Scratch Scratching Off Your List of Your Cat Worries

You can train a cat not to claw your beloved furniture

mediumJune 16, 2016

What a cat can do to furniture is amazing, and likely the single most hair-raising thing about having a cat as a pet. The problem is that cats must have a place to use their claws for three reasons: it keeps their “nails filed”, it exercises their upper body and (such a cat thing) it marks their territory.

Declawing…a non-option

Declawing is inhumane. When you declaw a cat you are basically maiming it. It’s irreversible. It is the equivalent of surgically severing each of a human’s fingers from the base of the nail.

It can also lead to behaviors you find even more horrific than attacking your furniture was. For example, the painful operation can make cats not want to go near a box full litter that is painful to move with those poor tender toes. If a cat experiences that type of anxiety around a litterbox, it may never learn to approach it again, their behaviors are very much shaped by every single experience they have. Having a cat do his business outside the box is such an undesired thing! But there are countless other instances of cats becoming distressed and insecure after this brutal operation and behavioral changes are unpredictable and none of them positive for either you or kitty.

And, apart from behavior complications, there can be physical complications, too. Things like tendon contracture and balance issues can occur. Balance issues can lead to muscle atrophy and the list goes on. Note, too that if a declawed cat is ever out in the wild (heaven forbid the cat is left to be an outdoor one), the cat has no means of defending itself in any hostile environment.

The reasons are many. Please please please don’t do it.

What can you do? A lot! Have a look:

Transference: put a scratching post directly infront of the spot in question. You’ll make it hard to reach that favored spot and you’ll make the scratching post a very obvious thing to check out. You can gradually move it to the place you want it to be, but only after it has been recognized as the new normal for scratching.

StickyPaws: fantastic invention…merely double-sided tape but wider, and more maleable. It truly works in that cats find touching it incredibly unpleasant. Place this over corners and surfaces that your cat scratches.

Two directions of scratchers: post-type scratchers are great for diverting scratching of furniture and pad-type scratchers help keep your gorgeous rugs from becoming bald. Cats like to scratch both horizontally and vertically.

Interrupter: it is never ok to (1) hit your cat (2) use a sprayer bottle or (3) yell and scream when you come home from work and see the sofa’s been scratched. No violence and no delayed reactions. Timing is everything (even five minutes after the deed is done it’ll do you no good to pick up your cat, plunk him infront of the damage and giving him the third degree. He will make no connection whatsoever to the act and the undesired result and could fear you and your randomness. However, interrupting him the minute he is involved in the act is very effective. A terse calling of his name, or “hey!” or “nope!” should do the trick. (“NO!” can feel overly frightening to both you and them, because we ourselves feel that anxiety of having been berated, rather than taught, a lesson in our lives.)

Rewards, perhaps the most important of all: at the same time as implementing all the preventative measures, it is crucial to give positive feedback for all post use. My recommendation is to make a ritual: cup of coffee in the morning, glass of wine at the end of the day…just sit there and welcome your cat over to the post. Scratch it softly. Sprinkle a little catnip on it. Try your best impression of “skirch, strichy, skirch” or however you can interpret that sound and reproduce in your own words! Mine sounds ridiculous, but over the time spent with my cats and those motions, that post, my cocktail and my noises, my cats know that sound as part of me wanting them to use their claws on that scratcher.

During my cocktail our, they got plenty of rewards for their attempts to understand me. My cats are so well trained that not only do they avoid scratching the sofa, but if they feel like a treat, they run to a scratching post and scratch madly as they look over at me to be sure I’m registering how much treat they deserve. Who cares that they’ve turned it into manipulating me! The protected furniture is the end result. And it is darned cute, too.