BARKS from the Guild November 2015

Page 40


© Can Stock Photo Inc./Digifuture

Jane Ehrlich explores the common issue of cats scratching the furniture and/or their guardians, and outlines ways to redirect it to make it less problematic while still providing the necessary outlet for the behavior

t’s interesting, isn’t it? When a cat urinates outside the box, you don’t remove her bladder. When she bites, you don’t pull all her teeth. But when the sofa gets laddered, people chop off her claws (which also happen to be part of her toes). Alternatively they may try using those plastic caps that can be glued onto the claws. Sometimes these work and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes Noodles simply chews them off, they fall off or grow out, and it is too much bother to corral, catch and contain her to glue more on. The first ‘solution’ (known technically as onychectomy) is barbaric, is illegal in many countries* and the angels will weep for any vet who still provides that ugly, hideous service. And the second ‘solution’ doesn’t always do it. Cats, however, have to scratch. Cats walk on their toes, not the soles, so those claws help them to balance. They mark territory, not just through scratches, but through the scent between their claws. Scratching sharpens, provides great shoulder, arm and back exercise, stressbusts, and is crucial fun. When Noodles uses the velvet sofa instead of a post, what to do? First consider the following issues: Is the post at the right angle? Some cats prefer vertical raking; others horizontal, still others like it in-between. Experiment. Different strokes for different furry folks. What about the texture? Corrugated cardboard? Nubbly material? Sisal rope or sisal fabric? A good chunk of bark (insecttreated, of course)? Reverse side of carpet samples? Is the post high enough? It should be twice as high as her stretch. That stubby kitten one will not do. Does it wobble? This puts a cat off.You know what else might put her off? If other cats have used it before her. Are there enough of them? Don’t be stingy. Scatter posts in the right locations: near her sleeping areas as there is nothing like a good stretchand-scratch after a snooze. Put them in social areas of the home, just in front of spots you would rather Noodles didn’t claw up. If Noodles is still not using the


Different cats prefer to scratch on different surfaces, and can be encouraged to do so with a sprinkle of catnip

BARKS from the Guild/November 2015

© Can Stock Photo Inc./Bunyos


The Many Functions of Scratching

Cats are digitigrade, i.e. they walk on their toes; their claws are an essential part of balance

posts, sprinkle catnip shreds on them, if your cat responds to it. Or try valerian if as an alternative. (I find the catnip oil does not work as well, and the residual icky greasiness turns a cat off.) Remove the cat’s scent from those inappropriate places—use Get Serious! for Cats or another proprietary cat-only cleaner. Cover those undesirable places with bubble-wrap, or drape over a cloth scented with lemon essence.You can even use double-sided sticky tape—it is all temporary. If the furniture she is going to town on is wood, you can rub it with lemon polish and add more lemon essence if the scent is not strong enough. Then, as Noodles gets into the habit of using the posts—with your praise and treats when she uses them, of course—move them an inch at a time away from the undesirable spot, to the area you want them to stay. This truly means a tiny bit at a time—cats will figure it out if you rush them and you will be back to square one. Punishment does not work of course, but you already knew that. It only increases fear and resentment and, in any case, does not stop the behavior when you are absent. Carrying the cat over to the post and either scratching it yourself or putting her paws on it may be common advice but it does not work, and may even cause more sensitive furry souls to ignore the thing. Whew! Sofas and chairs intact, Noodles is having a field day with the posts, and harmony and love are intact. Now let’s talk about scratching skin, as opposed to fabric. Cats may scratch legs, arms, hands and even the face. This can be anything from scrapes to bloody slashes. Let’s backtrack a little bit. This is a favorite problem to address because it needs consideration of the cat’s background, whatever we can make of it (shelters and rescues don’t usually know). First, perhaps the cat came with an agenda about people.

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