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Overcoming 7 Obstacles to Cat Ownership

Cat Scratching and Other Behavior Issues

It’s in a cat’s nature to scratch. They scratch to remove frayed bits of claw, to mark territory, to work off energy, and to play. Yet you can have both a cat and nice furniture by giving kitty some other outlets. Try these solutions:

  • Scratching posts. Provide several scratching posts made of sisal, cardboard, or wood. Scent the posts with catnip to get your feline friend interested.
  • Claw caps. Also called “nail caps,” these tiny vinyl sleeves slip over a cat’s claws, painlessly preventing him from doing damage when he tries to scratch. They are available online and at pet stores and many veterinarians.
  • Nail trimming. Trimming a cat’s claws isn’t difficult, especially if you start while your furry friend is young. You can get tips on claw trimming on the web sites of the ASPCA or HSUS.
  • Declawing. This is a controversial practice, so you should consider the pros and cons carefully. A cat’s claws  grow from the bones of their digits, so permanently removing a claw means amputating the last joint of each digit. If you’re thinking of adopting a kitten, the Humane Society suggests a more sympathetic solution: Immediately introduce your kitten to scratching posts and other acceptable objects to satisfy his itch to scratch.
  • Talk to a vet, veterinary behavior specialist, or CAAB. If you bring a cat into your life and find you can’t get a handle on one of her behavior issues, always talk to a veterinarian to rule out health problems. Simple issues like a urinary tract infection can cause a cat to vocalize, stop using the litter box, or even become aggressive. Rule out problems such as these before assuming your cat is incorrigible and beyond redemption. If the cause is behavioral, a CAAB or veterinary behavior specialist can help. Many offer remote consultations and can work closely with your own veterinarian.

Cats can fill a home with purring warmth, silly play, and lots of affection. Yet before adopting a cat, be sure you’re ready for the commitment of a lifetime -- the cat’s lifetime.

Still not certain? Talk to your local veterinarian about briefly fostering a cat or kitten, or offer to ”cat-sit” for a friend. Either way, you’ll get a taste of the bliss -- and a few of the burdens -- of living with a cat.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on March 24, 2013

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