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Why does my cat scratch the couch? How do I stop her from destroying things?

Cute cat on the couch

Scratching is a very important natural behavior for cats. They usually reach up to scratch trees and vertical surfaces if they go outside. When they reach up to scratch they are exercising muscles in their back and front legs (also giving themselves a nice stretch). When they scratch they are also marking their territory with scent glands in their paws, giving themselves a manicure by removing the exterior sheath of the nail and sharpening their claws. Scratching can also be a displacement behavior done at times of stress (similar to people chewing their nails).

Scratching can quickly become a destructive behavior when kitty decides to shred your couch or new oriental carpet. There are many things to do to help your cat scratch appropriate things in your house without resorting to decalwing .

Ways to make areas less inviting and deter scratching:

* Cover area with "Sticky Paws" double sided tape

* If kitty likes to scratch wooden chair or table legs - wrap them with aluminum foil

* Spray area with citrus scented sprays (lemon or orange). Cats hate citrus smells

* Place a vinyl carpet runner prong side up where kitty stands to scratch

* Cover furniture with sheets of plastic or plastic shower curtain when you aren't home

* Place a "scat mat" on horizontal surfaces like the couch to give kitty a weak shock

* Motion detectors can set off citrus spray or ultrasonic noise when kitty gets near area of scratching

* Spray the area with Feliway Spray. This makes the area a "happy place" and there is no need to mark it to make it "happier"

Teach her to scratch an appropriate spot:

* Scratching posts should be placed in various spots around the home. Be sure to put one near sleeping areas - cats like to scratch when they wake up. Put one near the couch also. Multiple scratching posts or cat trees are important. Have at least one per cat.

* Scratching posts should be made of things similar to what kitty likes to scratch. Most cats like to scratch rough and coarse materials, so sissal fabric or sissal rope is popular. Some cats prefer cedar, hemp or cardboard. It is best to get non-oiled sissal rope.

* Scratching posts should be tall (at least 31 inches) and have a sturdy base so kitty can't pull it over and get squished. The post should be stable and not wobble. Some cats prefer straight scratching posts, others prefer horizontal or angled posts

* If your cat likes to scratch the carpeting or throw rugs try a horizontal cardboard scratching surface. Some cats like to scratch welcome matts with a fibrous surface

* Spray the scratching post with catnip spray to attract kitty to scratching post

* Apply Feliscratch by Feliway (Ceva Animal Health) to the post - a synthetic pheromone to attract kitty to scratching post

* To entice kitty to scratch the post dangle a toy around it and play with the toy near the post

* NEVER make your cat scratch the post by putting her next to it and making her scratch. This will just give her "kitty attitude" and make her hate the scratching post

* Cat trees are popular. Get a sturdy cat tree and place it by a window

Make scratching less destructive:

* Trim the nails weekly or as needed

* Not sure how to trim the nails? Ask the Vet or a groomer to help

* Apply nail caps (soft paws or various other brands) after trimming nails. Nail caps glue on, are non-toxic and work well. They need to be replaced every 4-6 weeks and come in clear or funky colors

What about declawing?

* Try the above techniques before you resort to declawing your cat. Declawing is technically an amputation of the third bone of the cat's toe. It can be painful, and may contribute to developing arthritis later in life.

Questions? Call Dr Judy at (630) 859-0471 or Email

Fox Ridge Veterinary Clinic

Your pet's family doctor - since 1994

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