Is Kitty getting ready to tear up your beautiful new couch? Here’s what you need to know: clawing is an innate behaviour in cats. Changing an innate behaviour is not an easy task. Kitty does this to “clean” her claws and to mark her territory using small glands between her toes.
Cats whose claws are regularly trimmed develop fewer problems. It is important to keep track of where and when the scratching occurs. Is it on a vertical or horizontal surface? Does the cat do this while alone, or in the presence of other cats? In the dark or not? This information will be invaluable in directing Kitty to an attractive scratching post. Meeting Kitty’s needs will help, but you increase your chances of success if you reward her for clawing in the correct spot. An older cat who scratches for a “social reason” will appreciate a post where he can mark his territory with scent and sight.
Some cats will use a scratching post immediately, while others need to be shown how to do it. The key is to direct Kitty to the right place, reward good behaviour, and return her to the appropriate spot if necessary.
Putting a small bell around your cat’s neck will help you know where she is, and prevent bad behaviours. The cat must be caught in the act – within 60 seconds of the sequence of events leading up to the scratching. The goal is to surprise the cat without terrifying her, ideally without being seen! Do not trim her claws immediately after a scratching incident to avoid any association. Wait for a calm period. Be careful, however, with stray or aggressive cats. You could get hurt. A scratching post can be made of cloth, wood log, rope, or cardboard. It must be sturdy and suitable for Kitty’s preferences.
In your absence, block Kitty’s access to the area you wish to protect when possible.
Finally, do not encourage “Baby Kitty” or “New Kitty” to scratch your clothes, pants or skirts… to avoid tempting her into scratching everywhere!
In short, be patient and use strategies to make sure the count goes to Kitty 0, Couch 1!