Cats, claws and your furniture!

Cats are almost the ideal pet to have. They are relatively low maintenance creatures and very independent. They can be as loving, loyal and affectionate as dogs. One of their only negative features that most cat lovers get to experience is their tendency to claw  the house furniture or other inanimate objects. Some people find this behaviour unbearable, therefore this is one of the most common reasons for surrendering cats to animals shelters.

Clawing by scratching inanimate objects is a part of a normal behaviour in cats. It is very important to remember that your cat does not scratch your furniture in order to spite you. They do that to sharpen their nails as a part of self grooming, marking their territory, to exercise, and yes, also out of pleasure. It would be unrealistic to expect your cat to stop scratching. You better accept the scratching as a part of your cat behaviour and try to guide it to scratch on legitimate items instead of on your furniture. In order to do that, you should supply your cat with an alternative options. A scratching post is your best bet. Some cats take after the post right away, others might need some training. I know, you won’t find the scratching post in home decoration magazines, and this is probably the last thing you want in your living room, but remember cats are social creatures. Because they use scratching to mark their territory I would place the scratching post in the common living area, preferably close to the area it is used to scratching on. The idea is to try to make the cat like and use the post. Different cats have different preferences. The post you choose should be tall enough for the cat the dig its claws in and to stretch. Cats tend to like it when there is a toy attached to the post and many cats adopt the post as their sleeping area. Avoid any fluffy posts, cats prefer rough and coarse consistency. Pet stores carry all kind of different posts. Buying more than one post, and placing them in different areas of the house, will increase the chances of your cat getting to like and use the posts. In order to make the post more inviting, you can rub some catnip on it. It is okay to place the cat on the post, but don’t hold its paws and make it scratch it, this can have an negative effect of rejection of the post. Every time your cat uses the post, praise him with a treat or a hug.

If your cat continues to scratch on your furniture you can try a few other methods. First, do not punish the cat. This will not help. The cat will continue scratching but not in front of you. Another way to try to break the habit is by placing aluminum foil on the area. This makes the area not pleasant for scratching. Cats are also averted by citrus smell. Spraying the area with a citrus odor can help keep the cat away. One more method I find successful is using a water spray bottle to spray the cat every time it scratches the furniture. It is important that the cat will not associate the spraying with you. The idea is to associate scratching the furniture with a bad consequence that “comes out of nowhere”. This not a punishment.

Some cats are very stubborn. You are more likely to train the cat if you start at an early age. It might be very difficult to break the habit in an older cat. In order to prevent the damage done by the nails you can apply soft plastic covers, that are glued on the cat’s nail. They should be replaced periodically depending on the cat’s nail growth rate. This should only be used on strictly indoor cats. Cats that are exposed to the outdoors need their nails for self defence.

Some people choose to surgically declaw their cat. This is a permanent drastic solution. This surgical procedure is very controversial and is not done by all vets. If performing this surgery crossed your mind, consult your veterinarian to learn all the aspects involved in this kind of procedure.

Protecting your furniture and other household items is not impossible but it may take a little effort and patience on your behalf. Perseverance and understanding that this process might take a while can lead to the desired harmony of sharing your home with your feline friend.


Dr. Oz can be reached at www.KelownaVet.ca

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About the Author

Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna.

Dr. Oz has deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM,on 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is internal medicine and surgery.

In his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.

Dr. Oz can be contacted through his website: www.KelownaVet.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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