Controlling Your Cat’s Need to Scratch

by Bonney Brown

Even people who love their cat deeply may get frustrated with their cat’s choice of places to scratch. Scratching is a natural behavior for cats. It’s essential for their physical and psychological wellbeing as it is one way they claim their territory. It also provides important exercise for your cat and just plain feels good.

While you cannot, and really should not, stop your cat from scratching, you can train them to use acceptable surfaces. Here are some important tips to control where your cat scratches:

  • Provide a suitable cat scratching object. Options range from inexpensive cardboard pads to elaborate scratching posts. Most cats prefer cardboard, sisal or natural wood to carpeting, but cats have individual preferences. You can buy a scratching post or make one yourself. Many cats are happy with a simple, natural log.
  • Make the scratching post attractive to your kitty by putting it in a prominent place, not hidden away. Rub it with catnip. Be sure that it’s stable and will not tip over. Many cats prefer a taller post so that they can get a good stretch.
  • Make the place the cat has been scratching unattractive by using physical (sticky strips, aluminum foil, or a throw blanket) or non-toxic scent deterrents.
  • Trim your cat’s claws regularly. This is easy to do with cat nail trimmers or with human nail clippers.  For instructions go to: http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/cliented/cat_claws.aspx.  You can also consider Soft Paws, which are soft plastic caps for the claws.

Sometimes people think that declawing their cat may be a good solution; however, it is an irreversible major surgical procedure which involves amputating the last joint of the cat’s toes. The result for the cat is like amputating the last joint of our own fingers. It is traumatic for the cat and creates not only physical pain, but oftentimes emotional suffering that can result in behavioral problems, including aggression, becoming withdrawn, or inappropriate elimination.  Cats have a natural tendency to hide pain which may lead some people to believe that it is okay to declaw; but animal shelter staff will attest that it is very common to see declawed cats surrendered due to serious behavioral issues.

If you need help controlling your cat’s scratching, please reach out to Nevada Humane Society’s free Animal Help Desk at 775-856-2000 ext. 200 or animalhelp@nevadahumanesociety.org. Their skilled staff will help you devise a plan to resolve your situation while preserving your cat’s claws and well-being.

 

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