Chewing & Scratching Behavior  
 
 
A cat's claws are versatile, multi-purpose tools. Cats use their retractable claws every day, for climbing, scratching, pouncing, turning, balancing, or defending themselves. Cats do not scratch furniture with malicious intent. It is part of their regular self-maintenance program to keep their claws nice and sharp for self defense.

When cats scratch, they are actually dislodging and removing a transparent sheath that grows over the claws. You may occasionally find these sheaths buried in your carpet. Scratching also stretches and tones your cat's back and shoulder muscles. Yelling at your cat or getting mad at him only confuses him, because he is doing what comes naturally, with the nearest tool at hand, which may presently be your prized Louis IVX chair you inherited from Aunt Blanche.

 

Fortunately, there are compromises that offer you and Tiger a win-win resolution.

An often used psychological tool with children applies equally to our furry friends: discourage bad behavior and encourage/reward desirable behavior. Consistency and repetition are the key words and are crucial to any re-training program, and you must use your discouragement tools at the time of the crime. If you delay even a few minutes, your cat will not understand why he is being rebuked and the lesson will have been lost. And never, never use physical punishment like hitting or shaking your cat. That only teaches him that you are a bigger bully, and can lead to even worse behavior on his part in the future.

Here are a few positive tips to consider:

Trim Tiger's claws

This will not discourage him from clawing furniture, but will render his weapons a little less deadly. It's really very easy to do yourself, but if you're simply not up to the job, your veterinarian will do it for a minimal fee.

Buy or build a scratching post or three

Your cat should have at least one post that's tall enough for a full vertical scratch, sturdy enough to not topple over when he puts his full weight on it, and covered with a nice rough material like sisal. A plush carpet post will probably not interest kitty. If you have any carpentry skills, you can build a decent post with a 4"x4" post secured to a 16" wide (or more) sturdy base. Wrap the post with sisal or leave it bare, or try both ways, for variety. Feel free to expand upon this basic design and get creative. Play with your cat near the post and put a little catnip on the post to make it more appealing. Pretend you're a cat and scratch the post yourself; before you know it, kitty might join you. Put scratching posts in places where your cat is likely to scratch: near where he sleeps and around exits and entries to rooms and the house.

Discourage undesirable behavior

  • Use the "pennies in a can" trick. The instant you see kitty scratching the sofa, shake the can a few times. They hate the racket and will usually stop.
  • Spray the area around your cat's favorite scratching area with citrus-scented spray. (Test fabric in an inconspicuous area first.)
  • Lay a few sheets of aluminum foil over sofa arms and sides. Cats will usually avoid the area.
  • Try putting wide double-sided tape over his favorite scratching surface. Cats dislike the sticky feeling, and will avoid the area.
  • Buy a small plant mister spray bottle and fill it with water. When you catch your cat in the act, give him a spray with the bottle. Don't drench him; a quick spray will suffice.

Reward good behavior (this is important).

Praise your cat profusely and give him one of his favorite treats when he uses his scratching post. His fertile little mind will soon associate loving hugs and tasty treats with good behavior.

 
     

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