Cats, by and large, are pretty low-maintenance pets. For the most part, they’re easy-going. They do what they want, they don’t demand a ton of your attention, and they take care of themselves without training as long as you provide their food and keep their litter box clean. However, there is one trademark habit of cats that countless owners struggle with: their propensity to rip your furniture and carpet to shreds. Yikes!
It might seem hopeless to believe that you could keep your furniture safe from the wrath of your kitty’s claws, but rest assured that it’s entirely possible — you just have to know how to handle it. As experienced veterinarians in Philadelphia, we know that scratching is something that’s important for the health of cats, and that’s why you need to know how to manage this potentially destructive habit. Here are some tips:
Redirect the Scratching
Scratching things is the cat equivalent of chewing for dogs. Every experienced dog owner knows that chewing is inevitable — it’s essential, after all, for maintaining healthy teeth. One of the most common solutions for chewing is to generously provide a dog with chew toys and treats. This doesn’t stop them from chewing, it simply provides a more tempting alternative, which redirects their habit so that it’s not destroying your stuff.
The same goes for cats. If you want to stop them from scratching, good luck. Instead, redirect their habit. There are countless scratching posts, cat towers, and other products that are designed to be scratched. One general tip is to avoid the shorter scratching posts; many cats feel like they need to stand up and stretch when they scratch, and these often aren’t tall enough to satisfy them. Tall cat hotels are a great option, and it’s also good to have these sorts of items all over the home.
Reward Positive Behavior, Punish Bad Behavior
This is another training tip that carries over from dogs. One of the most reliable way to cultivate positive habits in a dog is to admonish them when they do something they’re not supposed to, and reward them when they’re being good. The same applies for cats, and it’s a good way to transition them away from your furniture.
The tricky part? Rewards and punishment only work when you catch them in the act. It’s handy to have treats on-hand, so you can give one to your cat right when you see them scratching in a “good” spot. Likewise, carrying a spray bottle around with you can be handy, because you can give them a quick spray if you catch them scratching your couch. Unfortunately, verbal praise and punishment is not nearly as effective for cats as it is for dogs; you need something more tangible. Training your cat in this way requires diligence and consistency, but if you can pull it off, you may very well solve the problem for good.
Protect Your Surfaces
Another way to stop your cat from scratching your stuff is to create a physical barrier. There are various products out there which are designed to repel cats from otherwise appealing surfaces, such as your couch, chairs, or carpet. Double-sided sticky tape is a good example, and there are other everyday items such as tin foil which can create a similar effect.
Yes, this will make your furniture ugly and unsightly, but this is ultimately a temporary measure that’s meant to turn your cat off to the respective surface. Naturally, this technique will only work if you have other scratch-friendly objects in place to which they can redirect their attention.
Trim Their Claws
Cats scratch things to keep their claws healthy. Well, you can actually help them with this. It may result in less scratching, but it can also mitigate the damage. Trimming your cat’s claws is the solution; it will make them less sharp, which reduces the damage, and it may cause them to scratch a little less. The best time to trim claws is when your cat is sleeping. Just make sure you know proper trimming techniques, otherwise you could actually hurt your poor kitty.
DO NOT Declaw
One important piece of advice: do NOT declaw your cat! This practice has long been considered inhumane, and has even recently been banned in the state of New York. Cats need their claws as much as humans need their fingers, and removing them can cause a lifetime of chronic pain, stress, and behavioral problems for your kitty. It might seem convenient, but it’s not the solution.
Always Be Attentive of Your Cat’s Health
Finally, you should always be considering the overall health of your feline friend. As we mentioned before, scratching isn’t just something that cats do for fun, it’s a self-care measure for the health of their claws. With just about any kind of pet, behavioral problems often come down to their health, and it’s good to have consistent appointments with your local vet clinic to ensure that everything is going well.
At 2nd Street Animal Hospital, we treat cats, dogs, and even exotic pets such as birds and reptiles. We’ve helped countless Philadelphia residents to have happier and healthier pets, and we’d love to help you. Want to set up an appointment? Contact us today to get started.