By Joyce McNally
Does your cat scratch the furniture?
Animal behaviorists believe that cats inherently need to scratch — both to keep their nails in tip-top shape and to mark their territory. No problem there until your cat decides to do what comes naturally by using your couch as his own personal scratching post.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, with patience and persistence, you can re-channel this inappropriate behavior and save your furniture.
To keep your cat from scratching in a particular place, you’ll need to make your home furnishings unattractive to him. Cover favorite targets with double-stick tape, tinfoil, balloons, or contact paper.
For additional protection, the ASPCA recommends that you cover your furniture with a sheet, blanket, or plastic slipcover. You should keep it covered at least until your pet learns proper etiquette. And remember, fabrics, such as raw silk, leather or anything with a thick and bumpy texture are very tempting to feline claws. You may want to avoid these materials for your furniture and drapes, and go for smooth cottons such as chintz or parachute cloth instead.
Next, you’ll need to retrain your cat by providing him with an appropriate place to act on his instincts. A scratching post is great, and ideally it should be at least three feet tall and covered in sisal or burlap. A tree trunk may work well too, but first make sure it is insect free.
Start off by putting the post next to your cat’s favorite inappropriate target, such as a chair leg or your living room rug.
Remember, it may take a bit of effort to get him to use his new scratching post.
You could try running your nails over it, dragging his favorite interactive toy across it. If he still needs coaxing, you can sprinkle catnip or the oil from canned tuna on the post twice a month. Praise him whenever you see him using the new post and gradually bring it closer to a preferred location, away from his old favorite.
You may want to set it up near his regular resting place so when he wakes from his nap, it will be waiting there for him.
Your cat was built to move, scratch, jump, pounce, climb, and stalk. If your cat seems to do more sleeping than playing between feedings, it may be time for some supervised fun and games. Not only will daily exercise keep your pet physically and mentally fit and healthy, it burns up calories, increases muscle mass and cardiovascular strength, and it also helps channel aggressive behavior.
You should start off with short sessions and include a five-minute warm up and cool down. Although you do want to get his heart beating, respect your cat’s wishes. If he starts panting and needs to rest during a vigorous session, he’s telling you he’s had enough.
You can provide things for your pet to play with while you are away. Ping-Pong balls work very well and can’t be swallowed. You might even consider building a set of portable stairs that lead up to your cat’s favorite windowsill or vantage point.
Be responsible. When you have questions about your cat or need help handling a particular situation, a great place to start is with your local veterinarian.
You can also help eliminate pet overpopulation by contacting PAWS about a spay or neuter for your kitty. That number is 918-470-7297.
Joyce McNally is a PAWS volunteer and advocate for prevention of pet abuse and neglect. Comments or questions can be directed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.