"I love it when my kitty makes muffins!"
My cat is driving me nuts scratching my most prized possessions! Why is she doing it?
Kittens and cats don't scratch to make us angry, they scratch because they need to scratch. Scratching is a natural hard-wired behavior in cats, just like breathing and purring. In the wild, cats scratch around their immediate environment to signal their presence to other cats and to claim the area in question.
Cats secrete pheromones from superficial glands in the skin of the cat's paws through the process of kneading (a.k.a "making muffins"). The message is invisible and undetectable unless you have the right equipment (a super sensitive nose). A competitor coming up to the site will see the scratch marks and then smell the message: another cat has already claimed this area.
Scratching removes the nail sheaths (the outer layer of dead cells) from the claws. You might think your cat scratches to sharpen her claws, but it more likely provides her with a form of physical therapy for the muscles and tendons of her paws.
How can I stop her from scratching my favorite couch?!
You can't make a cat do anything she doesn't want to do. And getting her to stop something she enjoys is just about as difficult. Therefore you have to think smart and re-channel her desires.
1) She's scratching your best furniture. Teach her to scratch her OWN furniture.
Cat scratching posts/boards are quite effective, especially when rubbed with catnip. Also, provide your kitty with a cat tree if possible. They can literally exhaust themselves playing on it and it's hilarious to watch. Be sure that the tree is sturdy, if it topples over once, she's less likely to use it again. Purchase a tree that has a wide base and best yet, secure it to the floor if possible. Make sure it's covered with a material, such as rope or carpet that she can dig her claws into. DON'T physically place her paws/claws on the tree, cat's don't like to be forced to do anything!
2) Make the "old" scratching posts (i.e. your favorite velvet couch and silk drapes) less appealing to your kitty.
Try covering the area with aluminum foil or double-sided tape. These surfaces don't have a texture conducive to scratching. Remember that Kitty has marked her favorite spots with her scent as well as her claws. You may need to remove her scent from the areas you want to distract her away from. Cats have an aversion to citrus odors. Use lemon-scented sprays or potpourri to make her former scratching sites less agreeable to her.
Should I punish my cat when she scratches?
Cats don't understand physical punishment. In addition to it being wrong to hit your cat, punishment simply doesn't work and is likely to make the situation worse. Kitty is quite clever about many things, but she won't understand that you're punishing her for scratching the couch. She will only compute that sometimes when you pick her up she is treated badly.
Where can I find cat scratching posts and trees?
Visit your local pet store (Pet Food Express) or you can find a variety of scratching posts/trees on cozycatfurniture.com. And, if all else fails and you're handy (or have a handy spouse), you can make your own!
How can I encourage my cat to scratch her scratching post?
1) Make the post a fun place to be by hanging toys on it, or rubbing it with catnip.
2) Place the scratching post where your kitty spends most of her time. Placement near a sunny window can provide hours of "Bird T.V" for her.
3) Spray your cat with water when you see her scratching the wrong places. Ideally, don't let her know the spray is coming from you. Maybe she will think it's the "Furniture Devil" that squirts water when it's upset.
What if I've tried all of the above suggestions and she is still scratching the furniture?
If your kitty is adamant about scratching your favorite couch and you've exhausted all of your options, visit www.softpaws.com. Softpaws are nail caps that get glued onto your kitties nails. We perform SoftPaw application here at the clinic should you choose to go this route. PLEAST NOTE: SoftPaws are recommended for INDOOR-ONLY cats. Kitty needs her claws to defend herself when she is outdoors. The Country Vet does not perform nor recommend declawing.
PLEASE NOTE: When introducing a new kitten or older cat to your home, start scratch-post training before a problem arises. It's easier to establish good habits rather than try to correct bad ones. Also, resist replacing the cat post when it's badly shredded. After all, it is a scratching post!