BARKS from the Guild July 2016

Page 25

Scratch Here, Not There


Patience Fisher explains how simple it is to train a cat to use scratching posts and pads


rather than the furniture

ats are almost as easy to train to use a scratching post as Scratching is an integral part of the they are to use a litter box. The biggest obstacle to their feline behavioral training is not providing adequate posts and pads from repertoire and owners are wellthe moment they arrive in their new home. A new cat owner advised to provide would not dream of not supplying a litter box, but many do not attractive scratching posts in appealing purchase a tall, sturdy post before bringing their cat or kitten locations so their home. Just as feces and urine leave scent messages behind, so pets will not resort to using does scratching. The pads of a cat’s feet contain scent glands, and the furniture the deposition of this scent is self-soothing. It also encourages further scratching in that same spot. So the first step to training your cat to use a scratching post is to buy one! Cats need to scratch for physical, mental, and social reasons. Scratching enables cats to shed the outer sheath of their claws, to maintain claw health. Sinking the claws in and stretching is also beneficial for the cat’s muscles. Scratching is a natural way for a cat to maintain mental health, especially during stressful times and is a way for a cat to help herself relax. As already mentioned, a cat’s paws have scent glands so when a cat scratches she leaves her mark and her Stretching is essential scent. This reassures her that this is her terfor a cat’s ritory. Scratching is also a cat’s way of physical © Can Stock Photo Inc./ysbrandcosijn well-being showing others - and reassuring herself Ideally, you should have a post or pad that she is part of the family. As such, it is a in every room the cat will use. If you have type of communication. For all of these reaa large family room and multiple cats, have sons, indoor cats must be provided with apa post on each end of the room, or a post propriate places to scratch. on one end and a pad on the other. The stretching that accompanies the Often, just providing the proper posts scratching, as well as the scent deposition and pads and placing them correctly is and actual scratching are all needed for the enough to convince the cat to scratch cat’s mental and physical well-being. Each where you would like. But why take any cat in the household needs to have a tall, chances? sturdy post made of material the cat can When you first bring your cat home, sink her claws into and give a good tug. A 3confine her to a room with her litter box foot tall sisal-wound post with a weighted and her tall, sturdy scratching post. If she bottom that keeps the post steady when is not afraid of you, play with her near the the cat scratches and tugs is perfect. (Avoid post, to encourage her to scratch it. A posts made of carpet—you don’t want to wand toy is ideal for this; you can even get the cat into the habit of scratching carmake the wand touch the post, so the cat pet.) gets the feel of it while she is playing. Scratching is done in core areas of a © Can Stock Photo Inc./Marcogovel Praise her and give her a treat when she cat’s territory, so placement is also impordoes so. If she is shy, give her time to get used to you by spendtant. A scratching post should be in the room where the family spends a lot of time. Cats scratch objects when they are excited, ing quiet time in her room, ignoring her. Let her observe you, see you are safe, and approach you. Be cool when she does so—too so a post somewhat in the vicinity of the doorway where family much enthusiasm is scary to a cat. members enter the house is also important. Cats often scratch After the cat has used the scratching post, it has her scent on after a nap, so provide one near good napping spots. Horizontal it. If there are no other pets in the house and she trusts you, or inclined pads are handy for places where a post won’t fit. open the door and let her explore. (If there are other pets, These pads can be of sisal or cardboard. BARKS from the Guild/July 2016


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