like to scratch. They scratch during play. They scratch while stretching. They
scratch to mark territory or as a threatening signal other cats. And because
cats’ claws need regular sharpening, cats scratch on things to remove frayed,
worn outer claws and expose new, sharper claws. Unfortunately, all this
scratching can cause a lot of damage to furniture, drapes and carpeting!
The best tactic when dealing with scratching is not to try to stop your cat
from scratching, but instead to teach her where and what to scratch. An
excellent approach is to provide her with appropriate, cat-attractive surfaces
and objects to scratch, such as scratching posts. The following steps will help
you encourage your cat to scratch where you want her to.
Provide a variety of scratching posts with different qualities and
surfaces. Try giving your cat posts made of cardboard, carpeting, wood, sisal
and upholstery. Some cats prefer horizontal posts. Others like vertical posts
or slanted posts. Some prefer a vertical grain for raking, while others favor a
horizontal grain for picking. Once you figure out your cat’s preference for
scratching, provide additional posts of that kind in various locations. Keep in
mind that all cats want a sturdy post that won’t shift or collapse when used.
Most cats also like a post that’s tall enough that they can stretch fully.
(This may be why cats seem to like drapes so much!)
Encourage your cat to investigate her posts by scenting them with catnip,
hanging toys on them and placing them in areas where she’ll be inclined to
climb on them.
Discourage inappropriate scratching by removing or covering other desirable
objects. Turn speakers toward the wall. Put plastic, double-sided sticky tape,
sandpaper or upside-down vinyl carpet runner (knobby parts up) on furniture or
on the floor where your cat would stand to scratch your furniture. Place
scratching posts next to these objects, as “legal” alternatives.
Consider putting plastic caps on your cat’s claws (Soft Claws®)
so that he’ll do no damage if he scratches on something in your home. These
special caps attach to claws with an adhesive. They’re temporary, lasting four
to six weeks.
If you catch your cat in the act of scratching an
inappropriate object, you can try startling him by clapping your hands or
squirting him with water. Use this procedure only as a last resort, because
your cat may associate you with the startling event (clapping or squirting) and
learn to fear you.
If you need help, don’t hesitate to call in the experts. Please see our
Professional Help, to locate a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB
or ACAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB).