Are your chairs, window screens, and rugs all turning to confetti beneath your cat’s lethal claws? If so, you may be wondering how you can stop this behavior. Of course, it may be easier to stop your cat from destroying your home if you understand why he scratches first.
Before cats were domesticated, they were deadly hunters. They relied on their razor sharp claws to help them climb trees so that they could leap down on their prey. Today, cats may get dinner from a bowl, but they still sharpen their claws. Scratching is their way of trimming their nails, since it removes the old outer part of the claws. Another reasons cat scratch is to let other cats know that the house and yard belong to them. When cats scratch, they release scent from special glands in their paws that help them mark that spot as theirs. Finally, cats scratch to get the kinks out of their bodies and to burn off some of their energy.
If you are getting fed up with your cat’s scratching, you may be planning to declaw him. However, before you have this surgery performed, you may want to try some alternatives.
One simple way to prevent cats from scratching is to provide them with scratching pads or posts. You can shop for a wide variety of scratching posts, including posts that are part of an elaborate condo. However, you can also make your own simple scratching post, using a two foot high section of a four by four, a two foot by two foot piece of heavy plywood, and a carpet remnant. Once you have a scratching post or pad, be sure you place it right next to his favorite piece of furniture. After he is in the habit of scratching the post, you can try moving it a bit further from the furniture, but you should do so gradually.
If having his own personal scratching post doesn’t deter your cat from ruining the furnishings, try using a pet repellant spray, such as Bitter Apple, on the furniture. (You may want to test the spray on an obscure part of the upholstery first to be sure it doesn’t discolor the fabric.) If you don’t want to risk spraying your furniture, try covering the material with aluminum foil or tape that is placed sticky side up. Your cat will not care for the feel of these materials and should willingly turn to his scratching post instead.
For cats that still insist on scratching, declawing may be the only option. As long as your cat does not leave the house, this should be safe. However, declawing is painful and there is some risk to the procedure, since your cat will be under anesthesia during the surgery. Some people recommend using nail caps instead, but these caps do have a tendency to fall off and will need to be replaced occasionally. The caps are applied in a similar manner to the way manicurists attach false nails. The nails are shortened and then the caps are applied with a non toxic adhesive.