Furniture, carpet, and clothing, just a few of the items cats love to scratch. Though destructive and often annoying from the point of view of humans, it is a necessary practice for your kitty. Scratching helps remove the dead skin layer, or sheath, from their nails and also serves as a way to mark territory. Since scratching is a natural and necessary activity for your cat it is best to find ways to allow this activity that will not damage the contents of your home.
The first reaction for many is to have their cat declawed. However, it is important to know that this is painful surgery with many risks and possible long term negative effects. Declawing is not simply removing the claws, it is a procedure that would be equivalent to removing the tips of all your fingers and toes. Afterwards, the cat can no longer bear weight on the entire foot, only the back portion, giving them an unnatural gait. Following the procedure the pain can last for weeks or longer. Chronic pain as a result of this trauma has been know to change a cat’s personality.
There are ways to keep kitty content and your furniture intact:
Provide acceptable areas for your kitty to scratch
There are many different types of scratchers available for your cat in a variety of styles and sizes. Notice where your cat likes to scratch to determine the type of surface they favor (carpet, fabric, etc.). Does kitty tend to reach up to scratch or prefers a flat surface? Gather information and then find a scratcher to match your cat’s taste.
To attract your cat to use the scratcher, make it as inviting as possible with dangling toys, catnip, or other sent your kitty likes. Be sure to put it in an easily accessible area
Keep your cats claws trimmed
Properly maintained claws will minimize damage when the unavoidable happens. Trim nails once a week to keep claws at proper length.
Once kitty finds a place they like they will continue scratching in this area. To discourage repeated damage, make the spot as uninviting as possible by:
- Cover the area so it is no longer accessible This does not have to be a permanent change, only long enough for kitty to break the habit of going to that spot.
- Apply double stick tape to the surface. Kitty will not like the sticky feel and will be discouraged from revisiting the spot.
- If caught scratching, spray kitty with a squirt of water from a spray bottle. Done each time, the spray of water will become associated with that spot, therefore making it undesirable. This method will only work if kitty is caught in the act since otherwise it will be inefficient for changing the behavior.
- Put an acceptable scratcher near the unacceptable spot and make the scratcher more desirable to attract kitty to it.
Provide acceptable scratching surface, be consistent in teaching what areas are off-limits, and over time your cat will learn and respect the boundaries you impose. The result will be a happy, well adjusted kitty and an undamaged home.