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Cat Scratching: Tips & Tricks for Saving Your
By Dr. Becker
There are lots of good reasons why your cat scratches
and claws around the house, none having to do with a
desire to destroy your expensive belongings!
Using their claws is a perfectly natural feline behavior
and provides a number of positive benefits to the animal.
It helps kitties stretch and tone their shoulders
It sheds the older layers of nails and keeps the
claws clean and smooth.
Kitties use clawing to mark their territory both
visually and with the scent of their paw pads.
It reduces stress and just plain feels good!
If your kitty seems to have a special fondness for
shredding your favorite spots in the house like your
side of the bed or your recliner, according to Amy Shojai,
a certified animal behavior consultant, its because
she loves you and wants to share her scent with you.
Its important to understand why your kitty scratches
so you can direct her energies toward less destructive
use of those sharp little claws.
As declawing of kitties becomes less and less popular
-- and thank goodness for that -- people owned by cats
and pet product manufacturers are dreaming up ever more
creative ways to help your cat do his thing, without
destroying your home.
The mesmerizing array of cat scratchers available on
the market from the simplest scratching post
to the truly unique Tiger Cat Scratcher -- is a good
Learn the How, What and Where of Your Cat's Scratching
Kitties vary in the ways they scratch and the surfaces
If you've just acquired a new kitten or adult cat,
ideally you planned ahead. You set up appropriate scratching
surfaces around your home which perfectly suited her,
and your new furry family member is already using them.
But what if that's only what you wish you'd done (or
tried without success to do), and kitty is now hard
at work on the corner of your sofa or a section of your
The best thing to do is observe her scratching behavior
and try to match your scratcher purchase to it. Some
kitties scratch horizontally. Some reach high overhead
vertically for a good back stretch. Some lie on their
backs and scratch a surface above them like the filmy
fabric underside of the box spring on your bed, for
Also observe what types of surface your cat prefers
to scratch. Some cats prefer soft fabric while others
like wood flooring.
If possible, buy or make cat scratchers that will satisfy
both your kitty's preferred scratching position and
surface. This might involve more than one scratcher
Persuading Kitty to Use the Scratcher
When you have your scratching surfaces ready to go,
they need to be placed where they'll be used. Remember
that clawing is in part a marking behavior for your
cat, so it's likely she's returning to the same place
It's doubtful your cat scratchers compliment the décor
of your home, but unfortunately, they need to be located
as close to that sofa corner or section of carpet as
possible in order to entice kitty. You can also try
locating one in front of the window she looks out of,
her feeding area or her litter box.
Sticking the scratchers in out-of-the-way spots your
cat doesn't frequent is unlikely to solve the problem.
Like the litter box rule for multi-cat households (one
litter box per cat plus one extra), it's a good idea
to have one more scratcher than you have cats. So if
you have two kitties at home, a good rule of thumb is
to have three legal' scratching surfaces. Many
cats don't like to share their scratching territory.
Once you've got your scratchers in position, the next
challenge is to get kitty aimed in the direction of
the new target.
Encourage your cat to explore the scratcher using a
lure like a feather toy or a toy with some catnip rubbed
on it. Offer praise and treats each time she uses the
post and especially when she digs her claws into it.
Pet her while she's using the post, and give her any
other kinds of positive reinforcement she responds to.
The idea is to make it an appealing experience each
time she uses the new scratching surface.
Discouraging Illegal Scratching
While you're training your cat to use appropriate scratching
surfaces, you'll also need to make any illegal surfaces
he's fond of as unattractive as possible to him.
Depending on what surfaces you want to protect, consider
using some or a combination of the following kitty scratching
Double-sided tape (your kitty won't tolerate the feel
of sticky tape on his paws)
Plastic carpet runners, car or chair mats with the spiky
If you're covering surfaces you need to use frequently,
like furniture, you can attach the foil, tape or plastic
to pieces of cardboard and easily move them in and out
There are also herbal spray deterrents available that
are designed to replace your pet's paw pad scent markers
on furniture or other surfaces with an odor that will
discourage him from returning to that spot.
If you're still seeing your cat scratch inappropriate
surfaces, try associating an unpleasant sensation or
sound to the event. As long as she can't see the person
behind the bottle, spray her with water when you catch
her in the act.
You can also make a loud, startling sound from around
the corner or behind the wall. The goal is to connect
scratching in the wrong place with an unpleasant consequence
like a spray of water or the noise of a whistle, for
What you don't want is to have your pet make a connection
between you and the unpleasant consequence, because
she'll come to believe it's safe to scratch when you're
Clipping or Covering Your Cat's Claws
Clipping the tips of your cat's front claws once or
twice a month will make them less destructive when she
It's best to get your cat used to having her paws handled
while she's still a kitten, but no matter your cat's
age, start the process by simply stroking your kitty's
paws regularly to desensitize her. Incorporate paw massages
into your daily routine to keep your cat feeling comfortable
about nail trims.
Purchase a set of claw trimmers from your veterinarian
or a pet supply store, or just use a regular sharp (human)
nail clipper. Do the following:
With your cat in a calm, relaxed mood, take one of her
paws and gently press a toe pad to extend the claw.
You'll see the nail on the end (clear or white) attached
to pink tissue called the quick (which contains the
nail's blood supply). Cutting into the quick will cause
pain and bleeding, so you want to avoid this area of
Holding the clipper in a vertical position, cut each
nail about halfway between the sharp tip and the point
where the quick begins. Avoid cutting at a right angle
across the nail, as this may cause splitting.
If you do happen to cut into the quick, don't panic.
Just focus on soothing and reassuring your kitty. Any
bleeding should stop on its own very quickly with a
little pressure or you can also use Kwik Stop styptic
If your cat is fearful, impatient or uncooperative,
try trimming just a nail or two each time. You'll get
to them all eventually.
If you want to take the trimming one step further,
there's a product available called Soft Paws. These
are nail caps you can glue over your kitty's trimmed
tips, virtually eliminating the damage she can do when
she scratches. Drawbacks are they are tricky to apply,
have a tendency to fall off or be pulled off by your
kitty, and need to be replaced frequently.
NOTE: This article is for information only. See your
veterinarian for medical advice.
About the author: This pet-friendly article was brought
to you by Dr. Karen Becker, Mercola Healthy Pets resident
proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. For
more pet care tips and to stay up to date with her latest
recommendations, visit HealthyPets.Mercola.com where
you can also get your FREE Homemade Treats for Healthy
Pets E-book today!
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