The first, and most important, thing to know is that scratching is a natural cat behavior that is relatively easy to prevent.
Cats scratch to mark territory – there are scent glands in cats’ paws that leave a sort of “calling card” to tell the other cats he/she was there. The act of scratching also attracts humans’ and other cats’ attention, letting them know what he or she is up to and where she/he is. A scratched surface also leaves a highly visible sign to other cats that the territory has been marked. Cats also scratch to stretch their bodies, during play and to greet each other or their humans. It can also help relieve frustration. In addition, cats have scent glands at the base of their tail and next to their mouths (in the corners) that they rub on surfaces to once again mark their territory.
- Do NOT chase or yell at the cat who scratches – this only makes the behavior more likely to occur and can cause the cat to fear you. Cats who scratch for attention are getting exactly what they want when you yell and chase – albeit negative attention, it is still attention.
- Provide scratching posts that are at least 2.5 feet in height and not carpeted (rope, sisal or wood are the best materials). When a post is carpeted, it may lead the cat to think that ALL carpeted surfaces (including your floors) are ok to scratch on. Plus, carpet unravels and can be dangerous to the cat. Make sure your posts have solid, heavy bases so they don’t tip over while the cat scratches them.
- Place posts in 2 or 3 locations where the cat spends most of his time. It’s especially effective if you place posts directly in front of your cat’s favorite scratching spot (i.e. the arm of your sofa). Also consider placing posts where your cat does most of his sleeping so that he can stretch and scratch upon waking. Do NOT hide posts in the corner. Understandably, they are not always the most attractive additions to your home, but in order for them to actually work, the cat needs to encounter them in his usual path of travel through a room. Once the cat has used the post regularly for several weeks, move the post by inches each day (VERY slowly) to a more preferred location. Still, however, keep the post as near as possible to the places he currently scratches that you don’t want scratched.
- If cats scratch your carpet, consider a floor scratcher or Super Scratcher (corrugated cardboard laced with catnip – they love these!)
- Do not put your cat’s paws on the post and force him to scratch it. Instead, encourage him to use the post by rubbing it with catnip and playing with interactive toys on and around the post. He will most likely naturally scratch it during the course of playing.
- When your cat does scratch the post, praise him and give him treats. This reinforces that the behavior is a positive one.
- For more stubborn scratchers, consider blocking the area he scratches most often. You can do this by simply stacking boxes in front of the area. You can also try rearranging the furniture to disrupt his habit.
- If there is a certain object (like a chair) that the cat chooses to scratch, put the chair away for a week, bring out scratching posts and let him establish new habits, then return the chair, but in a new location.
- Feliway spray can also be used on surfaces to encourage cheek rubbing instead of scratching. To use Feliway, keep the container at room temperature. Shake well before using. Spray once at each location, four inches away from the surface and eight inches up from the floor.
- As another deterrent, recommend using Sticky Paws or double-sided tape on surfaces the owner doesn’t want scratched. These products must be left on for at least one to two weeks WHILE providing scratching posts. Cats do not enjoy the sticky surfaces.
- For the most stubborn cats, you may need to leave the scratching post directly in front of the object that has been scratched (that you don’t want scratched).
- In a multi-cat household, try to provide many posts with a variety of surfaces. Keep in mind that, even in a single-cat household, your cat may not like the first post you purchase. Return those and try a different style and material until you find one he likes.
We at Tenth Life strongly discourage declawing. Due to the inhumane nature of the declaw surgery, plus the fact that it is disfiguring and mutilating the cat, it is not a valid option. Please know that scratching is a very easily-remedied behavior.
Additionally, declawing very often leads to litter box problems, inappropriate elimination (which is a MUCH harder behavior problem to rectify), a host of behavior problems, biting and aggression. Cats are aware of their disability when declawed and they often use their teeth as their first defense.
Even though laser surgery claims to be a quicker surgery and recovery period, problems can still develop – infections and behavior problems are exactly the same risk level.