Scratching is a normal cat behavior. It is a common misconception that cats scratch to sharpen their claws. This is true but they are also stretching muscles, shedding old cuticle and communicating with others. Cats scratch to rough up the bark of a tree (or the furniture) to let other cats or people know where they are and what territory is theirs. Scratching on areas their human counterparts find inappropriate can be a reason why a cat is surrendered to a humane shelter. Here are some tips about nails, scratching & trimming.
Help Your Kitten to Develop Good Scratching Habits:
- Place scratching posts in 2-3 areas most used by the cat (near their favorite sleeping space & playing areas).
- Experiment with different textures. There are a number of different surfaces commercially available including sisal rope, cardboard and carpet.
- Some cats prefer vertical surfaces while others prefer horizontal surfaces.
- Engage your kitten in play at the scratching areas and reward them when they use the proper surface.
- Since 50% of cats react positively to catnip, try sprinkling it on and around the scratching area. Remember kittens less than 8 weeks do not respond positively to catnip and some can actually have an aversion to it.
- If they begin to scratch on an undesired surface, place the preferable substrate next to this area. Once they have begun using the acceptable surface you can begin gradually moving the scratching surface to the desired location.
For Older Cats With Established Scratching Habits:
- Make the undesired scratching area unavailable. Cover it with thick plastic, tinfoil or two sided tape so it feels different and less appealing.
- Place the scratching post near/next to the damaged area. Ideally pick a fabric/substrate that closely matches the surface you are trying to get them away from.
- You may have to leave the post in the area the cat likes to scratch for a while. With time, you should be able to move it very slowly (a few inches a week) to a desired location.
- Reinforce a positive experience with the post. Scent the post with catnip or praise with food when they scratch using the post.
Nail trimming can also help minimize damage. You may have to desensitize your cat to this. It’s OK if initially you just play with or massage their feet. Gradually, one claw at a time, work your way to the point where you can trim all nails at one sitting.
A product called Soft Paws (rubber claw sleeves) can also be applied to minimize the damage caused by scratching.