Scratching | Winnipeg Humane Society
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Scratching

It’s normal for cats to scratch objects in their environment. Scratching remove the dead outer layer of their claws, stretches their bodies and flexes their feet and claws, and work offs energy. Follow these techniques to ensure your cat’s scratching is not a problem.

Destructive Scratching

Scratching is normal cat behaviour. Cats scratch for a variety of reasons:

  • To remove the dead outer layer of their claws.
  • To stretch their bodies and flex their feet and claws.
  • To work off energy.

It is unrealistic prevent cats from displaying this normal behaviour. The goal should be to redirect scratching onto acceptable objects.

 

 Teach Your Cat To Scratch Acceptable Objects:

  1. Provide objects that are appealing, attractive, and convenient from your cat’s point of view. Observe the physical features of the objects your cat is scratching in order to understand your cat’s scratching preferences:
    • Where are they located? Prominent objects, objects close to sleeping areas and areas near the entrance to a room are often chosen.
    • What texture do they have – are they soft or coarse?
    • Are they horizontal or vertical?
    • How tall or long are they? At what height does your cat scratch?
  2. Substitute similar objects for her to scratch (rope-wrapped posts, corrugated cardboard or even a log). Place the acceptable object(s) near the object(s) that she’s already using. Make sure the objects you are providing for scratching are stable and won’t fall over or move around when she uses them.
  3. Cover the objects that you don’t want her to scratch with something she will find unappealing, such as double sided sticky tape, aluminum foil, sheets of sandpaper or a plastic carpet runner with the pointy side up. Another option is to make the objects smell unappealing by attaching cotton balls containing perfume, a muscle rub or other unpleasant odor. Be careful with odors, though, because you don’t want the nearby acceptable objects to also smell unpleasant.
  4. When your cat is consistently using the object you provided, it can be moved very gradually (no more than three inches each day) to a location more suitable. You do want to keep the scratching posts as close to your cat’s preferred scratching locations as possible.
  5. Don’t remove the unappealing coverings or odors from the other objects until your cat is consistently using the items that you provided in their permanent locations for several weeks, or even a month.

For a Successful Transition:

  • Locate the scratching post where the cat wants it to be.
  • Provide a post of the correct size. The post should be long enough for the cat to stretch to full height.  If you have a larger cat, a vertical commercial scratching post might not be tall enough and you may need to make one yourself or purchase a custom one.
  • Use a material that the cat likes. The cat’s choice might not be pretty to us but it must be appealing for the cat.
  • Provide a variety of different scratching items. Some should be vertical and some horizontal, and a variety of textures should be available such as cardboard, carpeting, and sisal rope.

Should I Punish My Cat For Scratching?

NO! Punishment could cause her to be afraid of you or the environment and could elicit defensive aggression. Punishment won’t resolve scratching problems because it doesn’t teach your cat where to scratch instead.

How Do I Trim My Cat’s Claws?

Cats keep their claws retracted except when they’re needed. When the claws grow too long and become curved, they can’t be retracted completely. You should clip off the sharp tips of your cat’s claws on all four feet every week or so. Clipping your cat’s claws will also help prevent them from becoming snagged in carpets, fabrics and skin.

Begin by getting her accustom to having her paws handled and squeezed.

  • Gently pet her legs and paws while giving her a treat to make it a more pleasant experience. Gradually increase the pressure so that petting becomes gentle squeezing, as you’ll need to do this to extend the claw.
  • Continue with the treats until your cat tolerates this kind of touching and restraint.
  • It may take a little longer if she’s not used to having her legs or paws handled.

When you are ready to clip:

  • Apply a small amount of pressure to her paw, with your thumb on top of her paw and your index finger underneath, until a claw is extended.
  • You should be able to see the pink or “quick,” which is a small blood vessel. Don’t cut into this pink portion, as it will bleed and be painful for your cat.
  • Cut off just the sharp tip of the claw, the “hook,” and it will dull the claw and prevent extensive damage to household objects and to your skin.

There are several types of claw trimmers designed especially for pets. These are better than your own nail clipper because they won’t crush the claw. Until you and your cat have become accustomed to the routine, one foot a day is enough of a challenge. Don’t try to do all four at once, or you’ll both have only negative memories of claw clippers!