Cats like to scratch—and with good reason. They scratch to mark their territory. They scratch as a means of threatening other cats. They scratch in play. They scratch while stretching. And the act of scratching actually removes frayed and worn outer claws, exposing new, sharper ones. Unfortunately, cats can cause a lot of damage to furniture, drapes, and carpeting with their claws.
WHAT TO DO
- Provide your cat with a variety of scratching posts—cardboard, carpeting, wood, upholstery, etc. Some cats prefer horizontal posts and others prefer vertical posts, while still others favor slanted posts. Some cats like pile carpeting, while others will only scratch on sisal. Some prefer a longitudinal grain for raking, while others like a latitudinal grain for picking. Once you ascertain your cat’s personal preferences, provide additional posts in various locations. All cats should have a sturdy post that won’t shift or collapse when used. Cats also like a post that is tall enough so they can stretch fully—presumably why they like drapes so much!
- Encourage the cat to investigate the posts by scenting them with catnip or hanging toys at the tops of the posts. Take care to place posts in areas where the cat will be inclined to climb on them.
- Discourage inappropriate scratching by removing or covering desirable objects in your home. Turn speakers to the wall. Use plastic, double-sided sticky tape, sandpaper or vinyl carpet runner (turned upside-down to expose the knobby feet) on furniture or on the floor where the cat would stand to scratch. Place scratching posts adjacent to these objects.
- Clip the cat’s nails regularly.
- Consider using plastic caps (Soft PawsTM) for the cat’s nails. These caps attach to the nails with an adhesive so that if the cat scratches, no damage is done. The caps are temporary, lasting about 4 to 6 weeks.
- If, and only if, you catch your cat in the act of scratching an inappropriate object, you may try startling the cat by clapping your hands or squirting her with water. Do this sparingly because the cat may associate you with this startling event and come to fear you.
WHAT NOT TO DO
- Do not hold your cat up to the scratching post and force her to drag her claws on it. This procedure may frighten the cat and teach her to avoid the scratching post completely.
- Do not throw away your cat’s favorite scratching post when it becomes unsightly. Cats prefer shredded and torn objects because they can really get their claws into the fabric—and best of all, the object is infiltrated with their scent.
The term “declaw” is a misnomer, and implies that just the claws are removed. This is untrue—declawing actually involves amputation of the end of the cat’s toes. Cats suffer significant pain recovering from declawing.
An alternative surgery—called tenectomy—severs the tendons in the toes so the cat is unable to extend the nails to scratch. There appears to be less pain associated with recovery from this surgery. Owners who opt for this surgery must clip the cat’s nails regularly because the cat is unable to maintain them himself.
The ASPCA highly discourages either form of surgery. Indeed, declawing and tenectomy are illegal in some European countries. It is ASPCA policy to recommend considering such surgeries only if concerted behavior modification efforts have failed and euthanasia is pending.
Information courtesy ASPCA