Paws and Effect

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

My cat can be perfect. She sits on my lap and sleeps, she cuddles with me in bed. But she can also be an absolute terror — flying all over the house jumping, climbing everything and, worst of all, scratching everything! She has a scratching post, but she also likes my leather couches and the grandparents’ dining chairs, not to mention my hands and feet! I try to spray her with water but it doesn’t seem to deter her. What else can I do? I also struggle a lot with trimming her claws. Help!

~ Erin

Bella: Well, Erin, scratching is perfectly natural behavior, and cats physically need to scratch. Scratching helps cats mark their territory and shuck off old claw sheaths.

Thomas: You see, claws grow in layers, and when one layer gets worn out, scratching helps the cat get rid of that old layer and reveal the sharp new layer underneath.

Bella: Because scratching is natural behavior, no amount of yelling, can-shaking or water spraying is going to stop your kitty from doing it.

Thomas: But that’s not the only issue. Because your kitty is such a vigorous scratcher, she may need more than one scratching post surface.

Bella: And those scratching posts should be next to the places where your kitty likes to scratch. As celebrity cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy says, for every “no,” you need to provide a “yes.”

A tall cat tower with sisal scratching posts stands next to a couch.

We love our scratch tower!

Thomas: For example, as you can see in this photo, Mama put our cat tower (which has great sisal scratch posts, by the way) right next to the couch. And guess what? We never scratch the couch because the posts are so much better!

Bella: You can also get corrugated cardboard scratch pads to put on the floor, and scratch surfaces that hang off door knobs — there are all kinds of choices. Just make sure the scratching surface is secure, long enough for your cat to get a good stretch, and won’t fall over when your cat uses it.

Thomas: Now, about all that climbing and running. Erin, what you have here is a cat that needs interactive play, and lots of it!

Bella: Young cats, especially, have lots of energy to burn off, and if they don’t have enough interactive play to get rid of that energy, they’re going to take it out on people — and furniture.

Thomas: We recommend that you buy a few different types of interactive toys based on the “thing on a string” concept. You can get your cat really excited to chase these toys by moving them around like prey animals.

Bella: Yeah. Don’t just fling them around! Move them across the floor as if they’re mice, or make them flutter in the air and “land” on surfaces like birds. See what kind of hunting your cat prefers and really get her going!

Thomas: If your kitty is healthy, a good, intense play session that gets her panting is exactly what she needs. Run her until she’s had enough.

Bella: We recommend you do the most vigorous play sessions just before meals. Why? Because cats hunt (and they use up a lot of energy), then they eat what they catch, then they groom themselves, and then they go to sleep.

Thomas: By working with your cat’s instincts, you’ll be able to modify her behavior so that it works for her and for you.

Bella: As far as claw trimming goes, that can be tough for new cat caretakers. We recommend you ask your vet to show you how to do it.

Thomas: But if you can’t do that, this video is a great little tutorial that even helped Mama improve her technique!

Bella: Nail caps are another scratching solution, but they’re more complicated to put on and may require an assistant or your veterinarian in order to get it done.

Thomas: Good luck, Erin, and we hope this has been some help.

Bella: What about you other readers? What tips do you have for Erin on how to deal with the scratching, climbing and hunting? Please share them in the comments.

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