How to Stop Your Kittens (and Cats) from Scratching Everything!
18 December, 2013

Cats inherently have a need to scratch.  Cats that scratch your favorite sofa or expensive drapes are not on a mission to destroy your home, but rather to satisfy certain their needs. Scratching is a marking behavior; it allows them to dispose their scent from special glands on the cat’s paws. It also removes the translucent covering, or sheath, over the claws. The scratch marks, along with the claw sheaths left behind, show happiness and confidence.

How can I stop my cat from scratching?

Because scratching is natural for your kitty, it is difficult to stop.  Think of it as trying to stop a cat from grooming or burying its waste. However, cats can be taught to scratch on more appropriate objects like scratching posts and pads.

What does your cat like to scratch?

Try to find out what your cat likes to scratch. Does your cat prefer to scratch on carpets, drapes, wood or some other surface? Does your kitty scratch vertically, with her paws stretched out above her head or does she prefer horizontal surfaces? Once you have figured out your cats’ preferred scratching preferences, you can then find a scratching post or place that both you and your cat find acceptable.

Find an alternate to what your cat likes to scratch

Scratching posts of all shapes, sizes, and textures are available at most pet stores or on-line shops. If your cat likes to scratch on carpets, a carpet-covered post would be a good choice. But if your cat prefers couches and other nubby surfaces, a post covered in sisal or some other rope-like material might be your best bet.

The scratching post should also match your cat’s preferred orientation for scratching. A cat that climbs and scratches on drapes would probably prefer a post tall enough for a long stretch, such as those that mount on a wall or door. Place the post next to an area your cat likes to scratch. It can then be moved gradually to a location of your choice as your cat develops acceptable scratching habits. If your cat scratches in several locations, provide a post near each of these.

Take your cat to the new scratching post, and reward your kitty with treats, strokes, and praise for using it. Some posts come with toys attached. You can also place food treats or catnip on top of or around the post as an added enticement. Once you get your cat to use a scratching post, do not discard it when it looks ragged and worn—that means the post is well used and serving its intended purpose!

Make unacceptable items unavailable or less attractive to your cat

The only guaranteed way to stop your cat from scratching a given area or object is to block her access to it. Closing doors may be the simplest solution. However, if this isn’t practical for you, items covered with blankets, sheets of plastic, or double-sided tape also hinders scratching behavior.

Trim your cats’ nails but do not declaw!

Remember declawing is not an option and painful for your kitty or cat.  Try trimming your cat’s nails regularly.  There are also plastic claw caps, or sheaths, that can be glued over your cat’s claws. These should only be applied to cats that allow you to handle and manipulate their paws. While wearing these sheaths, your cat is able to go through the motions of scratching, but because the claws are hidden, no damage is done. The sheaths need to be replaced every six to 12 weeks.

Punishing your cat is not a solution

In general, cats do not respond well to punishment, because they see no link between the punishment and their bad behavior.  The only thing punishment does is teach your cat to fear you or can lead to aggression. Yelling, squirting a water gun, or startling your cat with a loud noise when he or she scratches the couch teaches your cat that your presence, rather than the act of scratching, brings punishment.   Therefore, it is important to take the time to teach your cat the right way and not punish him or her for the wrong behavior.

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