We love our cats and their fun personalities. We also really like our furniture and other things we work hard for and would prefer our cats to not damage them with their need for scratching. This blog will discuss all the fun things you can do for your cat to not only enrich their lives and exercise their brains but to protect your stuff!
Cats like scratching posts. This is most certainly not a new concept, but we need to find a way to encourage them to not only use the post we so carefully picked out and purchased but choose that item predominantly when sharpening claws or marking territory with nails.
I was recently speaking with a client who gave his kitty a treat every time he saw her scratching at the post. It did not take long for his cute, little “torti” to realize the task that was expected of her to earn her reward. Soon, that was the only place she wanted to scratch. The owner did mention that when she got good at it, he stopped rewarding her. This was a fatal flaw as if she did not get rewarded; the scratch post soon became a less attractive place to sharpen her little claws.
There are many different types of cat trees and scratch posts, but one with multiple textures is going to be your best bet and give you more bang for your buck. But do not forget, these items will wear out over time and will need to be replaced with fresh new material to take the abuse from your innocent, little furball. Scratch items do best when placed in high traffic areas of your home. Most of all, make sure that the cat does not have a bad experience with the scratch post. If your cat goes to use it and it tips over, you are never going to see a cat at this post again. She may even boycott any scratch post you put in that area.
One of my co-workers purchased an outdoor boot mat for her cat. It has rough grooves that a cat loves to sink his claws into. Finding things better than your couch is a great way to save it. Offering many things with optional textures within the house is your best bet.
It is best to trim the hooks off your cat’s nails every three weeks to reduce any potential damage to you, as well as your household items.
Indoor cats can get very bored, so any enrichment you can find is an excellent idea. We recommend puzzle toys, feeding balls or even games you can play, such as ‘hide and seek,’ with a favourite toy (or yourself). Don’t forget playing fetch – it’s not just for the dogs! Crinkle balls are always a favourite for fetch.
Keep your cat busy. This decreases the amount of time they have to damage household items. Remember, they still need to get in their 20 hours of cat napping daily too! Cats have a natural need to hunt, so why not have multiple bowls around the house, so they need to search for their food. You can also put the breakfast or dinner in a food ball. Your cat will have to smack this around to get the food to fall out for them to eat. This emulates the hunting behaviour they love to do. It also reduces eating when bored just because there is food in the bowl.
There are many products that can be used to both deter or interest your cat to a particular piece of furniture. Catnip sprays are available to spray on things that you wish to attract your kitty to and they do have the funny side effects of your cat rolling around and loving all over it. Feliway is a pheromone you can spray around your house to make your kitty feel happy and calm if she is stressed. Feliscratch is a combination of the two, catnip and Feliway product. Scratching can be a territorial issue – telling other cats, “I own this!” The Feliscratch leaves a blue mark on whatever you put it on. This gives your cat a visual to the other scent senses in it. It further attracts your pet to the chosen scratching post and hopefully, away from the sofa.
Certain textures and sounds can deter your cat from objects they may choose to scratch at. Two-sided tape on an area he wants to return to persistently is uninviting when little paws stick to it. This may be enough to keep a cat away from a corner area. I have heard of people putting tinfoil over plant tops to protect from using it as a litter box. Cats do not like the sound it makes when the tap on it, so if you are able to wrap it around a table leg that has been chosen, it may act as a deterrent.
Positive reinforcement is the way to go when training your cat. Scaring them from the couch with a loud noise may scare them away from the living area altogether. Best to have a happy cat with a fun personality than a terrified or anxious cat because she is frightened in the home. It is our task to guide feline friends to do what we would allow, rather than terrify them from doing what we would not allow.
This next one is simple, but I should mention it nonetheless. If your cat is scratching something unwanted, gently pick her up and put her to the proper area, followed by a pet and a treat. Best to reward within three seconds, so keep the treats near your desired scratch areas. She will learn quickly this is what you want.
Cats also like to mark at different levels. A location that is flat on the floor, a location that is mildly elevated and one that the cat will need to stand high on two feet to mark with their nails. All kitties have preferences on height, location and texture. If something is not working offer another alternative.
Written by Darlene Cannon, RVT