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Destructive Scratching in Cats


Destructive Scratching in Cats

Scratching is part of normal behavior in cats.  It serves many useful purposes such as:

1.  Removing the dead outer layer of their claws

2.  Marks their territory by leaving both a visual mark and a scent  (They have scent glands on their paws.)

3.  Stretches their bodies, feet and claws

4.  Works off energy   

Since your cat is not born knowing instinctively that she should not scratch on pretty couches that cost a lot of money and on other furnishing, it is your job to each her.  If you want to change where she is scratching you need to make the inappropriate scratching site unattractive to her while, at the same time, providing her with appealing appropriate areas to scratch.  Doing this involves the following (as taken from the Denver Dumb Friends League at http://www.ddfl.org/behavior/scratch.htm):

There are several ways to make the inappropriate area unappealing.  You can cover the inappropriate objects with something your cat will not like, such as double-sided sticky tape, aluminum foil, sheets of sandpaper or a plastic carpet runner with the pointy side up.  Or you may give the objects an aversive odor by attaching cotton balls containing perfume, a muscle rub or other unpleasant odor.  Be careful with odors, though, because you donít want the nearby acceptable objects to also smell unpleasant.

At the same time you need to provide your cat with appealing, acceptable areas to scratch.  These included cat scratch posts (such as rope-wrapped posts), corrugated cardboard or even a log.

Place the acceptable object(s) near the inappropriate object(s) that sheís already using.  Make sure the acceptable objects are stable and wonít fall over or move around when she uses them.

When your cat is consistently using the appropriate object, it can be moved very gradually (no more than 3 inches per day) to a location more suitable to you.  Itís best, however, to keep the appropriate scratching objects as close to your catís preferred scratching locations as possible.

Donít remove the unappealing coverings or odors from the inappropriate objects until your cat is consistently using the appropriate objects in their permanent locations for several weeks, or even a month.  They should then be removed gradually, not all at once.

You should not punish your cat for scratching unless you actually catch her in the process of scratching on the inappropriate object and have provided her with acceptable scratching objects.  Punishment after the fact wonít change the behavior, may cause her to be afraid of you and may elicit defensive aggression.  Punishment should never involve hitting or hurting her in any way.  Appropriate punishments when you catch her in the act of scratching on something inappropriate include loud noises (using a whistle, shaking a can filled with rocks, slapping the wall) or giving her a firm ďnoĒ.

Declawing should never be done!    There are many very important reasons for this:

1.  Declawed cats tend to be more aggressive and display more biting than cats who are not declawed.

2.  Declawed cats are significantly more likely to urinate outside the litter box than cats who have not been declawed. 

3.  Declawed cats can never be allowed outdoors because they cannot climb high places to escape predators and cannot defend themselves.

4.  Declawed cats cannot climb high cat scratch posts or condos for exercise.

5.  Declawing is illegal or considered inhumane in many countries including Australia, Austria, England, Germany, Spain and Sweden.

Many well-meaning people have their cats declawed, only then to be left with the problem of a cat who urinates outside the litter box (such as on the carpet) and who cannot be let outdoors.  Such cats are at risk for having their humans turn them over to shelters for euthanasia.



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