Cat Behavior – Destruction of Furniture

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 14,972
    Feline specialist Dr. Kat Miller discusses the destruction of furniture.

    Kat Miller: Hi, I am Dr. Kat Miller of the ASPCA. Today we are talking about understanding cat behavior. Now we are going to talk about cats who seem intent on destroying your furniture by scratching it, why do they do that? Scratching is a natural cat behavior, but that's little consolation if your cat is scratching at your favorite chair, drapes or carpet. Why do cat scratch? It's a natural behavior that cats do to stretch their claws and their toes and that leaves behind the important marker for cats; that's visual because you can see little scratch marks and also there is a scent the cats leave behind, because they have little scent glands between their toes. People can't smell that but cats can and it's important to them.

    So how do you live with a cat that's scratching? Well since it is a natural behavior, you want to provide a place for that cat can scratch where it's allowed and make the places that are forbidden less attractive for scratching. The first thing to do is to provide a scratching post that the cat will really like and want to use. Where your cat has been scratching is a good clue to what your cat likes to scratch and what orientation they'd like to be in when they are scratching. If they use a horizontal surface, they will probably want to use the scratching that's horizontal and if they are stretching up to claw om the sides of your furniture or your drapes, they probably want a vertical surface for scratching. Also if they are scratching wooden things, they probably want a scratching post that has some wood or bark on it and maybe sisal. But if your cat is scratching furniture or soft fabrics, choose a scratching post that has that similar type of surface. Place the scratching post near where the cat likes to sleep because cats prefer to stretch and scratch as soon as they wake up. How do you get your cat to use the post to begin with? Well, you might sprinkle it with some catnip. A lot of cats like catnip and they might naturally be attracted to it. If not, you might also try dangling a toy around when your cat is nearby, encourage him to play and when your cat pounces, his claws might get stuck in the surface and he will start to get the idea that, that's a nice place to scratch.

    Always encourage your cat to scratch there with praise, treats, attention, whatever your cat likes. So you encourage the behavior you do want. The next step is to make the forbidden surfaces unattractive to your cat. If you can't completely block off their access, you can put something on top of those areas that cats don't like to scratch. One idea is double-sided tape; it's sticky on both sides. So stick one surface of the tape to the area that you don't want the cat to scratch and then the surface sticking up will also be sticky and cats don't like to feel that on their feet, so they will avoid scratching there. You can also use aluminum foil and big sheets on top of, for example, your sofa or your bed. You can use wire baking cooling racks. If you like to bake and you have wire racks to cool your cookies, just use those on top of your furniture when you are not around and you can't supervise your cat. Cats also seem to avoid citrus sense, so you could get an air-freshener that smells like citrus and place it in the areas where your cat shouldn't be scratching. It's also a really good idea to get your cat used to having its nails clip, so you can keep them nice and short and they can't really do much damage if they do scratch. The best way to do this is always pair nail trimming with something really positive for your cats, some type of reward that they really like. It might be their food, or treat, brushing, playtime, whatever they prefer. Have those rewards ready immediately after clipping the nail.

    Also try clipping just one nail at a time, maybe just one a day, that way it's not really a traumatic experience for your cat and it's over in just a second. What about Declawing? We don't advocate declawing and we strongly recommend against it because it's a very invasive surgery that actually removes the very tips of your cat's toes, it can be very painful for the rest of the cat's life and it prevents the cat from performing a very natural and satisfying cat behavior.

    Scratching behavior, something that's readily resolved without resulting to surgery. So try these tips and see if you can make a difference avoiding surgery. As a last resort, try soft claws. This is a rubbered nail cap that goes over top of your cat's nails, your cat's nails remain intact but they are harmless if your cat does scratch. So you can have your Vet show, how to use them, how to put them on and then you can do it yourself after that and your cat will be happy and healthy; will still be able to scratch a little bit, but won't do much damage when they do. So I hope these tips will help you to live happily with your cat and your cat will still be able to scratch and perform it's natural behaviors. Coming up next, we will talk about cats that are up all night, that are very vocal or just plain hyper.