vertical scratching posts, some prefer horizontal surfaces. More often than not, coarse surfaces will do the trick. Corrugated cardboard, carpet-laden surfaces, sisal rope, even wood can divert the pointy attention from your furniture.
After acquiring a variety of options, place them near his or her favorite scratching areas. Also place one next to their preferred sleeping spot; cats, like, their humans, need a good stretch in the “mornings.”
Make their approved claw-sharpeners even more appealing by placing his or her favorite toys on or near the new posts. You might even sprinkle a little catnip on their new scratching areas.
You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours
As with any pet training, positive reinforcement is better than the ol’ squirt bottle. Be vigilant, consistent and patient, making a concentrated effort to reward your kitty every time they choose to give their new scratching posts a workout instead of what’s left of your TV stand. Repetition and consistency are key. The bonus is that this is a great excuse for more snuggle time and treat-dispensing.
As a last resort, you can get out that water bottle and fire a few squirts when your kitty goes for the furniture claws-first (or you can try loud hand claps or even the clicker), but keep in mind that this could instill fear of certain parts of the house (or certain people) in your cat, especially if he or she is a kitten or recently adopted adult.
Cats are notoriously stubborn, so your kitty might not “take” to his or her new scratching posts immediately. Unfortunately, your cherished possessions need immediate relief, so you might have to take temporary precautions. If he or she likes to attack small, moveable objects (speakers, rugs, etc.), try getting them out of his or her sight until they set their claws on approved objects. Place double-sided tape on the things they are unlawfully scratching, because cats hate sticky things. You can also double-stick the floor near their favorite spot.
In extreme cases, you can cover your furniture with plastic or line the floors with something your cat doesn’t like walking on, like newspaper or plastic.
Clip the claws to clip the urge
Finally, trim your cat’s claws. This should be done regularly whether your kitty is shredding the furniture or not, but since part of the reason cats scratch is for claw maintenance, a little trim can go a long way toward keeping that sofa presentable.
With a little patience and a lot of understanding, you can make your cat happier and your living room more livable (for everyone). Your cat’s fever to scratch is manageable!
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