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Cats and Scratching

Scratching is a completely normal and healthy behavior that most cats engage in, and it serves many purposes. Cats scratch to “mark” their territory by leaving behind visual markers as well as scent markers from small glands in the pads of their feet. Cats also like to dig their claws into something to get a nice, full-body stretch, especially after a long nap.  Additionally, cats scratch to keep their nails in good shape and to help shed their claw sheaths.

Even though it’s normal, scratching can become troublesome to owners who are sick of having their rugs, furniture and, in some cases, walls shredded. But here are a few tips that may help.

1. Reduce the need to scratch

Since one of the reasons your cat scratches is to groom his nails, you can perform regular nail trims to keep your cat from needing to scratch. Give a feline manicure yourself or consult your veterinarian for assistance!

2. Eliminate the attraction.

Usually, cats choose surfaces that feel good when they scratch. Try to make the areas your cat has selected less attractive by altering the texture of the surface.  For example, try covering the area with adhesive tape, with the sticky side facing out. You can buy commercially made products to accomplish this, or do it yourself with packing or duct tape. Most cats will avoid such textures and start looking for new places to scratch.

3. Give your cat a place to scratch.

Scratching posts and kitty furniture can be purchased at pet supply stores or can be easily constructed from twine, rope or carpet remnants. Be creative — cats like to climb, lounge and perch up high. Choose something your cat will enjoy and place it out in the open. Cats prefer to scratch in high-traffic areas, rather than in secluded, hard-to-find places. You cat has already told you where she wants to scratch. So, try placing the post right in front of where your kitty is scratching. You may want to make the new object more inviting by rubbing some catnip on it. Once the cat begins scratching on the post, try moving it one foot per day toward a more desirable location. Be sure to choose a location your cat will like.

4. Resist the desire to declaw your cat.

If you have tried all these steps, it may be time to contact a professional. Oftentimes, someone who specializes in cat behavior can help resolves your issues fairly easily and quickly. If this is not the case for you and your persistent kitty, you may face the declawing dilemma.

But first, take these points into consideration. Declawed cats are completely defenseless if they get outside, either intentionally or accidentally. They can have difficulty defending themselves from predators, climbing out of harm’s way and navigating certain terrains such as limbs and railing. Declawed cats can even have difficulty playing normally with other cats or navigating certain surfaces inside the house because their natural abilities and characteristics have been altered. Also, declawed cats may begin developing behavior problems, such as litter box aversion or biting. Discuss any concerns with your veterinarian or a cat professional.

One solution is to try soft rubber caps that attach to your kitty’s nails. The colorful or clear caps attach directly to the nail, retract with the nail normally and are shed when your cat’s nails are shed. Go to your local pet supply store or online for more information on these products.

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