As lovable as cats are, their scratching tendencies are not! Do you have a cat that is causing you to pull your hair out when you look at your leather couch, hardwood dining setting, or screen doors?
It can put a strain on your relationship and make it difficult to appreciate each other after a while. For some owners that feel they are at their wits end have even thought about nail clipping, or placing specialised caps on their cats nails that create a dull tip. Whilst these may seem to fix the problem, they, however, will never get to the root of the behavior and modify it.
Well, the good news is that there is redirection behavior that can solve your problem, the bad news is that with everything it takes time and patience to overcome and shift the behavior.
Remembering that scratching for cats is perfectly normal, and they love it!
What causes cats to scratch in the first place?
It is natural, instinctive and normal for cats to scratch. You will never be able to stop a cat from scratching completely and that is not the aim. You can, however, redirect the behaviour to a designated pole or poles to provide the enrichment they are searching for.
Some owners turn to clipping their nails... whilst this is fine for indoor only cats, this can be problematic for indoor/outdoor cats. Those razor sharp claws are not only used for tree climbing and grip, they are also their first line of defense in a fight with another cat or dog. If you cut their claws and remove their tips, how can they protect themselves adequately whilst out and about teasing dogs?
The main reason cats scratch is:
- To mark their territory
- Stretch and condition the muscles in their paws
- When they are playing
- When they are feeling happy
- For stress-relief
Scratching also helps your cat to remove tension in their bodies and is mentally relaxing.
How to re-direct the behaviour?
The biggest key is to keep the training positive. You want your cat to enjoy the transition to the appropriate scratching place and look forward to using it. Avoid using your hands to redirect your cat as this will likely only cause injury to you, and try not to yell at them. Yelling will only make them afraid of you and cause a negative association, we always want a positive association to you and their environment.
Instead of using your hands, you can use a cat toy. Cats particularly love toys with feathers and bells. When you are not training, we have some Great mentally stimulating toys for cats.
Incorporating reward-based training using treats is also a great way to keep the experience positive and enjoyable for both you and your cat. This involves rewarding with a suitable cat treat. You will want a treat that can be easily broken up into small pieces (after all it is a treat/reward, not a meal), and one that is highly palatable for cats.
To create the distraction and re-direction itself, you will want to grab either a toy or a treat. While he is scratching in a place that is not allowed, give him a firm (but not scary), 'NO' and use the toy or treat to gain his attention. Use this to move him to the area or scratching pole that you wish him to use. Once there, you can release the toy or treat and give it to him as the reward.
How long will it take?
This is not something that will be fixed overnight, or probably in the first two weeks, but it will work! As with everything, persistence is the key, so keep telling yourself that while you are continuing with the redirection behavior. All cats are different and will learn at a different pace. Just have patience.
Cat scratchers and furniture
If you do not have a designated area for your cat to scratch and sharpen his claws, how can you expect him not to use your furniture?
To make it easier to transition your cat onto the scratcher and off your furniture, you can place the items close together, then gradually move them a part until the scratcher or cat furniture is where you wish it to be.
It is best not to place the cats furniture away from everyone and everything else. As much as cats like their space, they still like to be a part of the family. For many family homes, this is in the loungeroom.
You can also place small scratching boards and toys around the house so your cat has no excuse.
Catnip spray will help to encourage your cat to play with the scratching post and/or cat furniture.
Also playing with your cat around his furniture and scratching pole will provide a positive experience and encourage him to play there.
To help with the transition whilst training, it is a good idea to restrict access to your most expensive or antique furniture if you can. This is not always possible, but if you can it will make it easier on both of you, and after all, it is only temporary.
From all the team at